World Cup Qualifying - European - Play-off - 2nd Leg
Switzerland0Northern Ireland0

World Cup play-off: Switzerland 0-0 Northern Ireland (agg: 1-0)

Jonny Evans' header is cleared off the line
Northern Ireland came within inches of a goal in injury time but Jonny Evans' header was cleared off the line

Northern Ireland's hopes of making the World Cup finals for the first time since 1986 ended as Switzerland won their play-off 1-0 on aggregate after Sunday's stalemate in Basel.

The tie was decided by Ricardo Rodriguez's controversial penalty in Belfast as Michael O'Neill's team failed in their bid to reach back-to-back major tournaments for the first time.

Northern Ireland came within inches of forcing extra time in injury time at the end of the tie, only for West Brom defender Jonny Evans to see his header hacked off the line by Rodriguez.

Both sides wasted chances to score in a nervy contest at a rain-soaked St Jakob-Park, with Switzerland striker Haris Seferovic particularly guilty following a string of missed attempts.

O'Neill's team failed to register a shot on target at Windsor Park in the first leg, but this was a far more adventurous display and, after several near misses from Chris Brunt in the first half, they were almost rewarded late on - only for Evans to be denied.

The result secures Switzerland a place in Russia - their fourth consecutive World Cup - and means Northern Ireland's hopes of a fourth finals appearance are over.

A tie defined by a refereeing controversy

Corry Evans
Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill said he has never seen a worse decision in a game he has been involved in

Northern Ireland's increased attacking intent in Basel came from their need to score to cancel out the Rodriguez penalty in the first leg, given for handball by Corry Evans when the ball clearly struck the midfielder on the back.

That decision angered O'Neill and his players and the manager asked them to channel that ill-feeling to ensure it was not a moment they lived to regret.

They did that with an energetic and determined performance.

But against a Swiss side who had only lost at St Jakob-Park to England in 17 matches spanning 16 years, they were always up against it and, in truth, might have been out of the tie much earlier had Seferovic been more composed in front of goal.

"We've gone out to a really poor decision in the first leg," said O'Neill. "We tried to keep the dream alive and we were pushing for it.

"The referee was very poor in the first leg - got the red card [decision not to send off Fabian Schar for a late tackle on Stuart Dallas] wrong and the penalty wrong. It's a very sore way to lose. We deserved extra time.

"There's a devastated group of players in there but I couldn't be more proud of them."

What now for O'Neill?

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Michael O'Neill 'heartbroken' after Northern Ireland miss out on World Cup

After a slow start to his Northern Ireland reign, O'Neill defied the odds to guide his side to the last 16 of Euro 2016.

The 48-year-old signed a four-year contract that same year but, following this latest setback, the team could suffer another blow as their manager has been heavily linked with other jobs.

He has been discussed as a contender for the vacant Scotland and Sunderland posts, and offers are likely to come his way with his stock so high.

It could also have been a final Northern Ireland bow for several players, including veteran defenders Aaron Hughes and Gareth McAuley.

Hughes made his 109th international appearance in Basel, making him the most-capped defender from the home nations.

"I said to the players that they've got decisions to make on their futures," said O'Neill. "But I've told them not to rush any decisions.

"They should discuss that with Aaron Hughes, who retired five years ago but was here tonight. This isn't the time to think about that."

Asked about his own future, O'Neill told Sky Sports: "I haven't given it any thought. I don't think it's a reasonable question."

Man of the match - Michael McGovern (Northern Ireland)

Michael McGovern
Michael McGovern kept Northern Ireland in the tie with a string of fine saves

McGovern performed heroics in the Euro 2016 defeat by Germany and the Norwich keeper was again in top form to deny Switzerland.

He blocked Steven Zuber's fierce strike with his legs early in the game and finished by keeping out an angled drive from Breel Embolo.

The stats you need to know

  • Switzerland have reached their fourth World Cup in a row. The finals in Russia next summer will be the first time they have featured in four straight tournaments since between 1934 and 1954.
  • Despite finishing goalless, there were nine shots on target in this game compared with just two in the first leg in Belfast.
  • Including the play-off games played so far, only Denmark's Christian Eriksen (38) has created more chances in this European qualifying campaign than Switzerland winger Xherdan Shaqiri (34).
  • This was the first time Switzerland failed to win a competitive home game since September 2014, when they lost 0-2 against England.

What they said

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis: 'There are a lot of emotions in the dressing room and everyone is gutted. We didn't let the decision in the first leg affect us and we gave it everything.

"No-one outside our country gave us a hope. We caused them a lot of problems and if we'd got the goal it would have been very difficult for them to recover mentally. Unfortunately it just wasn't meant to be."

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Skipper Steven Davis proud of NI spirit in Switzerland

Northern Ireland defender Jonny Evans: "We can be proud that we gave everything. We showed why we were in the play-offs.

"When it's so late in the game you're seeing five different balls coming across the box but their lad was in the right place at the right time to clear my effort off the line.

"Sometimes in football things like that penalty decision in the first leg can happen. We are experienced enough to know refereeing decisions can go against you and in the second leg we did ourselves proud."

