Keane: Belief is the key
Ireland captain has drummed into players the importance of showing 'desire and heart' in showdown with Spain
ELEVEN months ago, when an Irish team faced up to Spain in a major game at a European Championship finals, the boys in green had their own pre-match ritual.
Ireland's U19 squad, before taking on the Spanish in the semi-finals of the Euros in Romania last year, gathered as a group and listened to a famous motivational speech from the Al Pacino flick, Any Given Sunday (though that didn't end too well as Spain breezed past us with a 5-0 win).
For Robbie Keane and the Euro 2012 squad, it's more a case of Mel Gibson and Braveheart.
Fightin' words from Robbie in yesterday's pre-match press conference and fightin' words in the dressing room from the Ireland captain just before the game.
Asked what he'd do to get into the players' heads before the biggest game of their careers, there was a moment of levity and wit from Robbie.
"It's quite difficult to get into a few of them lads' heads," Robbie said in true Dublinese, his quip surely causing problems for the UEFA interpreters who had to translate his words into Polish, Spanish and Italian for the international media. But then came the serious stuff, with Keane talking like the bould Mel in Braveheart.
"The message I'd give to the players is to give exactly what we have been doing for the last few years, since the manager took over, to give that commitment and desire and heart that the Irish players have," Keane said with a stone-cold seriousness in his voice.
"Every person in this room has probably written the script already, that Spain are going to beat us, but in that dressing room there is no way that the players go into any game believing that. As captain and as an individual there's not a chance in hell I will go into any game believing I'll get beaten by anyone, whether they are superior to us.
"We have to believe as a group of players that we have every chance, it's eleven against eleven, 90 minutes. We have played against the biggest teams in the last few years, France and Italy and we've beaten them or drawn with them. Tonight is a massive, massive game and we need to get points sooner rather than later, hopefully that will be tonight.
"People have written us off and not given us any hope, after losing the other night it's important that we get something out of the game, we need to get points on board as soon as possible," added Keane, believing that a positive result against Spain would rank among his greatest achievements with the national team.
"It would certainly be up there and will give the players a lot of belief going into Monday's game if we go get a result tonight," Keane said.
"It's going to be a tough game, there's no question about that, we're playing against the best team in the world with the best players in the world so it's going to be tough. And we're not naive to think that it will be easy, we're not daft and it will be a tough game."
Keane is going through a dry spell with Ireland - no goals in five games, his worst run for some time - and it was perhaps significant that he was substituted relatively early in Sunday's defeat to Croatia.
Keane is unsure of how to explain Ireland's lack of creativity against the Croats and his own goal famine, but he was on board with Trapattoni's decision to make changes.
"As a player you want to play 90 minutes in every game but you have to look at the situation in the game and the manager was 100% right to change it the other night as there was nothing happening in the game, we needed to change it and mix it up with different personnel," Keane said.
"It's the manager's choice and he will make changes according to the game. The game the other night, we weren't getting much as a team, we didn't create too many chances for ourselves, you can only score goals if you get opportunities and as a group we didn't do enough to create too many chances.
"We only have a couple of games left, I hope if I get some opportunities, tonight or on Monday against Italy, I will take them."