Robbie Keane: I'm no stranger to the goalscoring burden
Published 05/06/2014 | 22:11
Robbie Keane insists he is happy to carry the burden of supplying the goals to fire the Republic of Ireland into the finals of Euro 2016.
The 33-year-old will win his 132nd senior cap if he features against Costa Rica in Philadelphia during the early hours of Saturday morning, and his remarkable goal tally currently stands at 62.
Given that manager Martin O'Neill has been left bemoaning missed chances in each of his side's last three friendlies against Serbia, Turkey and Italy, which have yielded two draws and a defeat, the onus will once again be on Keane to lead the fight when the qualifiers start in September.
However, having played under that same pressure for much of the last 16 years, the LA Galaxy frontman is far from fazed by the prospect.
He said: "Well, it's the same pressure as I've had since I was 17, so that will never change.
"I'm going to put pressure on myself more than probably you guys do.
"My job is to score goals and listen, it doesn't matter if I score goals or if it's Longy [Shane Long] or Wes [Hoolahan] or whoever it is among the other strikers, the important thing is winning games and certainly if we can score more goals than the opposition, then we have a good chance.
"We've got strikers in the squad who are quite capable of scoring. I know there's been talk about that, but as long as players are getting the opportunities, that's always good.
"Of course at the end you want to finish them and if I can help to contribute towards that, then great."
Keane joined up with the squad in New Jersey on Wednesday evening after they flew in from Dublin and trained with his team-mates on Thursday morning ahead of the Costa Rica game at the PPL Stadium.
He has missed the last four internationals - against Poland because of injury and the Serbs, the Turks and the Italians - after being allowed to concentrate on his club commitments.
The Ireland captain freely admits he does not like sitting out games, but now that he is back in the picture, he is desperate to be involved.
He said: "Of course you want to be involved in every game, but under different circumstances. That hasn't been the case, but I'm not going to worry too much about it.
"It's an opportunity, as the gaffer said, to give other people the opportunity to get games and I think that's very important.
"We have a good squad of players and it's only right that people get an opportunity to see what they can do.
"Of course you miss it, you certainly do, but I knew what the case was. I was going to come in for the two games and I'm excited to be here."
The Republic have won none of the four games for which Keane has been absent and scored only two goals in the process, and addressing that record against Costa Rica, who start their World Cup finals campaign against Uruguay in Fortaleza on June 14, will be easier said than done.
But buoyed by the performance in last Saturday's 0-0 draw with Italy at Craven Cottage, O'Neill is hoping for more of the same.
He said: "If we could really try to continue on where we left off against Italy, that would be lovely."
O'Neill's squad, however, has changed significantly with defenders John O'Shea, Seamus Coleman, Ciaran Clark, Damien Delaney and Stephen Ward and strikers Jon Walters and Anthony Stokes not having travelled, although Walters could fly in over the next 24 hours after recovering from a virus.
That means there are places up for grabs, particularly at the back, and O'Neill is keen to examine the depth of his squad.
He said: "Right from the outset, I said that we would change things. Do you remember I had this idea that we maybe might have two different squads?
"Well we just didn't have the numbers anyway for it, but it's worked out pretty well."