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World Cup play-off: We gave everything in Basel draw - NI's Evans

Line-ups

Switzerland

  • 1Sommer
  • 2Lichtsteiner
  • 22Schär
  • 5Akanji
  • 13Rodríguez
  • 17Zakaria
  • 10Xhaka
  • 23ShaqiriSubstituted forFreulerat 80'minutes
  • 15DzemailiSubstituted forMehmediat 61'minutes
  • 14Zuber
  • 9SeferovicBooked at 72minsSubstituted forEmboloat 86'minutes

Substitutes

  • 3Lacroix
  • 4Elvedi
  • 6Lang
  • 7Embolo
  • 8Freuler
  • 11Behrami
  • 12Hitz
  • 16Fernandes
  • 18Mehmedi
  • 19Gavranovic
  • 20Fernandes
  • 21Bürki

Northern Ireland

  • 1McGovern
  • 18Hughes
  • 4McAuley
  • 5EvansBooked at 78mins
  • 11BruntBooked at 7mins
  • 19WardSubstituted forJonesat 74'minutes
  • 8Davis
  • 16NorwoodSubstituted forMagennisat 75'minutes
  • 20Saville
  • 14Dallas
  • 9WashingtonSubstituted forMcNairat 82'minutes

Substitutes

  • 2McLaughlin
  • 3Ferguson
  • 6Hodson
  • 7Jones
  • 10Lafferty
  • 12Mannus
  • 13Paton
  • 15Lund
  • 17McNair
  • 21Magennis
  • 22McArdle
  • 23Carroll
Referee:
Dr. Felix Brych
Attendance:
36,000

Match Stats

Home TeamSwitzerlandAway TeamNorthern Ireland
Possession
Home52%
Away48%
Shots
Home18
Away12
Shots on Target
Home4
Away5
Corners
Home6
Away4
Fouls
Home8
Away15

Live Text

Match ends, Switzerland 0, Northern Ireland 0.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Switzerland 0, Northern Ireland 0.

Attempt saved. Ricardo Rodríguez (Switzerland) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

Breel Embolo (Switzerland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Jonny Evans (Northern Ireland).

Granit Xhaka (Switzerland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Steven Davis (Northern Ireland).

Attempt blocked. Jonny Evans (Northern Ireland) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Chris Brunt with a cross.

Corner, Northern Ireland. Conceded by Steven Zuber.

Attempt blocked. Steven Davis (Northern Ireland) left footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Jordan Jones.

Attempt missed. Breel Embolo (Switzerland) right footed shot from the centre of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Granit Xhaka with a headed pass.

Corner, Switzerland. Conceded by Michael McGovern.

Attempt saved. Breel Embolo (Switzerland) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the left is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Ricardo Rodríguez.

Breel Embolo (Switzerland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Jonny Evans (Northern Ireland).

Foul by Steven Zuber (Switzerland).

Jordan Jones (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Remo Freuler (Switzerland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by George Saville (Northern Ireland).

Substitution

Substitution, Switzerland. Breel Embolo replaces Haris Seferovic.

Foul by Remo Freuler (Switzerland).

Stuart Dallas (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Fabian Schär (Switzerland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Josh Magennis (Northern Ireland).

Attempt missed. Haris Seferovic (Switzerland) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Denis Zakaria.

Attempt missed. Jordan Jones (Northern Ireland) right footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Josh Magennis.

Substitution

Substitution, Northern Ireland. Paddy McNair replaces Conor Washington.

Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Jordan Jones (Northern Ireland).

Substitution

Substitution, Switzerland. Remo Freuler replaces Xherdan Shaqiri.

Booking

Jonny Evans (Northern Ireland) is shown the yellow card for hand ball.

Hand ball by Jonny Evans (Northern Ireland).

Attempt missed. Haris Seferovic (Switzerland) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Xherdan Shaqiri with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Switzerland. Conceded by Gareth McAuley.

Attempt blocked. Steven Zuber (Switzerland) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Fabian Schär.

Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Josh Magennis (Northern Ireland).

Substitution

Substitution, Northern Ireland. Josh Magennis replaces Oliver Norwood.

Substitution

Substitution, Northern Ireland. Jordan Jones replaces Jamie Ward.

Booking

Haris Seferovic (Switzerland) is shown the yellow card.

goal

As It Stood

A

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1France107211861223
2Sweden106132691719
3Netherlands106132112919
4Bulgaria104151419-513
5Luxembourg10136826-186
6Belarus10127621-155

B

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Portugal109013242827
2Switzerland109012371627
3Hungary104151414013
4Faroe Islands10235416-129
5Latvia10217718-117
6Andorra10118223-214

C

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Germany1010004343930
2Northern Ireland106131761119
3Czech Rep104331710715
4Norway104151716113
5Azerbaijan103161019-910
6San Marino100010251-490

D

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Serbia1063120101021
2R. of Ireland10541126619
3Wales10451136717
4Austria104331412215
5Georgia10055814-65
6Moldova10028423-192

E

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Poland1081128141425
2Denmark106222081220
3Montenegro105142012816
4Romania103431210213
5Armenia102171026-167
6Kazakhstan10037626-203

F

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1England108201831526
2Slovakia106041771018
3Scotland105321712518
4Slovenia10433127515
5Lithuania10136720-136
6Malta10019325-221

G

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Spain109103633328
2Italy107212181323
3Albania104151013-313
4Israel104061015-512
5North Macedonia103251515011
6Liechtenstein100010139-380

H

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Belgium109104363728
2Greece105411761119
3Bos-Herze1052324131117
4Estonia103251319-611
5Cyprus10316918-910
6Gibraltar100010347-440

I

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Iceland10712167922
2Croatia106221541120
3Ukraine10523139417
4Turkey104331413115
5Finland10235913-49
6Kosovo10019324-211
View full World Cup Qualifying - European tables

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