Germany's Klose improving in training

Germany coach Joachim Loew said Wednesday Miroslav Klose is improving daily and expects his striker to be mentally and physically fit for the start of the World Cup.

13:37ET 09-06-10 BC-SOC-WCup-Germany-Klose, 1st Writethru@ code:7 Germany striker Miroslav Klose celebrated his 32nd birthday Wednesday but will have to wait and see if his gifts include a start in the team's World Cup opener against Australia.

Klose, the leading scorer at the 2006 World Cup with five goals, is coming off a difficult season at Bayern Munich. He spent a lot of it on the bench as Bayern won the domestic double and finished runner-up in the Champions League.

Loew has been backing Klose despite the player scoring only three Bundesliga goals, but declined to reveal if he will be in the team for Sunday's game in Durban.

"We don't give such birthday presents," Loew said. "But yesterday I saw for the first time that he feels a lot better physically. He's been very agile in training. He's found his physical well-being and he feels a lot a better."

Germany is widely expected to play with one striker and Klose has been in the starting formation in all three World Cup warmup matches. But he is a pale shadow of the player from 2006 who also scored five goals at the 2002 World Cup.

"Maybe I underestimated the situation, I will have to work more," Klose said after being substituted at halftime of Germany's 3-1 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina last week.

The players then received three days off after that match, and Klose used the time to practise every day on his own.

"It wasn't a simple season for Klose. He had to work more and harder and it was calculated that he would not be fresh in the warm-up games," Loew said. "But now I see that he is getting better all the time. He could release the hand brake this week."

Klose is Germany's most experienced player, with 48 goals in 96 internationals. He helped to secure Germany's trip to the World Cup by scoring in the 1-0 victory at Russia in the decisive qualifier.

Klose's teammates have stood behind him during the tough times.

"He has a lot of World Cup experience, he can evaluate himself the best," defender Per Mertesacker said. 'We all have confidence in him. We are all behind him."

Klose's Bayern teammate, Mario Gomez, has also stagnated at the club after arriving from Stuttgart. He spent most of the second half of the season sitting next to Klose on the bench.

The Brazil-born Cacau has been making his case by scoring regularly for Stuttgart and Germany in the buildup to the World Cup.