Disaster for Italy as the European champions are sent into the World Cup PLAY OFFS following a goalless draw in Northern Ireland… leaving Switzerland to snatch top spot in Group C
- European kings Italy will need to qualify for the World Cup through a play off
- Roberto Mancini’s side drew blank against Northern Ireland on Monday night
- Switzerland’s win against Bulgaria saw them snatch top spot in Group C
Italy will have to reach Qatar the hard way after the European champions were consigned to the lottery of the World Cup play-offs once again on a rousing night in Belfast.
Four years after suffering play-off heartbreak at the hands of Sweden – and four months after beating England in the final of Euro 2020 – the Italians surrendered top spot in Group C to Switzerland who qualified with a win at home to Bulgaria.
The Swiss have Northern Ireland to thank for a resolute defensive performance led by the superb Jonny Evans that produced the best result of Ian Baraclough’s reign.
Italy must qualify for the World Cup through the play offs after missing out on top spot
The Azzurri were held to a goalless draw by Northern Ireland in Belfast on Monday night
The European champions were unable to find a way past keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell
Northern Ireland defender Jamal Lewis battles for possession with Italy’s Giovanni Di Lorenzo
NORTHERN IRELAND: Peacock-Farrell; Cathcart, Flanagan, Evans, Lewis; Davis; Dallas, McCann, Saville (Evans, 72), Whyte (Washington, 72); Magennis
Subs not used: Bradley, Brown, Ferguson, Galbraith, Hazard, Jones, McGinn, Southwood, Taylor
Booked: Magennis, Peacock-Farrell
Manager: Ian Baraclough
ITALY: Donnarumma; Emerson (Scamacca, 80), Acerbi, Bonucci, Di Lorenzo; Barella (Belotti, 64), Jorginho (Locatelli, 69), Tonali (Cristante, 46); Chiesa, Berardi, Insigne (Bernardeschi, 68)
Subs not used: Cragno, Ferrari, Mancini, Meret, Pessina, Raspadori, Zappacosta
Manager: Roberto Mancini
Baraclough’s side have not conceded a single goal in their four qualifiers at Windsor Park and succeeded in shutting out an injury-hit Italy to end their campaign on a high note.
Roberto Mancini had spoken about anxiety among his players after a last-minute penalty miss had cost them a crucial victory over Switzerland on Friday, but frustration was the overriding emotion as they sought a way through.
Italy’s best chance arrived in the eighth minute when Lorenzo Insigne’s sublime pass picked out Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s run to the back post but his effort was tipped away by Bailey Peacock-Farrell who then dealt comfortably with efforts from Insigne, Nicolo Barella and Federico Chiesa.
Italian attacker Domenico Berardi looks on in anguish after failing to find the net for his side
Italy star Federico Chiesa looks to evade the challenges of George Saville and Craig Cathcart
Chelsea midfielder Jorginho harries Gavin Whyte during a nip-and-tuck first half in Belfast
Nicolo Barella cuts a forlorn figure after spurning an opportunity on Monday evening
Chiesa fired wide in the second half and Peacock-Farrell was equal to Domenico Berardi’s free kick.
Northern Ireland sensed their opportunity and went close to snatching a famous victory when Gianluigi Donnarumma produced a reflex save to keep out George Saville’s volley, Stuart Dallas was inches away with a 25-yard drive, and Leonardo Bonucci cleared off the line from Conor Washington in the 90th minute.
Defeat in their final qualifier at Windsor Park cost Italy a place at the 1958 World Cup 63 years ago. They have a second chance this time, but this brought Mancini and his players back to earth with a bump after the high of Euro 2020.
Italy boss Roberto Mancini barks his orders as his side looked for an opener in Northern Ireland
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