Czech striker Koller calls it a day

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PRAGUE - Jan Koller, the towering striker who scored a record 55 goals for the Czech Republic, announced his retirement on Wednesday after a string of injuries curtailed his playing prospects.

Koller, 38, scored his 55 goals for the Czechs in 91 matches, during a successful decade for the team when it won acclaim for its open, attacking style of play.

His physical presence and aerial ability was a feature of a fine well-balanced side which also included the outstanding Juventus midfielder Pavel Nedved and fellow striker Milan Baros.

Seven years ago he was part of the side that looked as though it was on course to win Euro 2004 before an upset 1-0 extra-time defeat to Greece in the semi-finals.

"I've had enough since April. First there were problems with my calf muscle, then something with the heart, and when I started preparing for the next season, my thigh muscle snapped," news agency CTK quoted Koller as saying.

"That was the last warning."

The 2.02 metres tall striker, affectionally nicknamed "Dino" for dinosaur, started his working life not as a footballer but as a mechanic in the small southern Czech village of Smetanova Lhota and did not turn professional until he was 21 in 1994.

Although he originally played as a goalkeeper, he made his mark as a striker in junior football but failed to make much of an impression after joining Sparta Prague in 1994 before the club sold him for the equivalent of 102,000 euros to Lokeren in Belgium in 1996.

He later took up ballet to improve his movement on the pitch and enjoyed success in Belgium, where he was the leading scorer in 1999 the year he moved to Anderlecht where he won two league titles.

He then spent five years in Germany at Borussia Dortmund alongside compatriot Tomas Rosicky, followed by stints at Monaco, Nuremberg, Samara in Russia and lastly Cannes in the French third division.

Koller also played for the Czechs at three European championships and the 2006 World Cup.