Belfast Telegraph

Keane targets win in Republic's Moscow pitch battle

By Ian Parkes

Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane is targeting victory in Russia tonight as he set his sights of a hat-trick of wins to secure Euro 2012 qualification.

The 31-year-old was in bullish mood as he and his team-mates prepared for the showdown with Dick Advocaat's Group B leaders at the Luzhniki Stadium.

Ireland head into the game having slipped two points off the pace as a result of their 0-0 draw with Slovakia at the Aviva Stadium on Friday night, and they know their hopes of securing an automatic passage to next summer's finals could be dashed if they do not win in Moscow.

But Keane and his colleagues will run out on to the controversial artificial pitch at the Luzhniki intent on leaving with all three points to set themselves up for next month's double-header against Andorra and Armenia.

Keane said: “There's no reason why we can't. We will obviously focus and concentrate everything we have on the Russia game.

“Our main aim is to get something out of this game, and there's no reason why we can't do that and look forward to the [last] two games then.

“But why can't we?

“It's a game we can't lose. We want to still be in the pack when the last two games come around, so it's vitally important that we are in amongst it.

“From now, there are nine points to play for, so there's still a lot that can happen, and we are well aware of that.

“But our main focus is on hopefully getting three points tomorrow and then we will focus on that.

“But there are certainly a lot of games to play and anything can happen.”

The Republic have never won in Moscow and lost 3-2 to Advocaat's side in Dublin in October after suffering a nightmare start to the game.

However, despite a sub-standard display against the Slovakians and the selection problems which have robbed manager Giovanni Trapattoni of Kevin Kilbane, John O'Shea, Sean St Ledger and Shane Long, they arrived in Russia confident of redressing the balance.

Keane, who played in a 4-2 defeat on Ireland's last visit to the city in September 2002, said: “We have a different team and the way we play now, our set-up, is probably a lot better than then.

“We are a lot harder to beat now, which you have seen over the last few years.

“Every game away from home is always tough and when you are playing against a team like Russia, who have got great players and great individual players, it's going to be a tough, tough game.

“But listen, don't think for one second we are coming here to lie down and thinking Russia are just going to roll us over because believe you me, the players certainly know and I do and the manager knows that we are coming here to get something out of this game, and we are not going to make it easy for Russia.”

That defeat by the Russians in the wake of an eventful trip to the World Cup finals a few months earlier represented the beginning of the end for then manager Mick McCarthy, but fortunately for Keane, it left him with no lasting scars.

He said: “I'm not one of these people who look back. I genuinely can't remember the game much, and that's being honest with you.

“I can't worry about it too much. Someone said it was 4-2, was it? I don't really remember too much about it, to be honest.”

The disappointment at Ireland's failure to beat Slovakia and therefore maintain pace with Russia overshadowed the fact that Trapattoni's defenders claimed a record sixth successive clean sheet.

But the severity of the challenge will increase steeply tonight as a result of Russia's quality and the pitch.

Belfast Telegraph


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