Swiss stalemate ends NI dream

12 November 2017 14:38:28 EST

Northern Ireland put up a gallant battle in rain-soaked Basel but ultimately a scoreless draw was enough to send Switzerland to next summer's World Cup at their expense.

Heavy rain threatened to see the game called off and the pitch quickly turned into something of a mud bath but Michael O'Neill's team were up for the battle.

Switzerland forward Haris Seferovic squandered four good opportunities for the hosts, who go through to the finals for an 11th time and their fourth in succession.

Northern Ireland put severe pressure on their hosts in the second half as Switzerland became nervous in attempting to seal their progress, with Conor Washington going close with a header not long after the break.

The players are devastated but I couldn't be any prouder.

Michael O'Neill

In the dying embers, Jonny Evans saw a header cleared off the line by Ricardo Rodriguez. The tie was decided by Rodriguez's controversial second half penalty in Belfast on Thursday.

The Northern Ireland manager was proud of his team and he admitted it was hard knowing they had been undone by a poor penalty award.

"Ultimately we've gone out to a poor decision in the first leg. Our performance and reaction tonight was fabulous," O'Neill told Sky Sports.

"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."

"We'll have some regrets. If it wasn't for the penalty we'd still be playing extra time now. They players will be remembered for the performance tonight.

"It's a very sore way to lose."

Meanwhile, Italy are 4/5 to qualify for Russia ahead of their second leg play-off against Sweden in Milan on Monday.

The Azzurri lost 1-0 in Stockholm on Friday and are 1/2 to win in 90 minutes at the San Siro, while the Swedes are 16/5 to claim the draw that would be enough for them to qualify for the World Cup.

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