MUNICH (AP) — Miroslav Klose equaled Germany's all-time goal-scoring record Friday in a 3-0 win over Austria that leaves his side close to qualifying for the World Cup.
The 35-year-old Klose scored in the 33rd minute to finally join Gerd Mueller on 68 goals for Germany. Klose hadn't scored since the 4-4 draw with Sweden in October 2012.
"The goal means an awful lot to me but I don't want to put myself on a level with Gerd," Klose said after his 129th appearance.
Mueller's 39-year-old record was set in 62 appearances.
"It's good that it finally happened," Germany coach Joachim Loew said. "We've been talking about it for a while."
Toni Kroos scored with a curling strike inside the right post from outside the penalty area in the 51st, and Thomas Mueller wrapped up the win in the 88th.
With three games remaining in Group C, Germany is five points ahead of Sweden, which boosted its chances of a playoff place by coming from behind to defeat Ireland 2-1.
Robbie Keane opened the scoring in Dublin in the 24th, but Johan Elmander equalized 10 minutes later and the 37-year-old Anders Svensson swept in the winner on his record-equaling 143rd appearance for Sweden.
Austria and Ireland are three points behind Sweden ahead of their game Tuesday in Vienna.
Sweden visits Kazakhstan the same day, while Germany expects another three points from its game in the Faeroe Islands, which lost 2-1 to Kazakhstan earlier Friday.
Despite conceding nine goals in its last three friendly games, Germany rarely looked troubled by an Austrian side that lacked the confidence to really test the home side's re-jigged defense.
"You always had the feeling that the Germans could up a gear," said Austria coach Marcel Koller. "It was too much effort for us. We couldn't stop the holes anymore."
Austria keeper Robert Almer blocked Marco Reus and then did brilliantly to punch Klose's header off the line from the rebound in the 28th.
But the veteran Lazio striker finally broke the deadlock five minutes later, when he stole ahead of his marker at the near post to meet Mueller's whipped-in cross, which had come back off the retreating defender.
"Fifty percent came from me, 25 percent from the defender, 25 percent from Miro," Mueller said.
Manuel Neuer was equal to Aleksander Dragovic's dipping effort before the break, and Austria striker Andreas Weimann shot over after the restart as the visitors threatened a revival.
It was short-lived, however, and Kroos scored when Reus cut the ball back for the Bayern Munich midfielder to let fly with a perfectly struck shot.
Neuer denied Martin Harnik from close range on a rare Austrian attack, before Klose had a goal ruled out for offside.
Almer made three saves to deny Mueller in the second half, but the 23-year-old finally got his goal when Kroos — who was impressive throughout — played Benedikt Hoewedes through to cross for an easy finish.
"We had a couple more days to prepare than we had for the (3-3 friendly draw with Paraguay) in August. We recovered the intensity and aggression that were missing," Loew said.