12/11/2017 Basel Switzerland 0-0
Michael McGovern, Aaron Hughes, Gareth McAuley, Jonathan Evans, Chris Brunt, Steven Davis, Oliver Norwood (Josh Magennis), George Saville, Jamie Ward (Jordan Jones), Stuart Dallas, Conor Washington (Paddy McNair)
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.
“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.”
“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.”
12/11/1986 Izmir Turkey 0-0
Phil Hughes, Mal Donaghy, Nigel Worthington (Bernard McNally), Alan McDonald, John McClelland, David McCreery, Danny Wilson, Dave Campbell, Jimmy Quinn (Lawrie Sanchez), Colin Clarke, Steve Penney