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Keane talks up Ireland's forwards

Robbie Keane is confident the Republic of Ireland are heading for the Euro 2012 finals with a stronger pool of strikers than they had for the 2002 World Cup.

Keane, the nation's record goalscorer with 53, will lead the line once again in Poland and Ukraine, but Kevin Doyle, who has got the nod for Saturday's friendly against Bosnia, Shane Long, Jon Walters and Simon Cox are battling for the right to partner him.

The LA Galaxy frontman went to the 2002 World Cup finals along with fellow forwards Damien Duff, Niall Quinn, David Connolly and Clinton Morrison, and he is convinced Giovanni Trapattoni's men will pose a greater threat this time around. "It's a lot stronger than we had, probably, back then, and that's no disrespect to the lads back then," he said.

"Quinny was kind of at the end and he knew he was going to be a bit-part player, but all these strikers now want to play in every game, so certainly, I think the standard is a lot better.

"Everybody, not just the strikers, is desperate to play in that first game, so the intensity and the level of performance is naturally going to go up because every player wants to be picked by the manager.

"Certainly as strikers, the lads at club level have been doing very, very well, so whoever the manager picks out of the five of us, we just have to make the most of it and make sure that we stake our claim and stay in the team."

Keane will carry a huge weight of expectation as both captain and Trapattoni's main goal threat, but he insists he is comfortable with his dual role.

He said: "My job is to do that. As captain, you can't carry the whole team, so first and foremost, you have to make sure that as a player, you are doing the best you can to help the team, so I will be certainly doing that."

The first wave of players arrived last Thursday and the remainder joined up on Sunday, a full three weeks before Ireland open their campaign against Croatia on June 10. They face three tough games inside nine days, but Keane is happy with a potentially gruelling schedule.

He said: "I have been like that in my whole career, to be honest with you. I have enjoyed playing Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, if you like. I certainly do feel a lot sharper when I play a lot of games on the bounce, so hopefully that will be the case."


From Belfast Telegraph