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My record speaks for itself, insists hitman Robbie Keane

By Damian Spellman

Published 13/11/2015

Republic of Ireland skipper Robbie Keane
Republic of Ireland skipper Robbie Keane

Robbie Keane insists he does not have to remind manager Martin O'Neill of his goalscoring prowess as the Republic of Ireland head into their Euro 2016 play-off with Bosnia-Herzegovina.

O'Neill has spent much of the build-up to tonight's first leg being quizzed about the health of striker Shane Long, who will miss the game in Zenica due to the foot injury he sustained during last month's final qualifier in Poland.

Keane started that game on the bench, as he had done at home to Germany three days earlier as first Daryl Murphy and then Long got the nod in a lone striking role.

The 35-year-old is fast approaching the end of his distinguished career, but with 67 international goals to his name, he feels his record speaks for itself.

Asked if he needed to remind O'Neill of his potency, the Los Angeles Galaxy striker said with a smile: "I don't think I need to do that. I think 67 goals probably says that a little bit."

Keane has himself been used as a single striker during the current campaign, a task he freely admits does not suit him, but he remains adamant he will happily fill whatever role is required of him in his country's cause.

He said: "If I'm called upon anywhere, you want to play. Of course every player wants to play. I haven't played for this long at a high level to be happy not to play.

"But the manager has to make a decision that's right for the team. The team is more important than any individual and if I play or am called upon, I'll be more than ready."

Should the Republic make it to the finals in France next summer, the likes of Keane, 39-year-old keeper Shay Given and central defender John O'Shea, 34, who have a staggering 384 caps between them, could be handed the perfect swansong.

If they do not, Monday night's second leg at the Aviva Stadium could very well be the last time one or more of them is seen in a Republic shirt.

However, Keane for one is not even contemplating that possibility.

He said: "I honestly haven't even thought about it. It's the last thing I want to think about right now. Ask me on Tuesday and I'll have a clearer picture for you. But there's no way I am thinking about it now.

"First and foremost, I'm a player and I still have a lot to offer. I scored 20 goals in 24 games for the Galaxy this year, so it's not like I'm on my way out. I still score goals if I get the opportunities."

While Keane may or may not start tonight, there is no doubt over who will be leading the Bosnia attack - Edin Dzeko.

The Manchester City striker, who is currently on loan at Roma, insists the Republic will pose a serious threat to his country's hopes of making the European Championship finals for the first time - especially after their shock win over world champions Germany last month.

Dzeko said: "Some of their most important players might not be playing in the first game, so it's a big problem for them, but they have other good players who can jump in, so I don't think it's a big advantage for us.

"They have some important players, some experienced players, who can bring something different to the team - like they did against Germany, because it's not easy doing it against them.

"If you win like that, then you must be a very good team."

Bosnia skipper Dzeko is well placed to assess the dangers in the Republic squad having come up against most of O'Neill's players during his time in the Barclays Premier League.

O'Neill was delighted to have been drawn to play away in the first leg, although his selection problems have eaten into that perceived advantage, although Dzeko believes not significantly.

Asked if the Bosnians are favourites to progress, he said: "No I don't, I think it's 50-50.

"It doesn't matter that some of our players are playing in the Champions League because the Republic have players with a lot of experience who have already played in big games.

"I know almost all the Irish players - they all play in England in the best league in the world and they are there because they have their individual qualities, they are good players.

"Even if some of them are missing, they are a good team which will definitely never give up, I know that for certain.

"They will be two very interesting games because we want to go to the European Championships, they want to be there as well, so it will be interesting to watch them.

"(It would be) the first time Bosnia qualified for the Euro finals. We achieved qualification for the World Cup in Brazil and that was our first big competition, and now we want to go to the Euros as well."

Euro 2016 play-offs: Stadion Bilino polje, Bosnia-Herz v Republic of Ireland, Fri 7.45pm.

Belfast Telegraph

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