Sport Soccer

Sunday 19 November 2017

Keane fear for Armenia showdown


ROBBIE KEANE last night emerged as a major injury worry for Ireland ahead of Tuesday night's crucial European Championship qualifier against Armenia.

Giovanni Trapattoni confirmed his captain was "a strong doubt" after a scan on an abductor muscle injury.

Trapattoni will give Keane every opportunity to establish his fitness for a game Ireland cannot lose against one of the form sides in Europe.

Shane Long, or possibly Simon Cox, will replace Ireland's record goalscorer if he doesn't recover in time.

Keane's injury will add to Trapattoni's concerns after he said yesterday in Tallaght that Ireland treated their win on Friday in Andorra as a "training" game and urged them not to underestimate Armenia.

"I was a little bit angry at half-time. I thought we underestimated the opponent. We play like training, I say never underestimate the opponent," Trapattoni said as the FAI announced that nearly all general admission tickets had been sold for Tuesday's game.

Ireland will find it hard to underestimate a side who have scored 11 goals and conceded only one in their last three games but, despite only needing a point to be sure of a play-off place, Trapattoni said Ireland will be going for three points.

Often they have a funny way of showing it but, with the possibility of being seeded if they win, Ireland will have a real incentive to beat Armenia.

In another reminder of his record as he prepares to enter into contract negotiations with the FAI, Trapattoni pointed out his long years of success.

"I am not presumptuous or arrogant but it was impossible to achieve many results on my own. It was the players, not Trapattoni. The player is important. But why I achieve the results at Milan, Inter, Benfica, Juventus? Why? There is the players but the players follow me. They follow my mentality."

Trapattoni is certain that Ireland are now achieving what they can but he says he wants more. "With the right mentality, we can go all the way. Maybe we have not many creative players but we have mentality, attitude, balance."

Armenia, on the other hand, he said, were "imbalanced" and suggested that Ireland's experience would play a part against a side with an average age of 24.8 which includes a 38-year-old and a 37-year-old.

Apart from Keane, Trapattoni must also choose between Stephen Kelly and John O'Shea to replace the suspended Stephen Ward at left-back.

See Pages 8 and 9

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