Sunday, June 5, 2011

Half century Keane steers Ireland to vital Euro win

Robbie Keane fulfilled Niall Quinn's prediction when he completed a half-century of international goals in Macedonia yesterday.

The 30-year-old Ireland skipper struck for the 50th time for his country after just eight minutes and then added a second with 37 minutes played at the Philip II Stadium in Skopje to ease his side to a vital Euro 2012 victory and exorcise the ghosts of their previous two visits.

Keane, who had a pain-killing injection in his groin before the game, said: 'I am obviously delighted to be associated with some of the names which are there. I am very delighted and very proud to be amongst that elite.

'But for me, it's all about the team and how the team performs. It's all about getting three points, and we did that tonight.'

Asked if he ever dreamt of scoring 50 goals when he set out on his senior international career as a 17-year-old, Keane replied: 'I think it would be very naive for anyone to think that.

'You can set your stall out to reach certain goals, and my goal was to reach Niall Quinn's record [of 21].

'I reached that and then you look to another one, so I am obviously delighted that I did that.

'When I first came into the Ireland squad, Niall Quinn said to me I would get 50 goals, so it's probably down to him!'

Keane's heroics came in an explosive first-half which saw Macedonia midfielder Ivan Trickovski crash a 40th-minute penalty against Shay Given's crossbar, although Ireland eased their way over the finishing line in relative comfort after the break.

The win left Giovanni Trapattoni's men locked together with Russia and Slovakia, who also collected three points tonight, at the top of Group B ahead of September clashes with both.

The Italian said: 'Slovakia [at home] is difficult, and then the game in Moscow...

'But we hope when we go in Russia, we have the possibility to win the group by beating Russia.

'We hope is to get to Russia knowing that if win the match, we can top the group.'

Should Keane maintain his prolific scoring rate - his 51 goals have come in just 108 appearances - that could be a distinct possibility.

Trapattoni said: 'Not only in Ireland, but I have seen many goalscorers, and he is in this category.

'He has personality in front of the goalkeeper. The first time I was asked about Robbie Keane, I said he could play like Totti and play also behind the striker, and I still have the same opinion.'