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Given fears Armenia threat

IT'S ALMOST a year since Shay Given conceded a goal while on Ireland duty - but the Aston Villa keeper fears that Armenia's free-scoring forwards pose a real threat to his goal in Dublin tomorrow night.

Ireland's defensive record -- eight successive games now without a goal conceded -- is a run that any national team would envy, and Given and his co-workers in Ireland's back four are justifiably proud of that run.

Due to injury, Given hasn't played in all of those games, so the last time he was beaten in an international was last November, when Norway struck twice to snatch a 2-1 win in a friendly in Dublin.

Given is now on a personal clean-sheet run after denying teams like Croatia, Slovakia, Russia and Andorra since the season started, one of his most consistent runs since he took his steps in international football against Russia way back in 1996.

But arrogance and over-confidence are not part of Given's DNA. Not in a week as important as this and not against a team as potent as Armenia.

Only five nations have scored more goals in the Euro 2012 qualifiers (Holland, Germany, Sweden, Spain and Hungary), while few countries can match Armenia's recent run of 11 goals in their last three qualifiers, and the Armenians have failed to score just twice in this campaign: at home to Ireland and Russia.

"We've done so well over the last few games. Our clean sheet record is second to none. But that's all on the line now as Armenia are such a threat. They've scored eight goals in the last two games and their confidence is sky-high," Given told the Herald.



Problems

"It's going to be a tough game but if we can get the fans right behind us, get a full house and get the place rocking, we have a great chance. Hopefully we can cause them problems instead of them causing problems for us.

"We could do with a bit of the old atmosphere here tomorrow night. Whatever people have been saying or writing, we need to get the place rocking with the whole crowd behind us, let the Armenians know they're in for a game."

Phrases like "there are no easy games in international football" seep out of the mouth of footballers all across Europe, but for people like Given, the phrase has meaning: as the keeper and the last line of defence, he's the one who has to prove it.

That means that Given is scrutinised when teams like Andorra (2001 and 2010) score against him.

It also means that he has to stay sharp for 90 minutes even though most other people in the ground or watching on TV are heading towards drowsiness from boredom, as happened in last week's game in Andorra.

"Friday was a strange game for me. I didn't have much to do but I still had to be alert," said Given.

"The pitch wasn't the best and anything can happen with a bobble or the break of a ball on a pitch like that, it was a case of me keeping my concentration.

"We were pretty comfortable overall and getting the win was the main thing. But I know it will be a different kettle of fish against Armenia. They are coming on really strong. I don't think we got the credit we deserved for beating them 1-0 at the start of the campaign.

"That's all past history now. We have to focus on tomorrow night and finish off the job."

Armenia come to Dublin with a young side, fired up with confidence from that run of three straight wins in the qualifiers, two of them away from home, but Given feels that Ireland's own strike force can also deliver.

"We have some good attacking players and can cause them problems," Given said. "We just need to get a result, whatever the score or performance."