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Fantasy Stats: Robbie Keane's Impact On 2022 World Cup Qualifying

Fantasy Stats: Robbie Keane's Impact On 2022 World Cup Qualifying
By Jonathan Byrne
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The following words are to be taken lightly. We're not calling on 41-year-old Keane to come back in any shape or form, or expecting the likes of Idah or Connolly to emulate him.

This is just a deep dive into a fantasy world where Robbie Keane puts on an Ireland shirt in the peak of his career and helps get this current side to the World Cup.

The Republic of Ireland have managed five goals in five games over the course of the current World Cup qualifying campaign.

One of those goals came via a striker, James Collins, in our qualifying opener against Serbia. Two have come from defenders, one from a midfielder and one own-goal.

Why are we not putting the ball in the back of the net? You could question the build-up play, the lack of support or the young core of attacking options that are gaining experience.

Nonetheless, the void left when Robbie Keane hung up his boots has yet to be filled. On paper and statistics aside, he's been our best striker in history.

But will the presence of Keane alone get us over the line? Let's find out what the stats say.


The Criteria

It's really hard to point out a 'peak' version of Robbie Keane in a green shirt. 2006-2008 were his best goalscoring years in the Premier League.

Conversely, 2011 and 2013 were his best goalscoring years for the national side - the latter a mere three years off his international retirement.

To create a fair comparison, we've combined an average of his goals in qualifying campaigns for other World Cups, and taken a look at what teams he scored against.


It's only right to not expect all of Keane's goals to come against the current Portugal side for example. So it's his average goals but compared to where each team was in their group.

The Law Of Averages

Keane scored in all four World Cup qualifying campaigns he played in. He scored a total of eighteen goals across the four campaigns, averaging out at 4.5 goals per qualification.

As the current campaign isn't over, we're going to round that down to four goals, so Keane basically would have given you four goals so far in this World Cup qualifying campaign.


He scored twice in the build-up to the 2002 World Cup, four goals ahead of 2006 and six times in 2010 and 2014 World Cup qualifying respectively.

Five of these goals came against the Faroe Islands. Considering the Republic of Ireland got beaten by Luxembourg gone by, we'd still have taken those goals.

He scored against the top seed in a group once, the second seed in a group four times and the third seed in a group once, and visa versa.


The Keane Effect

After analysing the Republic of Ireland's current matches, and doing up this format, the likelihood of Keane's goals against the 2022 qualifying teams are as follows.

If he scored four goals over a campaign, the chances are two would come against the bottom team (Azerbaijan). One would come against the second placed team (Serbia) and one against the fourth placed team (..us).

We're not going to make him score an own-goal, so for calculation purposes, that fourth goal will be against the third placed team; Luxembourg.


As Ireland have played Serbia twice, we've looked at which leg he's more likely to score in. In other words, a game closer to the start or end of qualifying.


Keane has come up clutch against teams who placed second in their group, with a number of goals coming later in qualification.

World Cup Qualifying 2022

So after much analysis and statistical fairytale, here's how Keane fares for us so far in World Cup qualifying.


Serbia 3-2 Republic of Ireland 

No Keane goal.

Republic of Ireland 0-1 Luxembourg

Keane spares Stephen Kenny the embarrassment and bails us out of a potential banana skin. New result - 1-1.

Portugal 2-1 Republic of Ireland

No Keane goal.

Republic of Ireland 1-1 Azerbaijan

Keane saves the day, as two goals sends Irish fans ballistic at The Aviva. New result 3-1.

Republic of Ireland 1-1 Serbia

After ninety minutes, Ireland somehow come away with a win against the second placed team. New result 2-1.

How does the group look?

With the new results taken into account, this is how the group would look.

1 - Portugal - 13 points

2- Serbia - 10 points

3 - Ireland - 7 points

4 - Luxembourg - 4 points

5 - Azerbaijan - 0 points

In conclusion, the presence of Robbie Keane would undoubtedly give this current crop of players a huge boost. You could predict that without the stats though.

It's not like a Robbie Keane would have us top of the group, if we're going by these numbers. It's highly unlikely one player could put us over Portugal or Serbia.

What it does show is the importance of goals, at important times, and how that can swing tight games. That was one thing Robbie Keane was a masterstroke at.

But all we'll have to do now is wonder, and hope. That the next crop of attackers can bring more goals, and that we can never lose to Luxembourg again.

See Also: Jason Knight Set For Quicker Than Expected Return From Injury

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