The groups for Russia 2018 have been finalised and there’s some big names and lots of green kits missing out.

A SEA of green tears flooded the Irish Sea this week as World Cup dreams were dashed on the twin rocks of dross and cross.

The Republic of Ireland were the dross after getting smashed by Denmark in their qualifying play-off.

With home advantage in the second leg after a half decent 0-0 away in Copenhagen Martin O’Neill’s boys were confident. And after Shane Duffy scored after six minutes in Dublin things were looking good.

That was until the Danes netted twice in three minutes and hat-trick hero Christian Eriksen put in a truly world class performance to inspire his country to a 5-1 win.

Michael O’Neil’s Northern Ireland side were cross after being on the wrong end of a terrible decision in the first leg at Windsor Park, which they lost 1-0.

Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri has thighs thicker than the cast of Geordie Shore and belted a rocket of a shot at Corry Evans.

The ball clearly struck the Norn Iron defender’s shoulder but referee Ovidiu Hategan deemed it handball and Ricardo Rodriguez converted the penalty. To add insult to injury he also carded Evans which meant he was suspended for the second leg.

It was a decision as baffling as it was terrible and gave the Green & White Army a mammoth task in Basel on Sunday. Only England had beaten the Swiss at St Jakob’s Park in a 17-game run stretching back to 2001.

Switzerland, who are 11th in the FIFA rankings a full 12 places above their opponents, hung on for a 0-0 draw to book their place next summer.

With my British heritage I’m fuming at Romanian whistler Hategan. Forgive and forget? I’m neither Jesus nor have Alzheimer’s!


THERE will be some notably absentees at Russia 2018 including Italy, Holland, Chile, Ivory Coast, Wales, USA and Cameroon.

Stars like Gareth Bale, Alexis Sanchez, Gigi Buffon, Virgil van Dyke, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Naby Keita, Arturo Vidal, Leonardo Bonucci, Riyadh Mahrez, Wilfried Zaha and Antonio Valencia will be kicking back rather than having a kick about.

But don’t fear. Never ones to under-estimate their own importance the Yanks are exploring the idea of hosting a tournament for those that missed out.

With their love of putting themselves centre of the global stage and the fact the term World Cup has gone I wonder what they will call it.

Oh hang on, I forgot about the ego-manic in charge . . . the Trump Cup will be the best football tournament ever staged. It will have the best ratings – be a tremendous success. Nobody’s done football better. North Korea are not invited because they are mean. It will be much, much, much better than the loser Obama Cup and anyone who points out that never existed is just spouting fake news. It’s going to be great!


WHILE I hate having to be nice to someone I really want to throw a brick at, I may have to say good things about Gareth Southgate.

The England manager led his experimental young sides to two decent 0-0 draws against two of the best sides on the planet in Germany and Brazil.

And while there were no goals to cheer, there were also none conceded, which is impressive given the talents of the opposition.

Young Liverpool defender Joe Gomez was many people’s pick against Brazil as he helped keep the enviable front three of Gabriel Jesus, Neymar and Phil Coutinho quiet.

The 20-year-old, alongside fellow centre-backs Harry Maguire, 24, and John Stones, 23, did not put a foot wrong and the trio give real hope for the Three Lions going forward.

All that’s left to do is accept Joe Hart’s days as No 1 are over, pick between Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford and our shiny new defence is good to go.


AND finally referee Ben Toner was taken off Blackpool’s match against Portsmouth, days after the majority owner, the Oystons, were found by a high court judge to have operated an “illegitimate stripping” of the Lancashire club.

Given the findings against the Oystons, Toner’s name had caused some amusement on social media with fans saying it sounded like ‘bent owner’.

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