At 33-years-old, Friday night’s 2-1 home defeat to Sweden has almost certainly ended Robbie Keane’s hopes of playing in one last international tournament for his country.
The LA Galaxy striker’s 60th international goal unfortunately wasn’t enough to overcome a superior Swedish side at the Aviva.
The Irish captain will be 36 by the time EURO 2016 comes around. Considering he is currently enjoying semi-retirement by playing his club football in the United States, it seems very likely that the three remaining games in Group C could be Keane’s last in a green shirt.
As the stats will show, Robbie has undoubtedly been Ireland’s most important player for over a decade, since Saipan, yet since his disastrous spell at Liverpool he has become somewhat of a figure of ridicule in football, even for Irish fans.
The comments from ‘the greatest fans in the world’ are there for all to see. Just browse Twitter or Facebook before an Ireland game to see supporters bemoaning Keane’s inclusion in the starting XI, while offering no real alternative.
They offer no alternative because there is no alternative worth taking. Robbie Keane has been sensational at international level. 60 goals in 128 games. For Ireland. As some of his admirers have pointed out, that’s more than Romario, Thierry Henry, Bobby Charlton, and Gabriel Batistuta. Indeed, in the history of international football only 16 players have bettered Keane’s record of 60 strikes.
41 of those strikes have come in competitive games. He has hit in the net in qualifiers against the likes of Italy, France, and Holland, while in the 2002 World Cup he scored against Spain and was the only player in the tournament besides Ronaldo to put the ball past Germany’s Oliver Kahn. Perhaps more importantly, Keane consistently puts the lesser sides to the sword, a trait which has yet to be picked up by the likes of Shane Long and Kevin Doyle.
These are not just past glories either. 28 of the Tallaght native’s goals have come under the current manager, meaning Keane is responsible for 32.5% of the 86 goals scored under the Trapattoni regime.
Looking closer, Trap has taken charge of Ireland for 27 qualifiers to date. In those 27 games Ireland have scored 34 times. Keane claimed 15 of them, meaning he has scored 44% of the goals that have aided our task of qualifying for major international tournaments under Trap.
Five came in the campaign for South Africa 2010, the successful quest to reach EURO 2012 also yielded five goals, and Keane currently stands on five in the increasingly hopeless task of claiming second place in Group C.
In the two-legged play-off games against France and Estonia respectively, Keane scored in both away ties; one in Paris and two in Tallinn.
Even at 33, the idea of relying on Shane Long, Kevin Doyle or Conor Sammon in Keane’s stead isn’t worth thinking about it. The trio have mustered ten competitive goals for Ireland between them. League One striker Doyle is responsible for nine of them. His career has nosedived in recent seasons, and as he is turning 30 this month he has little time to arrest his decline.
When Keane retires, Ireland will lose one of the great international strikers. Yet, because of a hot and cold club career and a tendency to describe every other transfer as a ‘dream come true’, the departure of Ireland’s top ever goalscorer and record appearance maker will probably be met with encouragement by a section of the support, but when Ireland search for goals in the post-Keane era, they will surely remember him as the finest Ireland striker of all time.