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Northern Ireland must go looking for a goal and that will suit us perfectly: Shaqiri

By Paul Ferguson

Swiss superstar Xherdan Shaqiri has poured salt onto Northern Ireland’s open gaping wound by insisting the men in green do not possess a major attacking threat to worry his side.   

The Northern Ireland squad travelled to Basel yesterday afternoon for tomorrow night’s defining second leg of the World Cup play-off still reeling from a dubious penalty decision from Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan against Corry Evans which gifted the Swiss an all important 1-0 lead in the tie and a crucial away goal.

Switzerland dominated possession with statistics showing they enjoyed 65 per cent of the play but the Stoke City player believes his side were in complete control throughout, even though they failed to score past Michael O’Neill’s men from open play.

Northern Ireland, by their own standards, were disappointing but in the latter stages, especially with Jamie Ward, George Saville and Conor Washington on the pitch, they started to penetrate the Swiss defence and there was a big appeal for a penalty after it appeared the ball had struck the arm of Ricardo Rodriguez following a shot from Josh Magennis.

Shaqiri though was adamant his side were never troubled, saying: “I think we had the ball for 90 minutes, we created more chances than them.

“They were only dangerous from corners and free-kicks but it was not enough. It was a great result for us, the best we could get here. Many teams have found it difficult here.

“We knew before that it was going to be difficult. Their fans support them for 95 minutes. It was a very good atmosphere but we played well and we deserved to win.”

Shaqiri admits Switzerland are now looking to exploit a vulnerable Northern Ireland tomorrow night in Basel at the St Jacob Stadium as he knows they can’t afford to be defensive and must come out and attack if they are to stand a chance of reaching the World Cup finals in Russia next summer.

“Northern Ireland will have to play more offensively in Basel,” states Shaqiri, who won his 67th international cap against Northern Ireland.

“They have to score to try to get to the World Cup. In Belfast they played too defensively, they did not do enough to score. So they’re going to come to Basel and try to be more offensive but that will mean it is more open for us.

“We will not sit back and relax, we are not a team that does that. We will try to keep the ball.”

Shaqiri was heavily involved in the most controversial moment of the night as it was his shot that was blocked by Corry Evans, which then resulted in a penalty kick.

The Stoke City attacking midfielder remained coy on the issue.

Shaqiri added: “It’s difficult to say, I didn’t see the position of the ball. I tried to shoot, I didn’t see what happened after.

“I don’t know, the ball was blocked, that’s why I was surprised.”

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