/ Soccer

Keane calm over playing catch-up

Updated: Saturday, 26 Mar 2011 22:32

Robbie Keane - confident Ireland can catch Russia
Robbie Keane - confident Ireland can catch Russia

<notforsyndication>Watch live coverage of the Republic of Ireland v Macedonia on RTÉ Two television and RTÉ.ie (Island of Ireland) from 7.00pm.</notforsyndication>

Skipper Robbie Keane insists the Republic of Ireland will not be fazed by the task of chasing down Russia as they attempt to reach the Euro 2012 finals.

Ireland head into tonight's qualifier against Macedonia at the Aviva Stadium trailing the Group B leaders by two points, largely as a result of their victory in Dublin in October.

However, Keane, a veteran of many tight campaigns over the last 13 years, is not worried about having to do the chasing once again.

He said: 'It's something we have certainly got used to over a few campaigns, we always seem to be chasing teams, so it's something we are used to.

'We don't accept it, of course we want to be top of the group but it's not the case.

'We have done reasonably well so far and we have another massive game tomorrow.

'By no means is this going to be an easy game tomorrow. Macedonia are a team who over the last few years have progressed very, very well.

'They are a team we certainly have to be wary of, but we are playing at home and we should be going into the game feeling confident.'

Keane is the one man in the squad who played the night the Irish suffered their second bout of heartache against the Macedonians in Skopje in October 1999.

That night, a last-gasp equaliser by Goran Stavreski denied the Republic a victory which would have taken them to the finals of Euro 2000 two years after a 3-2 defeat in the same city had put a major dent in their hopes of qualifying for France '98.

Keane said: 'It's been so long, I don't really remember too much about it. But I don't want to look to the past too much, we have to concentrate on tomorrow's game. By no means is it going to be an easy game, it's going to be a tough game.

'They have some players who are a massive threat, people like [Goran] Pandev who plays for Inter Milan. He is obviously going to be a massive threat to us.

'But we have players in our squad, people like Aiden McGeady and Damien Duff, who is in flying form at the moment, players who can help the team.

'We have to concentrate on us rather than looking much at Macedonia.'

Keane will captain his country for a record-equalling 40th time, while left-back Kevin Kilbane will make his 65th consecutive competitive start.

The West Ham striker said: 'Kevin has been magnificent. He's been a top, top servant for this country.

'He probably doesn't get the credit he deserves in an Ireland shirt. He has been magnificent, not only a great player and a great servant, but a great lad to have around the dressing room.

'He's very, very popular with all the young players and the senior players. He has been a great servant and that in itself is a massive achievement.'