Keane relishing underdogs role
Robbie Keane is happy for the Republic of Ireland to be cast in the role of underdogs at Euro 2012.
Giovanni Trapattoni's men will begin their campaign against Croatia in Poznan next Sunday evening, knowing reigning champions Spain and fellow powerhouse Italy are waiting in the wings in the battle for qualification from Group C.
Few outside Ireland are giving them any great chance of forcing their way out of the group, but within the camp, the belief is that they are far from outsiders.
Captain Keane said: "It's good for us that people think that because we know as a group of players, the confidence we have at this moment in time, from what I can see, is part of the team.
"I mentioned before about the Estonia game [in the play-offs] and the relaxed feeling we had before that game, it's very, very similar to now, to be honest with you.
"The intensity in training has been great, but around the place, people don't seem to be uptight or worried too much about next week, and it's always important as a player to have a calmness about you."
Part of that relaxed air is down to the continuity Trapattoni has brought to his squad with the bulk of the 23-man party having done duty for their country for some considerable time now.
There is the odd exception - Sunderland winger James McClean could prove a handy wild card in Poland and Ukraine - but Keane knows how studiously he and his team-mates have been drilled by the 73-year-old Italian manager during his four years in charge and the benefits that has brought.
Keane said: "That's been the case for the last few years, we have had really the same squad for the last few years now.
"In the last campaign, it was a very, very similar squad and the players with every game get better and better and they get more comfortable playing international football.
"The starting XI has been kind of the same for a long time now, so the players are very, very comfortable with each other, and the players who are on the bench or who come on know exactly what role they have to play when they come on to the pitch.
"For a player, it's very, very important to know that."
Keane, sitting beside his manager at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium in Budapest this evening, was asked to assess what Trapattoni had brought to Ireland, only to be prompted by the man himself.
The Los Angeles Galaxy striker responded with a smile: "It's the balance he has brought to the team.
"He says it himself. How can I argue with that? I want to play next Sunday.
"The experience he has and the way he goes about things - you can see the difference in the way we have played since he has come in and taken over as manager.
"The change has been incredible."