Keane wants positive approach against Sweden

Skipper knows next two games are make or break

Seamus Coleman and  James McClean in action during Republic of Ireland training at Malahide. Photograph:  Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Seamus Coleman and James McClean in action during Republic of Ireland training at Malahide. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho


Robbie Keane will lead an all-out assault on Sweden at the Aviva Stadium on Friday night in an attempt to make a decisive breakthrough in the Group C qualifying campaign.

Manager Giovanni Trapattoni has set his sights on four points from the clash with the Swedes and Tuesday’s trip to Vienna to give his side a firm foothold in the race for the runners-up spot.

The 74-year-old Italian has admitted he does not mind how those points arrive and insists he would not be disappointed with a draw against Sweden if his side then went on to win in Austria.

However, skipper Keane sounded the rallying cry as he looked to take a significant step towards the finals of another major tournament.

The 33-year-old said: “It’s certainly a game we are going into to get the three points. These two games are make or break, so this is it now, these are the games that the players have been looking forward to.

“We kind of knew that it was going to come down to this between ourselves, Sweden and Austria, so it’s a game, certainly, we can’t afford to lose, there’s no question about that.

“But people are talking about going in and trying to get a draw – it’s very hard for any player to go in to try to get a draw.

“You go into every game trying to get the three points. Obviously, it depends on the situation, the circumstances of when you are playing, but we will be going into the game to try to get the three points. But the most important thing is certainly not to lose the game.”

James McClean has been handed the left-wing berth ahead of the likes of Robbie Brady or Anthony Pilkington, with Trapattoni pointing out that McClean may be better suited to what he expects to be a physical encounter.

Richard Dunne will start in the centre of defence alongside John O’Shea, marking the 33-year-old’s first competitive international since the Euro 2012 finals in Poland. Seamus Coleman starts at right back, while Marc Wilson has recovered from an ankle injury and will start at left back.

Jon Walters will take up a wide role on the right, while Glenn Whelan and James McCarthy make up the central midfield partnership. Keane lines up alongside Shane Long in attack.

Ireland have lost only twice in the 10 games they have played since their 6-1 qualifier mauling by group leaders Germany in October last year.

Those reverses came at the hands of Greece and Spain in friendlies, and that represents something of a recovery after a debacle which very nearly cost Trapattoni his job.

Keane said: “The manner in which we were beaten by Germany was more disappointing than anything else. Probably people expected us to be beaten, but not in that manner.

“We just went about our business in the same way. We know we have players in this team, characters in this team with good, strong mentalities and we have shown that since that Germany game.

“If you look at our record – take away the Euros and our record over the last few years, for such a small nation, is very, very good, so we will look to continue that tomorrow night.”

Keane heads into the game still enjoying the status of the nation’s most likely match-winner after taking his goals tally to 59 with a hat-trick against the Faroe Islands in June.

He is currently in a rich vein of form for his club LA Galaxy too — seven of his 12 goals to date this season have come in his last four games — and he will, as he has done for much of the last 16 years, be the focal point of their attack.

The corresponding role for Sweden will be performed by Paris St Germain star Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ireland will hope to keep as tight a rein on him in Dublin as they did in the 0-0 draw in Stockholm in March.

Keane said: “You can’t play well in every game. With players like Zlatan, everyone is watching him to see what he’s going to do and thinking he is going to do something special all the time.

“But sometimes, it doesn’t work like that and the way we played in Stockholm certainly frustrated the Swedish team and they didn’t get much service to Zlatan, so in that respect it was probably a difficult game for him.

“You can’t play well all the time and hopefully tomorrow we can keep him quiet as well because we know how important he is to Sweden and at any given time, he can produce something out of nowhere, so we have to be very, very wary of him.”

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (v Sweden, Aviva Stadium, Friday, 7.45pm): D Forde (Millwall), S Coleman (Everton), R Dunne (QPR), J O’Shea (Sunderland), M Wilson (Stoke City), J Walters (Stoke City), G Whelan (Stoke City), J McCarthy (Everton), J McClean (Wigan Athletic), R Keane (LA Galaxy, capt), S Long (West Brom).