WITH MORE THAN a hint of frustration, Robbie Keane acknowledged that Ireland don’t have a Plan B — because they don’t have the quality of players to vary their tactics.
Defeat against Sweden left Ireland’s World Cup chances hanging by a thread and Giovanni Trapattoni’s side need a win in the Ernst Happel Stadion tonight to keep alive their fading hope of being in Brazil next summer.
For that to happen they will need to improve on Friday’s damp squib where they reverted almost exclusively to long balls as they chased an equaliser in the last half-hour. Keane, Ireland’s record goalscorer, was bypassed.
Giovanni Trapattoni’s system and substitutions have again been held up for criticism but on the eve of his 129th cap, Keane says the tactics have never changed regardless of the manager.
“We talk about Plan A and Plan B and crap like that,” Keane said. “Ireland has never had a Plan B before. We’ve always had Plan A, simple as that.
Since I’ve been the squad we’ve played the exact same way. We don’t have the personnel like Spain to get the ball down and have 80% possession against teams. We’re not that team.
We know our strengths and we stick to it, unless it changes from grassroots but it’s not going to change certainly for a good few years.
“They keep talking in England about trying to change things and make the national team a lot better.
“In Ireland we need to try that as well but is it going to change straight away? It hasn’t changed since I walked in the door the day I first got here so I don’t think it’s going to change for a while.”
The ‘fresh energy’ promised by Trapattoni sees two changes to the side with Anthony Pilkington handed his first competitive start on the left wing in place of James McClean, and Paul Green drafted in to bolster a central midfield missing the injured Glenn Whelan.
Defeat tonight would leave Ireland needing favours elsewhere and a mathematical miracle to qualify. Despite the lingering disappointment of Friday, Keane says the importance of the game demands that the players be fully focused.
“It’s very easy after the game to keep your head down. Everyone’s disappointed but certainly yesterday the training session was quite lively.
We know the importance of this game so we certainly have to pick ourselves up because if not, we won’t be going to Brazil.
Staying fully focused means no chat about Trapattoni’s future and the renewed pressure that the manager has come under in the last few days.
“Whatever happens beyond these few games, that’s certainly out of my hands and the players’ hands,” Keane said.
“As professionals we have to stand up and be professional in the job that we do, make sure we give as much as we can to that green jersey and the people back home who are watching us.
“All you can do in life is try your best, do what you can to try and make people happy and do your best for the team. If that’s not good enough then that’s something that other people will have to look at.”