If it had not been for Bojan Krkić, Toni Kroos could well have been the dominant player in the 2006 and 2007 UEFA European Under-17 Championships. But the Germany playmaker was far from overshadowed by his Spanish rival.
Younger than most of his colleagues in the 2006 squad, the FC Bayern München midfielder, who had been snapped up from FC Hansa Rostock, had starred in qualifying and in his first finals game in Luxembourg against Belgium forced an own goal and converted a penalty in a swashbuckling 4-0 victory. The Czech Republic then shut Germany out but there was no such feat for Serbia and Montenegro, who were also beaten 4-0.
Despite dominating the semi-final against Russia, however, Kroos could not inspire Germany to a goal and they lost 1-0. He then came off the bench in the third-place match against Spain and was unfortunate to miss in the shoot-out defeat. Still, by four days Kroos was young enough for another go in 2007, by which stage Ottmar Hitzfeld had invited him to senior Bayern training and hinted that the No10 shirt was being kept free for his graduation.
The start in Belgium was tremendous; he scored perhaps the goal of the tournament – a memorable drive that secured a 2-0 win against Ukraine. Kroos then put Germany ahead against France, but a 2-1 defeat proved a huge blow as a 0-0 draw with Spain ended their bid to become champions. There was a consolation, though, as Kroos struck – a goal that left him as the tournament's joint-top scorer – and then made the winner in a 3-2 victory against the Netherlands that secured fifth place and a FIFA U-17 World Cup trip.
There were more honours at the World Cup in South Korea as five goals and four assists brought Germany third place and Kroos the Golden Ball as player of the tournament ahead of, among others, Bojan. He returned home to make his senior Bayern debut in a 5-0 defeat of FC Energie Cottbus, and the next month he came off the bench with his club 2-1 down at FK Crvena Zvezda in the UEFA Cup and set up an equaliser before winning the game with a last-gasp free-kick. In March 2010 Kroos made his senior Germany debut against Argentina and helped them to third place at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Four years later he was to be in their winning team in Brazil – according to FIFA's statistics the man of the tournament. By then, he had won every club honour there was to win with Bayern.
©UEFA.com 1998-2011. All rights reserved.