Keane eyeing half-century mark
Robbie Keane is ready to make up for lost time against Andorra tomorrow night after passing up the opportunity to move himself closer to membership of an elite club. The Republic of Ireland skipper had one strike ruled out for offside, hit the post and fired wide from the kind of chance he converts consistently during Friday night's 1-0 UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying victory in Armenia.
As a result, he failed to add to his current tally of 43 goals in 101 senior appearances for his country and home in on the half-century mark, which would establish him among world football's most prolific goalscorers. The list of men to have broken through that barrier includes the likes of Pele, Ferenc Puskas, Gerd Muller and Gabriel Batistuta, and it would be a major achievement for Keane to add his name to an illustrious roll-call.
However, while that target is understandably in the Tottenham Hotspur forward's mind, he does not mind who scores Ireland's goals in the current qualifying campaign as long as they get the points they need to reach the finals. "It is, yes," Keane said.
"I don't want to jump the gun too quickly, but now that I am climbing close to it, of course it would be great to achieve that. To be in the bracket with the players who are already there and have already achieved that would be a great honour. But at the same time, there are still a few goals to go, so I wouldn't be thinking about that too much."
On paper, Andorra's visit to Dublin for Ireland's first competitive game at the Aviva Stadium represents a glorious opportunity for Keane to take a significant step towards reaching 50 goals for his country. However, the man who scored a hat-trick against San Marino in the last competitive international at the old Lansdowne Road, is taking nothing for granted.
"At the end of the day, I never set targets," he stated. "That would be very naive of me and disrespectful to the other team. As a striker, it is always important to score goals and get your confidence up, but whether I score tomorrow or anyone else, the most important thing is the three points.
"Our aim is to win every game by scoring as many goals as possible, but under different circumstances in different games, it is not as easy as you think. Certainly, international football now is not as easy as it used to be, even six, seven years ago. Teams are a lot tighter now."
That said, Republic of Ireland were able to open up the Armenian rearguard repeatedly on Friday, only for their captain to suffer an uncharacteristically unproductive evening in front of goal. However, he insisted he will not dwell on those misses as he attempts to start his total ticking over once again.
The 30-year-old said: "You just forget about it. It has happened to me loads of times before in the past, and it will certainly happen to me in the future. I will miss chances and I will score chances, but I never really let my head go down about things because another chance will always come along.
"As you get older, you get more experienced. As you get older, you realise that plenty more chances will come. I am not really too worried about it. It would be great to score a lot of goals in this campaign, but if I didn't score a lot of goals in this campaign and we qualified, then..."
Manager Giovanni Trapattoni will start with the same 11 who ran out in Yerevan, although he will do so having warned midfielder Glenn Whelan to be careful as he attempts to avoid the yellow card which would put him out of next month's key home clash with Group B favourites Russia.
He will send out his team with orders to play at a high tempo in an effort to draw the Andorrans out of what he expects to be dogged defence, but also to guard against being caught by a sucker punch on the counter-attack by over-committing themselves.
The Italian said: "We must not allow them to take confidence. We must start on the front foot and not allow our opponents space and time. We must be like a boxer - 'boom, boom, boom, kapow!'. We must impose our game."