Hoffenheim forward Uth puts himself in World Cup contention

FILE - In this April 16, 2016 file photo Hoffenheim's Mark Uth, left, celebrates his side's winning goal during a German first division Bundesliga match between TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and Hertha BSC Berlin in Sinsheim, Germany. Uth’s brilliant start to the season could yet earn the Hoffenheim forward a call-up for Germany before the World Cup next year. The 26-year-old scored again late Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 – in the second minute of injury time – to clinch a remarkable 3-2 win for his side at Mainz.  (AP Photo/Michael Probst, file)

BERLIN (AP) The way he has been playing so far, Hoffenheim forward Mark Uth could end up at the World Cup for Germany.

The 26-year-old Uth scored again late Wednesday – in the second minute of injury time – to clinch a remarkable 3-2 win at Mainz after a poor start left the team trailing 2-0 after only 16 minutes.

”We believed in the win until the last minute,” said Uth, whose crisp strike left Mainz goalkeeper Rene Adler with no chance. ”It was a 50-50 game after the break. That’s why the win is also a little lucky, but we had great morale after the many games of the last weeks.”

Uth’s two goals earned Hoffenheim a 2-0 win over Bayern Munich earlier this month. He capitalized on a lapse in the Bayern defense by sprinting forward for a quick throw-in before beating Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer at his near post, then struck again in the second half to ensure victory over the five-time defending champions.

Uth has four goals from four starts in five Bundesliga games this season, while he also scored two in the unsuccessful Champions League playoff games against Liverpool.

He’s quick, direct, and clearly has an eye for goal. No wonder Hoffenheim is so eager to hold onto its forward – Uth’s contract is up at the end of the season.

Asked about the likelihood of extending his deal, Uth has been noncommittal, saying many factors are at play and it’s not just about money.

”The next contract is always the most important. I never made a bad decision in my career. The next will certainly also be right,” said Uth, who said a contract extension was also possible. ”Nothing is ruled out yet.”

The striker would be back playing for hometown club Cologne if he had had his way, but Hoffenheim ruled out a transfer despite only a year on his contract remaining.

The club said ”in no uncertain terms, we will not let you go,” Uth said.

He came to Hoffenheim in 2015 from Dutch club SC Heerenveen, which he joined in 2012 after failing to break into Cologne’s first team. He scored eight league goals in his first season back in Germany, then seven in 2016-17 despite only 12 starts.

Uth’s emergence this season gives Germany coach Joachim Loew another option up front as he attempts to steer his team to back-to-back World Cup titles.

While Timo Werner has emerged at Leipzig and Lars Stindl continues to show his quality at Borussia Moenchengladbach, Mario Gomez is having a hard time at Wolfsburg, and Loew could appreciate the speed and instinctive finishing that Uth provides.

The Hoffenheim player will get a further chance to impress in the Europa League, which Hoffenheim reached after its best ever Bundesliga campaign last season.

Loew, and plenty of others, will be watching with interest.