Switzerland qualifies for 2018 World Cup

Pass master Oliver Norwood and Swiss ace Danis Zakaria

Three days after being on the wrong end of one of the most high-profile refereeing decisions in recent times, Northern Ireland drew 0-0 in Basle, meaning Switzerland qualified for Russian Federation with a 1-0 aggregate win.

O'Neill was gutted that all that separated his team from Switzerland over 180 minutes in the play-offs was a highly-controversial first leg penalty.

"The players are emotional and upset".

"It would have been..."

Northern Ireland had very few chances to score, with both of their decent ones coming at either end of the match.

"To discuss the penalty, and whether it was a penalty or not, it is the decision of the referee and not of interest to us".

"We don't always have top-level players but we've got top-level characters and you saw that tonight".

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Northern Ireland came to Basel with aggression in its play that had been strangely lacking in the home leg.

"We have the World Cup ticket, that's what counts".

Though Petkovic declined to criticize the Benfica forward, who was booed by some fans when substituted, the coach acknowledged a regular weakness of his 11th-ranked team.

He has been linked with the Scotland job after transforming Northern Ireland's global fortunes since taking over in 2012 but said: "I haven't even considered that".

Now the challenge for arguably its most talented team in decades is to go beyond the last 16 at a major tournament. 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 result secures Switzerland a place in Russian Federation - their fourth consecutive World Cup - and means Northern Ireland's hopes of a fourth finals appearance are over. "It could be even to the final", said Petkovic, who should have his best players at their peak in Russian Federation.

But the longer the game went on at 0-0, the more empowered Northern Ireland were.

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