CARSON, Calif. – Robbie Keane and Jaime Penedo will step away from their duties with the LA Galaxy to join their respective national teams for a several vital contests.
Keane suited up for the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday, going 31 minutes in their 2-0 friendly victory over Oman in Dublin. The victory over Oman was only a warm up match for the Irish, as they will open up their 2016 European Championships campaign against Georgia in Tbilisi four days later. A year after failing to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Keane and Ireland will look to reach their second consecutive European Championship in a group that also includes World Cup winners Germany, Poland, Scotland and first-time entrants Gibraltar.
The 34-year-old Keane joins the Irish squad in blistering form after notching four goals and six assists for the Galaxy during the month of August. But now Keane will look to lead Ireland through one of the tbut Galaxoughest groups in European Championship qualifying.
“Every game is big in the European Championship qualification,” said Keane. “It’s always important to get off to a winning start and we’ll certainly be looking to do that against Georgia.”
Meanwhile Penedo will backstop Panama at the 2014 Copa Centroamericana which runs from Sept. 3 to Sept. 13. A year after failing to qualify for the World Cup in dramatic fashion, Los Canaleros will seek to take home the Central American championship and earn berths in the 2016 Copa América Centenario and the 2015 Gold Cup.
A successful tournament could do wonders for Penedo’s confidence as he earned the Golden Gloves award for the Best Goalkeeper at the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup only to see the United States take home the trophy. Months later, the U.S. broke Panama’s hearts again with their thrilling comeback victory in World Cup qualifying that saw the U.S. battle back to score two late goals and extinguish the Central Americans’ hopes of reaching Brazil.
With a renewed chance to right the mistakes of 2013, Penedo insists that Panama must have the right mentality heading into the tournament.
“We have to change our mentality,” Penedo said. “We play great in friendlies and in tournaments, but we have to give that final effort. We need to learn to close these games out. Any time that you come close to qualifying for the World Cup, you’re going to be motivated to change something in order to get there.”
Success is hardly assured for Penedo’s Panama as the nation has been drawn in the group of death that includes World Cup Cinderella story Costa Rica as well as Nicaragua. Panama’s tournament fate will likely be decided in their opening match as they face the Ticos on Sept. 7 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas before ending group stage play on Sept. 10 against Nicaragua in Houston.
A win in that match and the Panamanians will have a greater chance to finish first in the group and play for a spot in the Copa America Centenario in the final at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sept. 12
Although the odds are stacked against Penedo’s squad, the Galaxy goalkeeper insists that Panama will be a tough out in the tournament.
“We’re looking forward to this tournament,” said Penedo. “It’s a great tournament and we want an opportunity to qualify for the Copa America. It’ll be a great game against Costa Rica, they’re a great team.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com