Switzerland defender Ricardo Rodriguez celebrates the victory over Northern Ireland.
Switzerland defender Ricardo Rodriguez celebrates the victory over Northern Ireland. LAURENT GILLIERON

Switzerland scrape through to World Cup in Basel battle

SWITZERLAND were once more indebted to Ricardo Rodriguez as they scraped into next year's World Cup with a 0-0 draw in a wet and windy Basel.

Rodriguez scored a controversial penalty in the first leg in Belfast last week as the Swiss took a 1-0 first-leg lead of their World Cup playoff with Northern Ireland.

The full-back was the home team's saviour again when he cleared a goalbound header from Jonny Evans off the line in stoppage time as Northern Ireland pressed for an equaliser.

The visitors, looking for a first World Cup finals berth since 1986, dominated on a muddy pitch which suited their more direct style.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill said the defeat was cruel after the ruling for handball against Correy Evans in the first leg was described as one of the worst penalty calls in history.

"This is a devastating moment but also a very proud moment,” he said.

"We've gone toe-to-toe with a very good side and it was decided by a really poor decision, a penalty that should never have been made.”

In the other European playoff for Russia 2018, Croatia became the 28th team to qualify after a 0-0 draw in Greece.

The Croatians never looked in any trouble after taking a 4-1 lead into the second leg.


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