Belfast Telegraph

World Cup 2018

Fixtures & Results

Sweden SWE 1

South Korea KOR 0

REPORT

Belgium BEL 3

Panama PAN 0

REPORT

Tunisia TUN 1

England ENG 2

REPORT

Colombia COL 1

Japan JPN 2

REPORT

Poland POL 1

Senegal SEN 2

REPORT

Russia RUS 3

Egypt EGY 1

REPORT

Portugal POR 1

Morocco MAR 0

Ongoing

Uruguay URY

Saudi Arabia SAU

Iran IRN

Spain ESP

Denmark DNK

Australia AUS

France FRA

Peru PER

Argentina ARG

Croatia CRO

Brazil BRA

Costa Rica CRI

Nigeria NGA

Iceland ISL

Serbia SRB

Switzerland SUI

Belgium BEL

Tunisia TUN

South Korea KOR

Mexico MEX

Germany GER

Sweden SWE

England ENG

Panama PAN

Japan JPN

Senegal SEN

Poland POL

Colombia COL

Saudi Arabia SAU

Egypt EGY

Uruguay URY

Russia RUS

Spain ESP

Morocco MAR

Iran IRN

Portugal POR

Denmark DNK

France FRA

Australia AUS

Peru PER

Iceland ISL

Croatia CRO

Nigeria NGA

Argentina ARG

Mexico MEX

Sweden SWE

South Korea KOR

Germany GER

Switzerland SUI

Costa Rica CRI

Serbia SRB

Brazil BRA

Senegal SEN

Colombia COL

Japan JPN

Poland POL

Panama PAN

Tunisia TUN

England ENG

Belgium BEL

Home Sport Football

Dallas fit to start as Northern Ireland make four changes for crunch Basel clash

Stuart Dallas was fit enough to start for a Northern Ireland side that featured four changes for the second leg of their World Cup play-off with Switzerland.

Dallas arrived in Basel on crutches on Friday following a wild challenge from Fabian Schar in the Swiss' 1-0 win on Thursday, but he retained his place in Michael O'Neill's team.

While Switzerland were unchanged at St Jakob-Park, O'Neill brought in Aaron Hughes, George Saville, Jamie Ward and Conor Washington for the suspended Corry Evans, Conor McLaughlin, Josh Magennis and Kyle Lafferty.

There was a concern over the pitch prior to kick-off after heavy downpours in the afternoon, with ground staff needing to clear large areas of standing water as the rain continued to fall.

Referee Felix Brych conducted two pitch inspections as the rain continued to fall but, around 45 minutes before kick-off, it was confirmed the game would go ahead on time as planned.

After failing to register a single shot on target in Belfast on Thursday, Northern Ireland were, at the very least, seeking an improved performance.

Inside the first five minutes they threatened on three occasions - the first when Dallas and Ward got in each other's way at the back post from Steven Davis' cross.

Home goalkeeper Yann Sommer, a virtual spectator at Windsor Park, then had to push Chris Brunt's effort from range over before Dallas fired over the top from the resulting corner.

This was nothing like the cagey and cautious affair three days earlier and the Swiss perhaps should have been ahead when Xherdan Shaqiri's cross was glanced wide by Haris Seferovic's head.

After Brunt had scythed down Stephan Lichtsteiner to earn a seventh-minute caution, Blerim Dzemaili fired across the six-yard box and Gareth McAuley flicked out a leg and saw the ball diverted over.

Yet Northern Ireland were unrecognisable from the first leg, and their energetic, pressing style was nearly rewarded when Brunt drove at Sommer once more.

Switzerland were having nowhere near the same amount of possession, on a pitch that was already cutting up, but they continued to carve out chances as Seferovic rifled into the side-netting.

Shaqiri's penchant for coming in off the right flank on to his left foot was well known and he had Brunt back-tracking when he smashed a near-post effort that Michael McGovern was equal to.

McGovern was struggling with his kicks in such conditions but used his legs to good effect to turn away a shot from Steven Zuber, who was troubling no one when he sliced another attempt wide with his other foot.

The visitors looked to be tiring already out on the bog as the rain returned to hinder things further.

Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka were both pulled back for offside decisions before Northern Ireland had a terrific opportunity on the stroke of half-time when Ward was fouled and won a free-kick 25 yards from goal.

It favoured Brunt's left foot, but the West Brom man blazed his attempt way off target.

INTRO: Northern Ireland were 45 minutes away from missing out on the World Cup having failed to score in the first half of the second leg against Switzerland.

Michael O'Neill's team, featuring four changes from the side beaten 1-0 by the Swiss in Belfast on Thursday, were vastly improved and Chris Brunt twice brought saves out of Yann Sommer in their play-off encounter.

Switzerland had good opportunities too on a quagmire of a pitch, with Michael McGovern saving well from Xherdan Shaqiri and Steven Zuber.

Switzerland's marauding full-backs, Ricardo Rodriguez and Lichtsteiner, had largely been subdued but the latter broke from defence into the Northern Irish box at the start of second half to set up a Zuber chance that Hughes blocked.

It was Rodriguez's turn next to venture forward and take aim with a chance that McGovern may have struggled to keep out had it been on target.

Then, nine minutes after the break, Northern Ireland nearly went ahead and levelled the tie.

Saville, increasingly having more influence on the game, spread a glorious pass out to Ward and his cross was nodded wide by Washington in a terrific counter-attacking move.

Swiss boss Vladimir Petkovic sensed the need to turn the tide and introduced Admir Mehmedi for Dzemaili in the 61st minute, with Sommer called upon again seconds later from a tame Saville shot after Washington's excellent turn.

Northern Ireland were posing more problems now, particularly down the left with Dallas, yet a corner he won off Fabian Schar came to nothing as O'Neill pondered his first change.

With 16 minutes remaining, O'Neill made a double change, introducing Josh Magennis and debutant Jordan Jones for Ward and Oliver Norwood.

Northern Ireland switched to a 4-4-2 and the intent was obvious immediately as Magennis clattered into Swiss centre-backs in a more direct approach.

Switzerland now seemed content to hold on to their first-leg lead, although the tie would surely have been put to bed if McAuley did not rush around to block Zuber's shot.

Petkovic replaced Shaqiri with 10 minutes to go and O'Neill responded by taking off Washington for Paddy McNair and throwing McAuley up front.

Jones had a shot blocked and Northern Ireland retained hope when Seferovic and then his replacement Breel Embolo missed decent openings.

There was to be one final chance when Sommer missed Brunt's deep cross and Evans headed towards goal but it was Rodriguez, the man who converted the penalty in Belfast, who was on the line to clear and deny Northern Ireland extra time.

INTRO: Northern Ireland were left feeling they had been robbed of a World Cup place by Thursday's controversial penalty decision as they came up short in their play-off with Switzerland.

Ricardo Rodriguez's spot-kick at Windsor Park, awarded in contentious circumstances for a handball against Corry Evans, proved enough as Sunday's return leg in Basel ended goalless.

The Northern Irish were vastly improved at St Jakob-Park, and Jonny Evans had a stoppage-time header cleared off the line by Rodriguez, but they missed out on a place in Russia due to a decision that will sting for years.

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph