CARSON, Calif. -- Robbie Keane helped Ireland reach European Championships for the first time in 24 years in 2012, but now he has his sights set on ending another drought by taking the Irish to their first World Cup since 2002.
The Galaxy captain was called up by Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni for Ireland's World Cup Qualifiers away to Sweden on March 22 and at home in Dublin against Austria on March 26. Trapattoni's 23-man Irish squad is primarily composed of players based in the U.K. but Keane is one of two MLS-based players joining Toronto FC center back Darren O’Dea.
WATCH: Keane scores vs Chicago
Keane is one of two Galaxy players called on international duty as he joins center back Omar Gonzalez who was selected by the United States. These international commitments will cause both players to miss the Galaxy’s March 23 match against the Colorado Rapids.
READ: Omar Gonzalez and Robbie Keane earn international call ups
The Irish forward has tasted World Cup glory before as he was Ireland’s leading goal scorer with three goals in the 2002 World Cup at the age of 22. Now at 32, Keane is relishing the chance to take Ireland back to the world’s biggest stage.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s always nice to represent your country and it’ll be nice to go back and see family and friends, but we’re there to do the job,” Keane told reporters following the Galaxy’s 1-1 draw with Chivas USA on Sunday, just prior to traveling to Dublin. “Hopefully, we can get the points. They are two big games and these are the two games that could decide if we go or not.”
This two-match swing will be vital for Ireland's hopes of qualifying for Brazil as they sit in third place in Group Three play. Three-time World Champion Germany lead the group with 10 points from four games while Sweden are second with seven points. Ireland, with a 2-1-0 record, are third with six points with Austria two points further back with Kazakhstan and Faroe Islands sitting at the foot of the group with one and zero points respectively.
Barring a collapse, the Germans are expected by most, including Keane himself, to win the group, thus leaving three teams to fight for the second spot in the group.
“I think that it’s going to be down to ourselves, Sweden or Austria to finish in that second place,” said Keane. “It’s fair to say that Germany will probably win the group and hopefully we finish second.”
WATCH: McBean scores vs Chivas USA
While Keane is away on international duty, LA must replace their captain’s production on the field and leadership off of it. In his absence, forwards Jack McBean and Jose Villarreal seem likely to get additional minutes with that pair combining for three goals in their last two matches.
As Keane looks to take his chance for another taste of World Cup glory, he believes that LA’s young forwards will be able to take their chances at The Home Depot Center.
“It’s obviously a good opportunity for them when a few senior players are gone to see how the team [deals] without relying on all the players for guidance,” said Keane. “It’s a good experience for them and hopefully they’ll take their chance.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com