World Cup 2018

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Martin O’Neill lightens the mood before Republic of Ireland’s tightrope walk

Ireland's manager Martin O'Neill (C) and assistent manager Roy Keane attend a training session at the Telia Parken Stadion in Copenhagen on November 10, 2017, the day before the World Cup...

Roy Keane said last week the key to Martin O’Neill’s celebrated motivational acumen boils down to a knack for saying the right thing at the right time. So it was intriguing, on the eve of Tuesday’s second leg of the tautly wound World Cup play‑off between the Republic of Ireland and Denmark, to hear O’Neill tease his captain, David Meyler, about missing penalties in training.

Sweden stand tall amid Italy onslaught to book place at Russia World Cup

Alessandro Florenzi of Italy reacts after loosing at the end of the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: Second Leg between Italy and Sweden at San Siro Stadium on November 13, 2017 in...

Given one last chance to seize a place at the World Cup Italy pressed, they pushed, but they could not prevail, and as a result next summer’s tournament will take place without them. It is their first such failure in six decades, the Azzurri joining Holland as Europe’s most notable qualifying failures. Both of them were eliminated by Sweden, whose route to Russia has been far from straightforward.

Northern Ireland’s Michael O’Neill laments cruelty of first-leg penalty

Michael O'Neill, Manager of Northern Ireland looks dejected following the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: Second Leg between Switzerland and Northern Ireland at St. Jakob-Park on...

Michael O’Neill condemned the “cruelty” of Northern Ireland’s World Cup play-off defeat by Switzerland after they were ultimately denied a place in Russia by the controversial first-leg penalty. The Northern Ireland manager also insisted it was too soon to say whether elimination marked the end of an era for himself and several senior players.

Republic of Ireland hold nerve to take Denmark back to Dublin level

Republic of Ireland fans with a flag during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: First Leg between Denmark and Republic of Ireland at Telia Parken on November 11, 2017 in Copenhagen,...

Easy to read, difficult to beat. The Denmark manager, Age Hareide, took no satisfaction from the fact that his pre-match assessment of this Republic of Ireland team turned out to be prophetic. Martin O’Neill, meanwhile, is happy that Ireland’s World Cup fate will be determined in Dublin, a goalless draw ensuring the suspense in this play-off will carry over into Tuesday’s second leg.

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