Keane will play through pain

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Republic of Ireland skipper Robbie Keane will put his body on the line for his country on Saturday night after admitting he has barely been injury-free since he was a teenager.

The 30-year-old striker landed in Skopje on Thursday night with a major question mark hanging over his participation at the Philip II Stadium because of a groin injury.

He warmed up away from the main group ahead of Friday's session at the stadium before joining them for stretching exercises, but having already signalled his intention to play at the pre-match press conference moments earlier. Keane said: "I think I will be okay. I haven't been 100 per cent probably since I was about 17."

He added: "I have been struggling with Achilles injuries the last few months also and I have carried on through that, so a little groin strain is certainly not going to stop me."

Asked if he would be prepared to have a pain-killing injection as he did before a World Cup qualifier in Bulgaria two years ago, Keane replied: "If required, yes.

"I will just see how training is - but listen, it's not an injury that's going to put me out for months and months, it's muscular, so it's not a big problem. I will see how it is, but rest assured, I will be on that pitch."

Confusion surrounded Keane's injury situation as the travelling party headed out of Dublin amid speculation that he had an ankle problem, rather than a groin strain as assistant boss Marco Tardelli had reported. However, the striker revealed he had felt a tightness in his groin during shooting practice after training on Wednesday, and the discomfort had gradually worsened.

Keane's determination to play - manager Giovanni Trapattoni has named him in his starting line-up alongside West Brom's Simon Cox, who will be making his competitive debut - is motivated more by his desire to help his side bank three more vital points to keep themselves in the race for qualification rather than his own personal landmark.

The three goals he scored in the Carling Nations Cup victories over Northern Ireland and Scotland last week took him to 49 for his country, level with Sir Bobby Charlton's record for England. However, completing a half-century will be of secondary importance on Saturday night.

Keane said: "It would mean obviously a hell of a lot, but I am not going into the game focussing on me to score 50 goals. I am going out to hopefully score a goal for the team and if that means winning the game and 50 goals, then great. But if I don't score and Coxy or Shane Long, whoever, scores and we win the game, for me, that's the most important thing."

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Robbie Keane
West Bromwich Albion
Premier League
Shane Long
Simon Cox
Bobby Charlton
Charlton Athletic

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