Bernd Schneider hangs up boots

BERLIN - Germany midfielder Bernd Schneider, who played a key role in his country's runs to the World Cup finals in 2002 and semi-finals in 2006, announced on Friday he was retiring due to a spinal chord injury at the age of 35.

Schneider, who had 81 caps and four goals in an international career that began in 1999, also retired from his club Bayer Leverkusen.

He appeared in 296 Bundesliga matches and scored 39 goals but had struggled with the injury since April 2008.

"He was an important player for us for many, many years and made a large contribution to our successes," said Germany coach Joachim Loew. "He was a genuine leader on and off the pitch."