In Summary
  • Switzerland held off Northern Ireland to seal a place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia with a 0-0 second-leg draw on Sunday that secured a 1-0 aggregate play-off victory.
  • Vladimir Petkovic's side wasted numerous first-half chances as the Northern Irish stayed in the tie, but Ricardo Rodriguez's controversial first-leg penalty in Belfast proved enough for the Swiss to reach their fourth consecutive World Cup.
  • "It was very hard, there was a lot of pressure," Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer told television channel RTS.

BASEL

Switzerland held off Northern Ireland to seal a place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia with a 0-0 second-leg draw on Sunday that secured a 1-0 aggregate play-off victory.

Vladimir Petkovic's side wasted numerous first-half chances as the Northern Irish stayed in the tie, but Ricardo Rodriguez's controversial first-leg penalty in Belfast proved enough for the Swiss to reach their fourth consecutive World Cup.

"It was very hard, there was a lot of pressure," Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer told television channel RTS.

"Everyone said it was almost done, but against teams like that it's a fight. I'm very excited we've achieved our goal.

"It's unfortunate that we were not more efficient because it would have been easier."

Northern Ireland fell short in their bid to reach a first finals since 1986.

"Ultimately we've gone out to a poor decision in the first leg," Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill told Sky Sports, after a harsh handball decision against Corry Evans saw Rodriguez score the only goal of the tie.

"Our performance and reaction tonight was fabulous. We were the better team.

"We had to ride our luck at times but we were pushing until the 94th minute. The players are devastated but I couldn't be any prouder."

O'Neill replaced Kyle Lafferty up front with Queens Park Rangers striker Conor Washington, while the hosts named an unchanged starting XI.

With heavy rain leaving the St Jakob-Park pitch in bad condition, Northern Ireland started strongly.

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