Keane confident of qualification
Skipper Robbie Keane is confident the Republic of Ireland remain firmly in the hunt for World Cup qualification after bouncing back from their mauling by Germany.
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Keane, a helpless spectator for the 6-1 home drubbing by the Germans on Friday evening, returned from an Achilles injury to play his part in Tuesday night's 4-1 win in the Faroe Islands.
That left the Republic in third place in Group C, four points adrift of Joachim Low's side having played a game fewer, and one worse off than Sweden, who staged a remarkable fightback in Berlin on Tuesday night to snatch a 4-4 draw after at one point trailing 4-0.
Ireland head for Sweden on March 22 and entertain Austria at the Aviva Stadium four days later and Keane believes those two fixtures could have a major say in how the group eventually pans out, with the three nations competing to stay as close as possible to Germany.
He said: "If you look at the two teams, Sweden and Austria, they are quite similar to us. We are very close in the way we play.
"That was our aim, to be honest with you, before the campaign. We knew Germany were the runaway favourites, and it's looking like that unless something changes dramatically. But I can't see that.
"It was always between ourselves, Austria and Sweden, so the two games coming up are two massive games, and they will probably decide who is going to finish second.
"But we are still on track and with a good performance, after the bad week we had, that will give us a lot of confidence."
Whether or not manager Giovanni Trapattoni remains at the helm when Keane and his team-mates meet up for that key double-header in March remains uncertain, with speculation that he could lose his job ongoing despite Tuesday night's victory.
Keane was steadfast in his support for the 73-year-old both before and after the game in Torshavn and was philosophical when asked about the media storm surrounding the Italian.
He said: "Listen, it's a free country, it's a free world. You can say what you want and all this internet stuff and Twitter and all that, it gives people the freedom to speak.
"That's no problem. You see the manager yesterday in the press conference - he is well able to handle himself.
"He has been through this situation many times before and he is well able to handle himself, and I am sure he will do."
Keane and his team-mates too handled themselves in a difficult situation and provided just the response for which the manager was looking to get their campaign back on track.
The 32-year-old said: "The lads showed a lot of character, and full credit to them because they could easily have crumbled in a situation like this.
"I have seen it over the years playing for teams in England. You get a bit of stick for a week and the players go into their shells, but full credit to the team and the lads who were on the bench.
"Everyone has been brilliant over the last few days. It was a tough week, but it was important we stuck together."