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Switzerland seals World Cup spot

13 November 2017

For the second time in four days, Rodriguez proved decisive as Switzerland clinched their two-leg playoff tie 1-0 on aggregate.

That suited the Swiss just fine after their 1-0 win on Thursday in Belfast, and 0-0 draw was enough to see Switzerland punch their ticket to Russian Federation 2018.

This will be Switzerland's 11th qualification to the FIFA World Cup after making their debut at the second edition in Italy in 1934.

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So to have got this far, to the brink of the World Cup, must be a great source of pride for these players, staff and fans, although of course there were plenty of tears at the final whistle. He almost forced extra time with a header, but Ricardo Rodriguez came up with a heroic clearance to seal Switzerland's place in the World Cup. Whatever happens in the future, Michael O'Neill has taken these players further than anyone could have imagined, and they have performed for him and for their country with a pride, effort and application that many bigger countries simply cannot match.

Switzerland's marauding full-backs, Rodriguez and Stephan 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. They should have killed off this match rather than hanging on desperately at the end, hoping their visitors did not take it to extra time.

The set-ball specialist is one of Europe's top left backs although he now finds himself in a struggling AC Milan side and had the misfortune to give away a decisive penalty when they lost the Milan derby last month. We don't always have top-level players but we have top-level characters.

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"The players are emotional and upset".

Rodriguez moved across the goalmouth toward the post and hooked the ball clear as he fell backward into the goal. None had been born the last time Northern Ireland played at a World Cup, in 1986.

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Switzerland seals World Cup spot