CARSON, Calif. – Robbie Keane is looking for a “miracle” as Ireland heads into its final two World Cup qualifiers, but he might be stuck watching from the stands as his country is eliminated from contention.
The LA Galaxy striker took an ankle knock in his first training session after joining the Irish national team this week, and he's uncertain for Friday's must-win showdown against Germany in Cologne.
The Republic also need Sweden to lose at home to Austria. That would provide life at least until Tuesday, when Ireland would need three results – beating Kazakhstan in Dublin, a Sweden loss at home to Germany, and an Austria loss at minnows Faeroe Islands – while making up a considerable deficit in goal difference to reach UEFA's final playoff series.
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“We certainly, definitely need a miracle,” Keane said following the Galaxy's win Sunday over Chivas USA. “There's no question about that. It's going to be tough.”
Ireland (3-3-2) are fourth in UEFA Group 3 and saw their chances all but die last month when it surrendered an early lead, on Keane's strike, in a home loss to the second-place Swedes (5-1-2), then conceded a late goal to fall to third-place Austria (4-2-2).
Germany (7-0-1), who would clinch a berth in Brazil with a victory, beat the Irish, 6-1, a year ago in Dublin and haven't lost in the series since 1994.
It's nearly a lost cause, and Keane understands that.
“We still have to put pride into that jersey and try to get something out of these games,” he said. “Certainly, the Germany game is going to be a tough one, so it's a game that we go there, try to make a good account of ourselves. The Kazakhstan game is home, a game that people expect you to win. I think the Germany game is going to be the tough one.”
Keane will stay with his national team for the Kazakhstan game regardless of its status. Caretaker manager Noel King turned down Galaxy coach Bruce Arena's request that should Keane, if Ireland are eliminated Friday, be released to rejoin LA in advance of their vital MLS match next Wednesday against Montreal.
The Football Association of Ireland announced it in a statement Wednesday, adding that that it “trusts that [Arena] understands the position, having been an international manager himself.”
Arena on Thursday declined to comment on Ireland's decision.
Keane missed Ireland's training sessions Wednesday in Dublin and Thursday in Cologne.
“It's a bit of a precaution,” King told media in Cologne on Thursday. “We'll make a decision on him tomorrow. He's still got a chance, but it's a medical decision, and we'll see tonight.
“He's healing, that's the process. He's being attended to. We're hopeful that he'll be all right for tomorrow. If he's not, then we hope that he's OK for Tuesday. There's no question of him going home. Robbie's desperate to play.”