Republic of Ireland striker Noel Hunt has warned world champions Italy Robbie Keane has got them in his sights.

The in-form Tottenham frontman's late equaliser in Bari in April secured a vital point against the Group 8 favourites, and his winner in Cyprus last month took his tally for the campaign to five in eight games.

Hunt said: "People keep on firing questions at him and he just keeps on answering them. That's the way he is and it's the way he has always been."

He added: "He has been fantastic - Kevin [Doyle] as well. Kevin is one of the best players I have ever played with or against.

"With the two boys up front, it's a massive plus for us, especially with Robbie's record.

"He has been the main man for years and to have someone like that in our team is a massive golden nugget for us."

Giovanni Trapattoni's side remain unbeaten in the group, but trail the Italians by four points having drawn two more games.

That means the visitors to Croke Park on Saturday evening need just a point to secure their passage to South Africa next summer, while Ireland may still have to collect double that to capture a play-off spot with Montenegro waiting in the wings on Wednesday.

But for Reading striker Hunt, simply being involved in the race for the World Cup finals is a dream come true after he looked on from afar eight years ago as Mick McCarthy's side, minus skipper Roy Keane, did the nation proud in the Far East.

"I watched it in Dublin in the early hours of the morning. I remember watching all the games, and it was great," he said. "Never in my wildest dreams would I have believed I would be involved in something like this. I would never even have thought about it. Just to be a part of it and to be involved with the boys is a massive honour for me."

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Topics:
#Tottenham Hotspur
#Robbie Keane
#Reading
#Premier League
#Roy Keane
#Noel Hunt
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