Belfast Telegraph

Republic will leave it late as Keane races against time

By Damien Spellman

Republic of Ireland skipper Robbie Keane is being given every chance to prove his fitness ahead of tomorrow night's Euro 2012 showdown with Armenia.

The 31-year-old striker is a major doubt for the game at the Aviva Stadium, which will decide the team's Group B fate as they attempt to secure a play-off berth.

Manager Giovanni Trapattoni on Saturday revealed Keane, his country's record international goalscorer with 51, was to undergo a scan on a sore abductor muscle and it was later confirmed that his chances of making the game were minimal.

Yesterday it emerged the problem is actually an adductor muscle injury and while assistant manager Marco Tardelli was refusing to rule the Los Angeles Galaxy frontman out of a fixture in which his country need to avoid defeat to finish second in the group, the chances of him playing appear to be slim.

Tardelli said: “Robbie has a little problem, but we are hopeful he will recover. It will be very difficult, but we are hopeful.

“Yesterday, he had a scan and he has a little problem — a big problem, not a little problem.”

Asked to put a percentage on Keane's chances, Tardelli said: “I don't know. It is better to ask the doctor. There is very little possibility that he will recover, but we are hopeful.”

Asked further if he would have been able to play had the game been yesterday amid suggestions he could be sidelined for a fortnight, he added: “No, no, I don't think so.”

Keane and his team-mates endured a gruelling trip back from Friday night's 2-0 victory in Andorra, which involved a three-hour coach journey from the Pyrenean principality to Barcelona and then a delayed flight of almost the same length, eventually arriving back in Dublin shortly before 7am yesterday.

Stoke striker Jonathan Walters, who met up with his colleagues on their return after missing the trip to Andorra with an ankle injury and West Brom pair Shane Long and Simon Cox are the leading candidates to partner Kevin Doyle in a new-look front two if Keane does indeed miss out.

Richard Dunne will also be available once again after serving a one-match ban in Friday's game, although left-back Stephen Ward is now suspended.

To qualify for the play-offs the Republic of Ireland will have to end Armenia's run of three successive victories, which have come courtesy of an 11-goal avalanche.

Tardelli said: “I think they are better in the forwards. In defence, maybe they make some mistakes.”

Belfast Telegraph


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