Belfast Telegraph

There's no Plan B for Republic of Ireland, says Robbie Keane

By Damian Spellman

Robbie Keane has admitted the Republic of Ireland have not had a Plan B throughout his entire international career.

The 33-year-old striker is in line to win his 129th senior cap in Austria tonight with Ireland's hopes of World Cup qualification hanging by a thread after Friday's 2-1 home defeat by Sweden.

That night, Giovanni Trapattoni's men took an early lead after launching a blitz, but they were unable to sustain the pressure and eventually succumbed.

Trapattoni's tactics and in particular, his inability to change the game as it began to slip away from his team, proved to be the final straw for many of his critics, but Keane insisted Ireland have always played only one way during his 15 years.

He said: "We talk about Plan A and Plan B and cr*p like that, but Ireland has never had a Plan B before. We have always had Plan A, it's as simple as that.

"Since I have been in the squad, we have played the exact same way. We don't have the personnel to, like Spain, get the ball down and have 80 per cent possession against teams. We are just not that team.

"But we know strengths and we stick to them. Unless it changes, maybe from grass-roots – but it's not going to change for, certainly, a good few years.

"They keep talking in England about trying to change things and making the national team a lot better. In Ireland, we need to do that as well, but is it going to change straight away?

"It hasn't changed since I walked in that door the first day I got here, so I don't think it's going to change for a while."

Change has been the theme of the current campaign with Trapattoni having blooded the vanguard of what he hopes will be a new generation of players with Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy the main beneficiaries.

However, the defensive resilience which characterised his first four years at the helm – Ireland are yet to lose a qualifier away from home under the 74-year-old Italian – has deserted them alarmingly at times, and an inability to break teams down at the Aviva Stadium has proved even more costly.

Too often in recent games, the fight and stubborn refusal to cede ground to technically superior sides, once a given, has proved elusive, but Keane is confident it remains a key weapon in the Irish armoury,.

He said: "I would like to think so – I certainly can see it in them. To be playing every week for your club, you have to have that instilled in you.

"If you don't, it's very hard to succeed as a professional athlete in any sport. I certainly do see it in the players."

Belfast Telegraph

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