Monday, September 6, 2010

Ireland unchanged for Andorra qualifier

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has resisted the temptation to make alterations to his team for tomorrow's Euro 2012 qualifier against Andorra.

Trap will field the same 11 players who started Friday evening's 1-0 win in Armenia in the first competitive international at the new Lansdowne Road.

That means keeper Shay Given will line up behind a back four of John O'Shea, Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger and Kevin Kilbane, while Glenn Whelan retains his place in a midfield four also including Liam Lawrence, Paul Green and Aiden McGeady despite having been booked in Yerevan.

Skipper Robbie Keane will once again partner Kevin Doyle in attack, although Trapattoni intends to give other players a chance from the bench, providing that the game goes the way he hopes.

And Robbie Keane is ready to make up for lost time against Andorra tomorrow night after passing up the opportunity to move himself closer to membership of an elite club.

The Ireland skipper had one strike ruled out for offside, hit the post and fired wide from the kind of chance he converts with almost monotonous regularity during Friday night’s 1-0 Euro 2012 qualifier victory in Armenia.

As a result, he failed to add to his current tally of 43 goals in 101 senior appearances for his country and home in on the half-century which would establish him among world football’s most prolific goalscorers.

The list of men to have broken through that barrier includes the likes of Pele, Ferenc Puskas, Gerd Muller and Gabriel Batistuta, and it would be a major achievement for Keane to add his name to an illustrious roll-call.

However, while that target is understandably in the Tottenham striker’s mind, he does not mind who scores Ireland’s goals in the current qualifying campaign as long as they get the points they need to reach the finals.

Keane said: “It is, yes. I don’t want to jump the gun too quickly, but now that I am climbing close to it, of course it would be great to achieve that.

“To be in the bracket with the players who are already there and have already achieved that would be a great honour.

“But at the same time, there are still a few goals to go, so I wouldn’t be thinking about that too much.”

On paper, Andorra’s visit to Dublin for Ireland’s first competitive game at the Aviva Stadium represents a glorious opportunity for Keane to take a significant step towards reaching 50 goals for his country.

However, the man who scored a hat-trick against San Marino in the last competitive international at the old Lansdowne Road, is taking nothing for granted.

He said: “At the end of the day, I never set targets. That would be very naive of me and disrespectful to the other team.

“As a striker, it is always important to score goals and get your confidence up, but whether I score tomorrow or anyone else, the most important thing is the three points.

“Our aim is to win every game by scoring as many goals as possible, but under different circumstances in different games, it is not as easy as you think.

“Certainly, international football now is not as easy as it used to be, even six, seven years ago. Teams are a lot tighter now.”

That said, Ireland were able to open up the Armenian rearguard repeatedly on Friday, only for their captain to suffer an uncharacteristically unproductive evening in front of goal.

However, he insists he will not dwell on those misses as he attempts to start his total ticking over once again.

The 30-year-old said: “You just forget about it. It has happened to me loads of times before in the past and it will certainly happen to me in the future.

“I will miss chances and I will score chances, but I never really let my head go down about things because another chance will always come along.

“As you get older, you get more experienced. When you are younger, you want to kill yourself sometimes, but as you get older, you realise that plenty more chances will come.

“I am not really too worried about it. It would be great to score a lot of goals in this campaign, but if I didn’t score a lot of goals in this campaign and we qualified, then...”

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