11 June 2014 | News Comments

Keogh: Portugal are World Cup contenders

Republic of Ireland defender Richard Keogh has warned the World Cup favourites to write off Portugal at their peril after seeing them at their destructive best.

Keogh and his Ireland team-mates found themselves on the receiving end at the Metlife Stadium in New Jersey during the early hours of Wednesday morning when Cristiano Ronaldo and company illustrated their readiness to ruffle a few feathers in Brazil.

The Portuguese ran out 5-1 winners in their final warm-up game after roaring into a 3-0 lead with just 37 minutes gone, and having seen them at close hand, the Derby defender is well placed to judge just how dangerous they could be on Brazil.

Keogh said: "They have got a good team, a good squad. Ronaldo is the best player in the world, he can make something happen out of nothing.

"On that showing, they are going to be a bit of a threat."

While Portugal headed for South America, Ireland turned for home licking their wounds after a bruising night in New Jersey which saw a squad weakened by injuries and withdrawals suffer at the hands of one preparing for the big stage.

Martin O'Neill's players will spend the next few weeks in rest and recuperation before returning to domestic affairs, but with one eye on the resumption of competitive international action in September.

O'Neill deliberately chose testing fixtures for the summer programme - against Turkey, Italy, Costa Rica and the Portuguese - and his side ultimately emerged from them with two defeats and two draws to show for their efforts, although believing they could, and perhaps should, have won each of the first three.

However, the manager is confident that will help to hone them for the start of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, which gets underway in Georgia, and Keogh knows that is when results will really matter.

He said: "The manager wanted tough games. We probably should have had a couple more victories in the four games, but we have got to make sure we are ready now for September because at the end of the day, we are all fighting to get to France and that's what we are driving for.

"It's a good learning curve for this group. A couple of us are still learning at this level, we are still a bit of a new group together.

"But we have come into a few squads together now and come September, we will be ready and we are looking forward to it."

In the meantime, Keogh, who only just missed out on promotion to the Barclays Premier League at the end of last season when his error handed Bobby Zamora the chance to send QPR up instead, will re-charge his batteries and prepare for a campaign which could prove exciting for both club and country.

He said: "It's been a long season. I have played a lot of games again - close to 50 games. It's a lot of games, but it's great experience for me.

"I'm happy when I am playing, but I will look forward to my rest and look forward to another big season.

"Of course I am excited. I feel like I'm getting better all the time, I'm hopefully coming into my best years. I'm in good form, I feel good about myself and I'm learning all the time.

"That's the most important thing. I always want to get better, I want to strive to get better and hopefully that will continue."

But the 27-year-old is well aware international recognition will only come if his club form is good enough, and he could have no better incentive than the fight to erase the bitter memories of a heartbreaking day at Wembley.

He said: "If we keep the squad together and add a couple more players, we will hopefully be in a good position.

"We just missed out last year and if we can play how we did last year, we have got a very good chance of challenging for automatic promotion, if not, the play-offs again.

"Like I say, I am excited, to be honest. I'll recuperate now, relax - it's important for my body - so when I come back, I will be ready to lead the team to hopefully another successful season."