Keane eager to face Ronaldo
Published 09/06/2014 | 21:17
Robbie Keane admits he and his Republic of Ireland team-mates are desperate for Cristiano Ronaldo to line up against them.
Ireland end their summer programme with a tough test against the World Cup-bound Portuguese in New Jersey during the early hours of Wednesday morning amid speculation that the Real Madrid superstar will return from injury at some point in the game at the Metlife Stadium.
That might prove a daunting prospect for the Irish defence in particular, but Keane is keeping his fingers crossed that Ronaldo, who has been suffering from tendinitis in his left knee as well as a thigh problem, is involved.
The 33-year-old LA Galaxy striker said: "Himself and [Lionel] Messi are clearly the best two players in the world and every player wants to play against the best players in the world.
"He is certainly that and it's a good test for the players to be playing against him. We certainly hope that he does play because you want to play against the best."
Manager Martin O'Neill too is keen to see his players tested once again after tight encounters with Turkey, Italy and Costa Rica in recent weeks, even if that means having to deal with Ronaldo.
Asked what challenge that would represent, O'Neill said: "Massive, of course.
"We had a few problems the other night at the beginning of the second half of the game for about 15 or 20 minutes when [Costa Rica forward Joel] Campbell came out wide and caused us a few problems, so you could imagine Ronaldo being in that sort of form.
"He is one of the top two players in the world. He's just a brilliant, brilliant player.
"But again, it should be great for us to want to go and play against him, if that's the case. I think actually, the players want him to be playing in the game so they can go and test themselves."
O'Neill has made no apologies for the degree of difficulty associated with the end-of-season fixtures he has selected, which to date have resulted in a 2-1 defeat by the Turks and successive draws with the Italians and the Costa Ricans.
The whole programme has been geared towards the start of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign in Georgia in September, and Keane and the rest of the players are well aware of that.
The skipper said: "You want to play and win every game. Winning is a habit. It is going to be a big, big test against a great team.
"It has been a good trip so far - the players have enjoyed it. Younger players have come in and got a feel for it.
"Obviously the main thing is in September, but we have to prepare ourselves and do things properly and make sure we are ready for September."
O'Neill will have to shuffle his pack once again with full-back Marc Wilson missing with a hamstring problem and midfielder Glenn Whelan having returned home because of a family illness.
However, he is happy to have had the chance to run the rule over his entire squad.
The manager said: "We have utilised it. We have made a number of changes in each game and players have had to get used to playing with each other, some of the lads who have come into the squad for the first time, for instance.
"If you look at Shane Duffy, he played the game the other night and overall, he did fine in the game and he will come on really well for the experience. I think it's the same for a number of the younger lads too.
"But just overall, just blending things as much as we can together, really that would be the essence of it."