Germany's Kroos: Often overlooked, still crucial
PORTO SEGURO, Germany (AP) Toni Kroos plays alongside so many star players that his own contribution is often overlooked, both for his club and for Germany.
This World Cup could be his chance to grab more of the spotlight.
Kroos' strong performance in the 4-0 opening victory over Portugal was overshadowed by Thomas Mueller's three goals, but his statistics impressed even his coaches, who have given him the role of Germany's main ball distributor.
It is something the Brazilians call ''garcon,'' or waiter, in their football terminology, and Kroos is happy to play that role on the field.
Even Kroos was surprised to have covered 11.7 kilometers (7.27 miles) during the match in Salvador's sweltering heat, while having an 88-percent passing accuracy.
''I usually don't run that much, true,'' the Bayern Munich midfielder said Wednesday. But he was not surprised by his passing rate.
''That's what my role is all about and I like making my teammates look good,'' he said. ''I don't mind doing the `waiter' part on the field, but not at dinner time.''
Germany's assistant coach Hansi Flick said Kroos' ''development has been great.''
''He protects the ball well, he opens up the game with his passing and he gives assists. He's played at a very high level all season. The only area where he could improve is scoring,'' Flick said.
Kroos' talent was recognized early and he was chosen as the best player at the 2007 Under-17 World Cup, when Germany finished third.
He moved to Bayern when he was 16 and later spent 18 months on loan at Bayer Leverkusen before returning. He has been a regular since Pep Guardiola took over one season ago, although his teammates Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, to name just a few, hog the attention.
Kroos helped Bayern win the Champions League in 2013, and domestic doubles the past two seasons.
He was on Germany's 2010 squad, but was given a bigger role in coach Joachim Loew's team during qualifying for Brazil, when he scored three goals in seven games.
Kroos, whose brother is a defender for Werder Bremen, has a powerful shot from distance and is dangerous on set pieces. His corner set up Germany's second goal against Portugal.
The 24-year-old German says he is happy to play both as a defensive midfielder or a more attacking position.
''During a match, I am to be found in both areas anyway. I help in the defense, but I try to attack too and provide the decisive pass. I also try not to lose the ball and allow the opponent to run counterattacks.''