Sports

Michael O'Neill "could not be any prouder" of Northern Ireland players

Michael O'Neill

The Northern Ireland star kept his powder dry after the calamitous decision to award a penalty in the first leg but after the goalless return leg in Basel, he had his say.

"We don't really set limits for us".

In the past five years, the Swiss impressed in qualifying but failed to beat the best teams they faced - France twice, Argentina and Poland - at the 2014 World Cup and 2016 European Championship.

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.

"There's a devastated bunch of players in there but I couldn't be any more proud of their efforts", he said. Had this game not had the world riding on it, it would have been written off as a farce, given how hard it was to play football out there.

This should have helped Northern Ireland and they started with their direct purposeful football, making the most of Conor Washington's willingness to run himself into the mud.

Northern Ireland coach Michael O'Neill said his team's exit after a spirited second-half Sunday was "a devastating moment".

Seferovic glanced a free header wide and shot wide of the near post as the Swiss began to take control.

Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka has taken aim at Northern Ireland's players.

Michael O'Neill's men gained momentum as the second period progressed and subjected Switzerland to spells of pressure in the final 30 minutes.

Looking forward to the finals, he said: "We want to go as far as possible".

Switzerland is going to the World Cup after left-back Ricardo Rodriguez denied Northern Ireland hope in both games of their playoff at either end of the field. Evans got up at the far post, heading towards goal, but Rodriguez volleyed it off the line.


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