Watch: Even Swiss sports star Roger Federer feels sorry for Northern Ireland after penalty pain
Northern Ireland's exit from the World Cup play-off has attracted sympathy from around the globe, and even from inside the enemy camp.
Switzerland benefitted from first-leg referee Ovidiu Hategan's decision to award a penalty for handball against Corry Evans. The spot-kick, tucked home by Ricardo Rodriguez, proved the only difference between the teams after the two-legged tie.
But the victorious country's greatest sports star Roger Federer, who has 19 tennis Grand Slam titles to his name, has cast a thought for the beaten Northern Irish.
"I didn't see it, I was at the ATP Awards Show. I heard the Northern Ireland guy was trying to catch it like a handball and it was a clear penalty for Switzerland," he joked, speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live ahead of Sunday's second leg.
Even Roger Federer 🇨🇭 feels bad for Northern Ireland...!Posted by BBC Radio 5 live Sport on Friday, November 10, 2017
"No, I feel bad for them because soccer has some brutal calls sometimes for the umpires. I hope they won't be compensated in Basel, my home town. I saw the last 20 minutes and we looked like the better side but we have to do it for another 90+ minutes. I'm very excited for Switzerland to be in a good position."
The manner of the defeat has left a bitter taste for the Northern Irish, who came within a whisker of forcing extra-time on Sunday night as Jonny Evans' injury-time header was cleared off the line by Thursday's scorer Ricardo Rodriguez.
Belfast Telegraph Digital