O'Neill boost as German great Klose hangs up his boots
MARTIN O'NEILL will have one less World Cup winner to contend with this autumn after Miroslav Klose confirmed his decision to retire from international football.
The 36-year-old has stepped away from the fold after an extraordinary contribution over the course of 13 years.
Klose, who was born in Poland, scored 71 goals in 137 appearances for the country he moved to as a child.
He finished on a high with a key contribution to Die Mannschaft's triumph in Brazil, with the only natural striker in Joachim Loew's squad brought into the starting selection from the quarter final onwards.
"I am happy and proud to have contributed to this big success for German football," said Klose. "Winning the title in Brazil was a childhood dream come true."
The Lazio attacker has followed the lead of Philipp Lahm by stepping away from international duty.
That could be viewed as a boost for Ireland with a view to the Euro 2016 group, but the top seeds still have remarkable strength in depth, although they do not have a natural like-for-like central striking replacement in the Klose mould.
It means the odds-on favourites to top Group D will likely start the road to the Euros with the 'false nine' strategy that was favoured by Loew in the early stages of their South American odyssey, with Thomas Mueller the foremost player. Mario Goetze came off the bench in the final to score the winner from that berth, ably supported by Chelsea's Andre Schuerrle.
Germany start their campaign at home to Scotland on September 7 before a double-header a month later which consists of a trip to Poland and then the visit of O'Neill's charges to Gelsenkirchen on October 14.
Klose's choice means that Ireland skipper Robbie Keane becomes the highest scoring current international footballer. Keane has 62 goals to his name and is hoping to add to that tally on the road to France.
Meanwhile, Ireland U-21 international Anthony Forde is poised to leave Wolves and sign for League One outfit Walsall on a free transfer.
Forde, who hails from Limerick, has made 28 appearances for the Molineux club and broke through at Premier League level.
However, he has fallen out of favour under Kenny Jackett and was not part of his plans for their return to the Championship, which kicked off with a weekend defeat of Norwich.
Irish internationals Kevin Doyle, Stephen Ward and Kevin Foley are also out of favour and eyeing moves before the transfer window shuts.