Robbie Keane hoping his club form will give Sweden something to think about
Ireland captain has scored seven goals in five games for LA Galaxy
Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane who is looking to take his club form into tonight’s game against Sweden in the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
While the rest of us were hailing the heroic collective effort that left Zlatan Ibrahimovic looking a slightly isolated figure in Stockholm six months ago, Rasmus Elm subsequently blamed his side’s failure to beat Ireland at home on a fear factor all of their own. Robbie Keane, he said, had unnerved the hosts to the extent that they played too deeply so as to avoid a potentially devastating defeat.
Keane laughed a little uneasily at the idea of it all yesterday before hinting they might have more cause for concern this time around: “I was playing a lot deeper role over there, trying to help the team as much as I could, hopefully tomorrow will be a little bit different but they’ll be talking again afterwards about how they were afraid of me.”
His recent strike-rate at club level would certain suggest that some caution might be advised. Seven goals in five games will have bred confidence in a player who, in any case, said yesterday that he is never nervous ahead of games like this, only excited.
Aside from the form he takes into the game, however, Keane believes that the Irish team is better equipped to create chances to win games like this now that Giovanni Trapattoni has found the forward thinking full-backs that he had been harking after for so long.
“Yeah, it’s almost going back to the Jack Charlton days when we used to have Terry Phelan and Chris Hughton . . . players like that used to be bombing forward all the time; Gary Kelly and Jason McAteer too. On the right, Seamus is one of those players who loves to get forward but he can defend also. He’s very, very quick, he has great energy and as a striker he always seems to be one of those players to provide you with an overlap, he’s always keen to get to the touchline so as to get his crosses in.
“On the other side,” he continued, “there’s Marc Wilson who’s maybe a little bit different to Seamus but he likes to get forward too and he’s got a great strike on him, we’ve seen already in games that he’s capable of getting goals.”
Ibrahimovic, of course, remains more than capable of getting a few too but Keane feels that the PSG striker is sometimes the victim of the high expectations his best performances have generated. “You can’t play well every game,” he says. “Everybody watches a player like Zlatan to see what he’s going to do and thinking that he’s going to do something very special but sometimes it just doesn’t work like that. When we played in Sweden I think we frustrated the whole Swedish team, they didn’t get much service to Zlatan and that is probably why it was such a difficult game for them but you can’t play for all the time. Still, we have to hope that we can keep them quiet again tomorrow night because we know how important he is for them . . . he’s a player who can always produce something out of nowhere.”
On balance, he insists, there are good reasons for supporters to be optimistic about a team whose reputation was, he feels, somewhat unfairly tarnished by the thumping it took from Germany a year ago.
“Take away the Germany game,” he says,” and this game is against a team that is very, very similar to us in the way that they play. I wouldn’t say that Sweden is a better team than us. I think Austria, us and them are very, very similar. It’s a game that we’ll certainly be going into thinking that we can win.
“I think the manner in which we got beaten by Germany was more disappointing than anything else. People probably expected us to lose, but not in that way. But I think the way we have done our business since then has been impressive.”