FOOTBALL : Robbie Keane has challenged his Republic of Ireland team-mates to write themselves into national folklore by making it to next summer’s World Cup finals in South Africa.
Robbie Keane has challenged his Republic of Ireland team-mates to write themselves into national folklore by making it to next summer’s World Cup finals in South Africa.
The Republic take on France at Croke Park on Saturday night before heading for Paris on Wednesday evening firmly believing they can upset the odds to book another adventure on the biggest stage of all.
Keane said: “The importance of the game and what’s at the end of it is massive for everyone associated with it. There are players who have never been in this situation before, players who play in the Championship who may never have the opportunity they have now.”
The Tottenham forward added: “Hopefully they will, but possibly never again, you just never know in football. It’s important we enjoy the occasion, but it’s more important that we do ourselves justice.
“Of course, they have players who have played in the Champions League. If you look on paper at the players they have, they have got world-class players all over the pitch and they are fortunate enough to be able to leave players like Patrick Vieira out of the squad.
“We just can’t do that, that’s the gulf between the two nations. But the one thing we do have is desire and commitment, and a team that’s desperate to do well and desperate to get to South Africa.”
Republic skipper Keane is well placed to assess the power of the France squad having seen many of their biggest names at close quarters in the Barclays Premier League and in Europe.
But he admits he cannot single out one man as the biggest threat to his country’s hopes.
He said: “It would be a bit harsh to name one because they have so many players. If you look at people like (Nicolas) Anelka, at the moment in the Premier League, he is flying and doing really well with Chelsea.
“And also (Thierry) Henry – I have been lucky enough to play against him many, many times, and he is obviously a world-class player who is doing fantastically well, so it’s very hard to pinpoint just one player.