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'Keano' has Finals in sight

Posted on 11 October 2009  - 12:00

Robbie Keane believes the spirit of 2002 is running through the Republic of Ireland camp ahead of their crucial World Cup Qualifier with Italy in Dublin on Saturday.

'Keano' has Finals in sight

Robbie Keane believes the spirit of 2002 is running through the Republic of Ireland camp ahead of their crucial World Cup Qualifier with Italy in Dublin on Saturday.

The Spurs and Ireland captain was part of his country's side that reached the Finals in Korea and Japan six years ago by topping a qualifying group that included the mighty Holland.

Now Giovanni Trapattoni's side are in the driving seat for a play-off place, and even have an outside chance of automatic qualification, in the race to reach South Africa 2010 next summer.

They sit four points behind leaders Italy in Group 8 with two games left, but clear of third-placed Bulgaria by five points.

Victory over the current World Cup holders at Croke Park would keep a trip to South Africa in touching distance, and ‘Keano' is relishing another chance to perform on the biggest stage.

He starred for the Irish in the Far East last time, securing his move to The Lane shortly after, and he said on Friday: "This is the best opportunity we have had for a long time, since 2002. It has the same feeling as it did then.

"We have got players who believe we are quite capable of going to South Africa, and players who are desperate to go there.

"I have been very fortunate to play in a World Cup before and the lads are talking about how desperate they are to play in a World Cup.

"But as well, we have a good squad of players and good strength in depth now which we probably haven't had over the last few years, and that's certainly helped."

On taking on the Italians, the striker added: "We know they are a good team and we have to be very wary of them. They have some quality players still in the team, so it is going to be a tough game. But I don't think we fear anyone, to be honest, no matter if they are the world champions or not.

"We know we are quite capable on our day of beating anyone and it's a game we are certainly looking forward to."