ROY Keane insists Ireland must keep their World Cup play-off against Denmark alive from the first leg in Copenhagen to stand a chance of reaching Russia next year.
The Corkman flanked his boss, Martin O’Neill, in Zurich at Tuesday’s draw for the mid-November play-offs and admits he was relieved to avoid Italy in the pairings.
Denmark were the lowest-ranked of the possible four seeded teams Ireland could have faced, meaning they’ll fancy their chances over the two legs on 11 and 14 November.
With the away goals rule counting, hitting the net in the Danish capital would represent a massive boost for goal-shy Ireland. Keane is well aware of the mission at hand.
"I think, to be fair, we were probably hoping to avoid Italy," Keane told ITV. "They will be very strong and well capable of qualifying for World Cups.
"Obviously Martin has done a great job and the players have been brilliant. We are so near and yet so far and we have a tough couple of games ahead.
“In case we need to remind anyone, Denmark at the seeded team, so it is going to be difficult.
"I wasn't too worried about where the second leg would be. If we lose 4-0 in the first leg, it is going to be hard going, but we are looking forward to it.
"If we are still in the tie after the first leg, bring it on."
Meanwhile, Keane has been encouraged by the start to the season by his former club, Manchester United. Jose Mourinho’s side have made an unbeaten start in the Premier League and won their first three Champions League group matches, the latest coming in Benfica last night.
"United are in a sense under the radar, but they are getting results and clean sheets,” noted their former captain. “That gives you the foundations to get trophies. It will suit the United camp at the moment to let City get all the credit at the moment. It is still very early in the season.”