Belfast Telegraph

World Cup 2018

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Northern Ireland should be proud of World Cup campaign and Switzerland display: Washington

By Paul Ferguson

Striker Conor Washington says the referee's howler which ultimately sent Switzerland to the World Cup finals at Northern Ireland's expense should not be allowed to detract from an incredible performance in Basel by Michael O'Neill's men.

Washington started up front in place of Kyle Lafferty against the Swiss in Northern Ireland's biggest World Cup match for 31 years.

But despite a valiant effort at St Jakob-Park and possibly Northern Ireland's best away performance, apart from the win over the Ukraine in Lyon, the QPR hitman and his international team-mates were unable to score the goal needed to draw level with the Swiss on aggregate.

"It is frustrating with regards the penalty as that is what is going to be talked about but the spirit and performance during the game in Basel is what should be spoken about," the 25-year-old said.

"The country can definitely be proud of this team and how close we ran Switzerland.

"Unfortunately we have nothing to show from it but I really thought it was up there with the Ukraine game in terms of performance levels.

"We ran so hard and so far, showed tremendous spirit but we haven't had anything to show from it which is really disappointing."

The 2,200 Northern Ireland fans in the small corner of the ground in Basel and scattered among the home support, gasped on 53 minutes when they thought Washington had scored a vital goal.

Jamie Ward crossed the ball for Washington to attack in the air, and while his effort beat the Swiss keeper, it flew just past the post.

"I don't remember too much about the chance," admitted the former Peterborough ace. "I don't actually remember seeing the ball. I just thought I needed to get up and trying to get something on it which I managed to do and it's just unfortunate it has gone the other side of the post."

Washington, despite playing in big games for Northern Ireland, has yet to fully cement his place in the side.

He is in a battle with Kyle Lafferty and Josh Magennis for the lead striker's role.

The striker added:"It will be tough to get over but things happen fast in football and before you know it, the friendlies will come round and then the next qualifying campaign and the new League of Nations. We've got to take the positive from this."

Belfast Telegraph

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