Robbie Keane will embark upon another World Cup qualifying campaign today insisting the memories of 2002 are firmly in the past. The 28-year-old announced himself on the world stage in the Far East six years ago as the Republic of Ireland survived Roy Keane's acrimonious departure to make a real impact on the competition.
However, while that experience will live with the Liverpool striker, he is hungry to taste it once again as he prepares for tonight's opening qualifier against Georgia. Keane said: "It's a long time ago, it's only a memory now. That's gone, that's the past. This is the future now and that starts with, hopefully, a good performance and a good result. In the first couple of games, it is important you get off to a good start. Psychologically, it stands you in good stead for the coming games."
By Wednesday night, Ireland will have played two of their 10 Group Eight games, and a positive start would give them a platform to mount a genuine bid to reach South Africa in 2010 after missing out on the last three World Cup and European Championship finals.
Keane said: "Every player wants to play in big competitions, and there is no bigger than the World Cup. I am very lucky, I have played in one and there are a few players who have played there. But there are a lot of players who haven't played there and I am sure they will be as desperate as the players who have played there before."
Republic of Ireland (probable, 4-4-2): Given; Finnan, O'Shea, Dunne, Kilbane; McGeady, S Reid, Whelan, Hunt; Keane, Doyle.
Also in Group Eight Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Italy, Montenegro.