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.

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