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Friday 9 December 2016

Keogh's mind firmly fixed on home soil

Richard Keogh is in a positive frame of mind about the upcoming play-off
Richard Keogh is in a positive frame of mind about the upcoming play-off

Richard Keogh believes that Ireland can get past Bosnia-Herzegovina and into the Euro 2016 finals - if they can summon up the spirit of their win over Germany when the Bosnians come to Dublin.

Ireland are away for the first leg of that play-off next month, and Bosnia hope that a good home record in Zenica - they beat Wales there 2-0 recently - can give them a platform to get the better of Ireland and reach the European Championship finals for the first time.

Apart from the win in Estonia on the road to Euro 2012, our away record in play-off games is poor, but for Derby defender Keogh, almost certain to start in central defence as John O'Shea is suspended for the away game, a repeat of that win over Germany earlier this month is key.

"If the atmosphere in Dublin is anything like the Germany game then it will be some occasion; the spirit is good and the group has been together for a while so it's exciting," said Keogh, in action for his club in the Championship away to Blackburn Rovers tonight.

The Irish squad are still assessing the impact of Sunday's play-off draw and the players will get more of an insight in the coming days - Martin O'Neill and his backroom staff will hold a planning meeting tomorrow and the Irish boss has already stated his intention to compile a DVD on the Bosnians which will be sent out to each player.

But for Keogh, it's a bonus for Ireland to be away in the first leg. "Any draw would have been tough, for sure, because of all the teams involved. I think it's a good draw and being away first gives us an opportunity to get a result in Bosnia and take the game back to the Aviva," added the defender, who won his ninth senior cap in the defeat to Poland last week

"Being away first is good for the mindset. We know what we have to do out there and a win, or a clean sheet, would be a great result for us. We did well to finish third and we will be full of confidence because I think we had the hardest qualifying group. We took it to the last game to have a chance of qualifying automatically and although we fell short there's every chance to get to the Euros.

"However, Bosnia have some very good players and it will not be easy for us at all. Asmir Begovic, Miralem Pjanic and Edin Dzeko are all top players so it'll be difficult but we have faith in ourselves."

One of those tricky opponents in the Bosnian side, Hertha Berlin man Vedad Ibisevic, says that Ireland's win over the Germans in Dublin has caught his attention, but he still backs his side to advance.

"Every game in the play-offs was going to be tough, people said that a draw with Slovenia would suit us but they are all tough teams and it won't be easy against the Irish," said Ibisevic. "We know Ireland's quality, they showed that with their last result against the Germans. But this is a new game for both teams and I think we have a chance to qualify."

With 25 goals in his 69 games for the national team, veteran Ibisevic (31) is the side's second-top scorer behind 44-goal man Edin Dzeko.

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