Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane has hinted that Friday's crucial World Cup qualifier showdown with Sweden is more ‘must not lose’ than ‘must win’.
The two teams are locked on 11 points, alongside Tuesday’s opponent Austria, in Group C, five behind leaders Germany. Despite Ireland dropping two points when they conceded an injury-time equaliser to Austria in Dublin last March, Keane suggested that avoiding defeat is the priority.
“It’s a game we certainly can’t afford to lose, there’s no doubt about that,” the LA Galaxy striker told reporters in Dublin. “People talk about going in and trying to get a draw; it’s very hard for any player to go in and try to get a draw. You go in and try to get the three points.
“It depends on the situation, the circumstances of when you are playing but we’ll be going into the game to try and get the three points but the most important thing is certainly not to lose the game.
“The two teams are in a similar situation. It’s all ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ but if it’s 0-0 with 25 minutes [to play] we’ll be going for three points.
“But we’re not going into the game being negative. We’ve been playing the same way for a long time and we go to win every game and that will be the case tomorrow.”
The Boys in Green’s home record since the renovation of Lansdowne Road has been in stark contrast to their fortunes on the road. Manager Giovanni Trapattoni has yet to lose an away qualifier, a record going back to the fruitless 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.
However, their home form has been less than impressive with Russia, Germany, Uruguay, Norway and Greece all winning in Dublin between competitive and friendly games.
Asked why their away form is better, the LA Galaxy striker said: “I’m not too sure, to be honest. We’ve certainly won our fair share of home games. There’s no question about that. Hopefully, [that poor record] will change tomorrow night.
“It’s not something in the squad that the players talk about. We go into every game wanting to win. If we can get a result tomorrow maybe that will change a few people’s opinions."
The former Tottenham, Liverpool and Celtic forward also had a word of warning for Sweden strikers Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Johann Elmander about the return of defender Richard Dunne.
“Any player that plays against Richard Dunne knows he’s in for a tough night,” said the 33-year-old. “He’s a massive presence, he’s my mate and I know how frustrating it has been for him. It’s such a long to be out, since the Euros, basically.
“I know how excited he is to be back in the fold and he’s desperate to play in a competitive game. He’s had a good start with QPR so he feels fit and sharp. He’s a massive player for us and he has presence when he plays with us.”
The Republic of Ireland host Sweden on Friday September 6 at the Aviva Stadium in a Group C World Cup qualification clash. Kick off 19:45 BST.