Keane backs Long to surprise

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Robbie Keane believes Shane Long can surprise the Slovakian defence when he takes Kevin Doyle's place in the Republic of Ireland side in Zilina on Tuesday night.

Doyle's absence with a knee injury is a major blow to the Republic's hopes of securing a crucial Euro 2012 qualifying win but Keane, who will partner Long, thinks the Reading striker has already proved he is up to the task.

Keane said: "Obviously Kevin's a massive, massive loss. Since he came into the set-up he's been fantastic, every game he seems to be getting better and better, but it gives Shane an opportunity to come in and stake his claim."

Long, 23, came on as a substitute in Friday's disappointing 3-2 defeat by Russia in Dublin and scored the second goal, giving the hosts a sniff of an unlikely point.

"When Shane came on against Russia he was fantastic, scored a goal and he was certainly a handful for the centre-halves," added Keane.

"I think they were a little bit surprised with Shane because he doesn't look the tallest but he's got a great leap so in that respect he's fairly similar to Kevin."

The Republic and Slovakia find themselves in identical situations, both with six points from three games in Group B and looking to bounce back from damaging defeats.

While Giovanni Trapattoni's men were being taught a lesson in attacking football in Dublin, Slovakia were losing 3-1 to Armenia in Yerevan, and Keane believes the team which deals best with their disappointment will prevail.

"They're obviously a good team and it's going to be a difficult game for us," he said. "Both teams are coming off bad results and I think the team with the mentality and the willingness to win the game will come out on top, and hopefully that will be us.

"Slovakia and Russia are the biggest threats in the group so it's important we certainly don't lose the game."

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Robbie Keane
Kevin Doyle
Shane Long

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