Switzerland earned a spot at the World Cup by holding Northern Ireland to a 0-0 draw Sunday.

By Associated Press
November 12, 2017

BASEL, Switzerland (AP) Switzerland earned a spot at the World Cup by holding Northern Ireland to a 0-0 draw Sunday.

The result gave the Swiss a 1-0 aggregate win following its first-leg victory in Belfast when a disputed penalty made the difference.

In the final minutes on a muddy field in Basel, Switzerland defender Ricardo Rodriguez knocked a goal-bound header from Northern Ireland defender Jonny Evans off the line after a corner.

Rodriguez scored the penalty on Thursday in the first leg, and it was Evans' brother, Corey, who was whistled for handling the ball that led to it.

The Swiss dominated much of the first half but wasted good scoring chances, with center forward Haris Seferovic most at fault.

A chilly, rain-soaked evening seemed ideal for the visitors to rise to the atmosphere created by their noisy fans. Conor Washington's glancing header in the 54th minute came close to getting the goal that would force extra time.

With their spot in Russia secured, the 11th-ranked Swiss will be in the pot of second-seeded teams for the World Cup draw on Dec. 1 in Moscow.

Now the challenge for arguably Switzerland's most talented team in decades is to go beyond the last 16 at a major tournament.

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.

Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic should have his best players at their peak in Russia.

At 26, Xherdan Shaqiri is heading to his third World Cup, while Granit Xhaka and Rodriquez, both 25 and playing for Arsenal and AC Milan, respectively, have matured as standouts from the 2009 Under-17 World Cup-winning team.

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