Saturday, February 22, 2020

Prediction: Northern Ireland vs Switzerland

Verdict: Both teams to score – No

Best Odds: 7/12

Bookmaker: 888sport

Hoping to reach the first World Cup finals since 1986, Northern Ireland take on very good Switzerland side in the 2018 World Cup play-offs. The Swiss appear to be the favourites to go through, but they could be in for a difficult game at Windsor Park in Belfast.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland have so far only played at three World Cup tournaments and it’s been more than 30 years since they last appeared on the biggest stage. But, having impressed to reach the Euro 2016 last year, Michael O’Neill’s side continued with strong performances and now face the final obstacle on the road to Russia. This is without a doubt the final opportunity for veterans Roy Carroll (40), Aaron Hughes (37) and Gareth McAuley (37) to play at the World Cup finals, while Chris Brunt (32) and Steven Davis (32) should be around for another qualifying campaign. Speaking of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, Northern Ireland did pretty well to finish behind group winners Germany, leaving Czech Republic, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino to trail in their wake. Having conceded just 6 goals in 10 qualifiers, Michael O’Neill’s charges will have to produce another impeccable defensive performance if they want to stop free-scoring Switzerland in their tracks, but that will not be easy given that the boss is sweating over the fitness of two important defenders.

Team News

West Brom stopper Jonny Evans should be fit to play, but Hearts defender Aaron Hughes is almost certain to miss out.

Jamie Ward and Paddy McNair are included after recovering from injury, but cult hero Will Grigg remains on the sidelines.


Switzerland made it to three straight World Cup finals, reaching the Last 16 stage on two of those occasions, and they looked to be heading towards Russia after winning their first nine qualifiers. However, the 2-0 defeat to Portugal in their last game meant that not eve 27 out of maximum 30 points proved enough to secure an automatic qualifying berth. Nati will instead battle Northern Ireland for a place at the tournament finals, and even though they are the favourites to go through, Vladimir Petkovic’s side are in for two difficult matches. Four straight away wins that preceded said loss to Portugal in which they scored a total of 10 goals should give Switzerland confidence head of the trip to Belfast, although the problem is that none of their forwards appear to be in form at the moment. Mario Gavranovic is the only one bagging goals on regular basis, albeit in weak Croatian league, but he has yet to make his first appearance in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers. This is enough to suggest we could see a tight game at Windsor Park with chances few and far between.

Team News

Important midfielder Valon Behrami has joined the squad in spite of a thigh strain that will see him miss the first play-off leg.

Johan Djourou and Jacques Francois Moubandje miss out through injury, whereas Galatasaray striker Eren Derdiyok has been overlooked.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Northern Ireland won four of five 2018 WC qualifiers at home
  • They didn’t concede in any of those games, scoring 12 goals in the process
  • Switzerland forwards misfiring at the moment
  • Nati won four of five away games in 2018 WC qualifying
  • Just three goals were scored in their three meetings so far


Northern Ireland have proved very difficult to break, especially on home soil, and the hosts are unlikely to risk too much in the first leg. Switzerland, on the other hand, are likely to adopt a positive approach, but they, too, wouldn’t mind a share of spoils in Belfast as Nati have won last six home games on all fronts.

Verdict: Both teams to score – No

Best Odds: 7/12

Bookmaker: 888sport


Nemanja Lazarevic

Working as editor-in-chief at, Nemanja Lazarevic is responsible for organising and managing the team of writers to ensure the content produced on the site meets high industry standards and remains interesting to our readers. As our go-to guy for the football transfer news, he uses an extensive experience in the industry to dig up latest transfer stories from local sources.



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