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Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane has refused to set any new goalscoring targets after taking his international tally to 51 strikes with a double against the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Saturday.
The Tottenham Hotspur FC forward registered both goals as Ireland triumphed 2-0 in Skopje, a victory that kept them level with Russia and Slovakia at the Group B summit. Before the game, Keane had said his aim was to break the international record for British and Irish players – the 49-goal haul of England great Sir Bobby Charlton – and he has now achieved that aim.
At 30 years of age he could serve his country for several years yet, but he is more concerned with helping Ireland reach Poland and Ukraine than bearing down on a new individual benchmark. "I haven't thought about my next target; I'm just delighted to have scored," said the striker, who made his debut in 1998. "For me the most important thing is winning and the team winning. That's all that counts."
The former Liverpool FC and Celtic FC marksman had needed a new objective to aim at since passing Niall Quinn's 21-goal Ireland record in 2004, and he paid tribute to his former team-mate. "You can set your stall out to reach certain goals and my goal was to reach Niall Quinn's record," he explained. "When I first came into the Ireland squad, Niall said to me I would get 50 goals, so it's probably down to him.
"I am obviously delighted to be associated with some of the names which are there [in the list of British and Irish goalscorers]. I am very delighted and very proud to be among that elite, but for me it's all about the team and how the team performs. It's all about getting three points in Skopje, and we did that. It's not about me; it's about the team qualifying for Poland and Ukraine."
With Ireland anxious to make their first major finals appearance since 2002, points will be critical in their next two qualifiers, a home meeting with Slovakia on 2 September followed by an equally vital trip to Russia four days later. While he may not wish to hog the limelight, many will be hoping Keane can add to his goalscoring figures in those games – not least his own team-mates.
"Robbie has a phenomenal record and he deserves all the headlines and all the credit," said goalkeeper Shay Given. "Not even for his goals but his leadership and the way he worked on Saturday night; he gave it everything and everyone responded to that."
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