Victory could ‘change the whole country and give Ireland a massive boost’ - Robbie
ROBBIE KEANE is determined to secure qualification for Euro 2012, an achievement that he believes could "change the country".
The Irish skipper has conceded that it might be his last chance to qualify for a major tournament, and delivered a passionate rallying call yesterday ahead of the first leg of the play-off tie with Estonia.
He acknowledges that time is running out for senior players like himself, Shay Given and Richard Dunne, and that's why he believes that Giovanni Trapattoni's squad are ready to grab the opportunity with both hands.
"We have the players to do it and we have the mentality to do it. We've worked really hard for this and we can't let it go," said Keane. "This could change the whole country and give it a massive boost. It would mean everything," he continued, when asked of the personal significance.
"I've been fortunate to play in a World Cup, which was one of the best experiences in my life. I've never played at a European Championships. We haven't made one in 20 years and it would mean a hell of a lot to me, and to the whole country. Believe you me, these players are desperate to make it happen."
Keane paid tribute to the medical staff at LA Galaxy who nursed him back to fitness ahead of schedule from the muscle problem he exacerbated in Andorra last month.
At one point, he feared the worst. But a driving force in his recovery was the prospect of the two massive games over the next four days.
The Dubliner is determined to avoid another summer without a major tournament. He was asked what it's been like in the role of spectator since 2002.
"A pain in the a***," he responded.
"We're in the same situation as two years ago. We know how important it is for everyone. And this is what we play football for. This is why we're here. Friendly games are great, and playing for your country is great, but this is why we play -- to make these tournaments."
Nevertheless, Keane warned against underestimating Estonia, and denied the players are in relaxed form because of the opposition.
"You have to treat every game the same," he said. "You have to respect your opponents. They're here for a reason, they've obviously done well. Of course, when you're playing a team like France, who are the favourites, who have world star players, it's different. Estonia don't have that. But do we?
"We're slightly the favourites, but by no means is it an easy game."