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IS this finally the beginning of the end of Robbie Keane's wonderful Ireland career? Ireland's skipper will need a late, late fitness call and probably an injection in his Achilles to be fit to face Germany.

An effort on Marco Tardelli's part to downplay the significance of the fact that Keane had sat out training yesterday was holed below the waterline when the player himself relayed news of his predicament.

"I've had a problem with my Achilles for a while," he said. "I got a kick on it in training and it has swollen up. I've had a scan on it and I'll see how it goes today at training. It's a bit sore but I hope to play."

With the near certainty now that Giovanni Trapattoni will deploy a midfielder to man mark Mesut Ozil, Keane's job as lone striker will involve a serious of amount of running against Germany.

His form has been excellent for LA Galaxy in recent weeks but nothing less than full match fitness will do against Joachim Löw's team.

And if Keane wakes up tomorrow with continued swelling on his heel, Trapattoni and the Ireland captain will both have a big call to make.

Shane Long is the obvious beneficiary if Keane is forced to make a late withdrawal but Trapattoni has always liked Simon Cox.

Jon Walters has the kind of physical presence which Trapattoni believes will be necessary against the Germans, but a late-cry-off would throw everything into the melting pot.

Yesterday, Walters was asked about Ireland's move to a three-man midfield and how it would impact on the team.

"Well you say it's a formation change here but I think I'm used to that formation, playing in the Premier League, and I think James McCarthy is used to that formation at Wigan," he said.

"I think with the three in midfield the onus is on us to keep the ball a bit better and dominate midfield really. That's what we've done at Stoke. And you do get a lot more chances going forward with a lot of runners looking to get behind and support the lone striker."