The international break is slowly but surely coming to an end as the masses prepare for the return of the domestic game in a matter of days. Before that, though, we’ve still got plenty of intriguing World Cup qualifiers to discuss from the past week – and that includes last night’s goalless encounter between Northern Ireland and Switzerland at Windsor Park.
From a lively crowd to a missed penalty and beyond, this was the kind of game that had just about everything – which is always welcome news for club fans looking for their slice of drama.
For whatever reason Switzerland, who recently made it to the quarter-finals of Euro 2020, couldn’t quite break down Northern Ireland despite seemingly having a far superior starting XI out there in Belfast. It was the kind of performance that will have many wondering whether or not it was purely momentum that took them to within a few kicks of the semi-finals but either way, the Swiss needs to get its house in order because they’re probably going to have to face some playoff tension of their own in around six months.
Northern Irish pride
They saved a penalty, they had an under-strength squad and they weren’t expected to get anything from the game – and yet they’ll still feel disappointed that they could’ve leave with all three points. Northern Ireland enjoyed a spirited first half display that would’ve had many believing they were the ones coming off the back of Euro 2020 success. There are still a few pieces required before they can start to get back to the heights of 2016, but this was the kind of positive step forward that a lot of fans and pundits needed to see.
Uphill task for NI
Northern Ireland are now three points behind Switzerland with four games left to be played, and next month, the pair will meet again in a fixture that is absolutely crucial for them if they’re serious about making it to Qatar. Even reaching the playoffs would be quite the achievement but it’s clear for anyone to see that they’ve been put in a difficult group, and thus far, they’ve hardly embarrassed themselves – even with their inability to find the back of the net.
Group C may not be the one to really keep an eye on but if results go a certain way in October, anything is possible; even for underdogs like Northern Ireland.
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