Sunday, October 11, 2009

Keane on 'heartbreaking' Italian draw

Ireland's dramatic 2-2 draw with Italy may have secured them a 2010 World Cup play-off place but for captain Robbie Keane the result triggered mixed emotions.

Ireland thought they had snatched a win over the world champions when Sean St Ledger put them into a 2-1 lead with three minutes remaining on Saturday.

That would have pushed the Irish to within a point of Italy in Group 8 and given them every chance of gaining automatic qualification for South Africa if results went their way in the final batch of qualifiers on Wednesday.

But just as the 70,000 crowd at Croke Park were celebrating, Alberto Gilardino levelled in the final minute to send Italy through and the Irish to the play-offs.

Gilardino's killer blow left Keane and his teammates feeling as though they had lost the match.

Keane reflected: "Of course, that's the reaction you have after the game.

"If it was the 60th minute or something, it's a bit different, but the last few minutes, it's a bit heart-breaking.

"We are in the play-offs now and everyone always expected us in the play-offs. But when you are that close, who knows?

"Italy could have drawn (against Cyprus) on Wednesday. You never know.

"To be this close, it's obviously difficult. But we have to pick ourselves back up. It's done now."

Ireland's Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni bemoaned his side's lack of experience.

"We are happy but we are also disappointed because the last two minutes we need this experience because we are a young team; we only have four or five senior players.

"I am sure this will be for us a great lesson because we could have won."

He continued: "But we must not defend the result. The last five minutes we must keep the advantage in a game, we must play we must play slowly. But with three minutes to go, we concede to a counter attack. That is inexperience when you are 2-1 against the world champions.

"That is a silly mistake or habit, to always go upfront. We must learn to control the situation. In training, we have worked on these situations.

"I thought we had it won. But we had too much enthusiasm in the final minutes. We were also tired. But it is difficult when you are building a team and you have 20 or so players from six or seven different clubs. Each of them has different habits at their own club."

Ireland were upset at FIFA's decision to introduce a seeding system for the play-offs, meaning Trapattoni's team are set to face the likes of France, Russia, Portugal or Sweden.

Asked who he wanted to meet Keane replied: "I don't know. Which teams are in it - France, Portugal?

"There are tough teams in there and I am sure we will get one of the toughest teams, there's no question about that.

"We never get an easy ride, do we? No matter what, it is going to be tough.

"We will see who we get. France, Portugal, Ukraine or whoever, it's going to be tough.

"They all have quality players in their team. No matter who we get, it is going to be difficult - but we always make it difficult for ourselves."

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