What will it take for Stefan Kießling to get a look in the German national team?
The question, one that’s persisted all season, became even more pertinent after the 29-year-old Bayer Leverkusen (far right) forward scored his 15th goal of the season today against visiting Augsburg. With the 2-1 win, Bayer opened a four-point lead on fourth place Eintracht Frankfurt and look a strong bet to return to Champions League after a one-year hiatus. More relevant to Kießling’s nationalmannschaft cause, the Leverkusen No. 9 is now tied with Bayern’s Mario Mandzukic for most goals in this year’s Bundesliga.
It’s the second season in a row Kießling’s hit at least 15 goals. With 12 matches left in the campaign, he’ll likely far exceed last year’s total: 16. At his current pace, Kießling will finish with 23 goals, two-more than the career high 21 that earned him a spot in the national team ahead of South Africa 2010.
Since then, Kießling’s had trouble getting a look from Joachim Löw, a situation that began with a drop in production post-World Cup. That was compounded by a surplus of talent that’s emerged at Germany’s attacking positions. When Kießling drew Löw‘s attention pre-South Africa, players like Marco Reus, Mario Götze, Toni Kroos, and André Schürrle had yet to establish their places in the team (Kroos was selected for the squad, albeit with only four caps headed into the tournament). A poor 2010-11 season cost him his spot, and with talents like Julian Draxler and Lewis Holtby also pressing for places among the national team’s attacking four, Kießling’s career-best form may not be enough to crack the team.
“I don’t care (if Löw was watching),” Kießling said earlier this year. “[A]ll I can do is to perform well.”
Germany’s recent dalliance with some striker-less looks may not help, though Kießling has the talent to play wide as well as in his more customary central position. That may not matter. Löw sees him as a No. 9, a position where the national team boss already has two stable choices: Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klöse. Kießling may have the type of versatility that could prove valuable in Germany’s 4-2-3-1 system, but with the glut of talent at Löw’s disposal (and the huge substitute’s bench you’re allowed in international match), versatility may not count for much.
“Stefan Kiessling has a tremendous quality in front of goal,” Löw said about Kießling’s possible selection. “[H]e was there in 2010 at the World Cup.
“When I [fill] the position … I see Miroslav Klose in a superior form, if he’s healthy – and also Mario Gomez is just a tad bit before Kießling. But Stefan Kießling is Kießling an alternative.”
For whatever reason, that alternative has never been a factor in the national team. Even when the aging Klöse’s struggled with fitness, Kießling hasn’t been called in. Between the coach’s evaluation and the competition for spots,Kießling’ may not improve on his seven caps any time soon – goals be damned. If scoring was enough to impress Löw, Gomez would have locked down a starting spot long ago.
The big beneficiary of all this is Bayer. They have one of the best attackers in Germany all to themselves. They don’t have to share him with the national team. If that means Leverkusen is more likely to return to the world’s top club competition, Sami Hyypïa should be happy Kießling’s undervalued by Löw.
Here’s Kießbling’s Saturday effort, beating his man on a restart to head home Leverkusen’s opening goal:
Elsewhere in Germany
- Already missing the suspended Robert Lewandowski, Borussia Dortmund played 59 minutes with 10-men after Julian Schieber earned a second yellow card. By that time, Reus had them up 2-0. The German international’s second half goal gave him a hat trick and BVB an easy 3-0 victory over visiting Frankfurt.
- The win kept Dortmund within 15 points of first place Bayern (I can’t type that without laughing). FCB took care of business on Friday with a 2-0 victory, giving the kind of controlling performance that’s come to characterize their season. Bayern have not allowed a goal in league since Dec. 12 against Borussia Mönchengladbach.
- With their loss, Frankfurt’s fourth place cushion’s reduced to three points, with Freiburg (3-2 winners at Werder Bremen) and Hamburg (1-0 victors over Gladbach) now within striking distance.