Heartbreak as Northern Ireland pay price for a cruel penalty against Swiss

Heartbreak as Northern Ireland pay price for a cruel penalty against Swiss

"Of course it is". He got the red card wrong, he got the penalty wrong.

"He then decides to go in for a two-footed tackle tonight and the referee didn't even blow for a foul, which was astonishing". It was a hard situation and it showed you the difference.

O'Neill admitted that some of his long-serving players like Gareth McAuley, Aaron Hughes and Chris Brunt, could now call time on their worldwide careers.

The only goal of the two legs, scored by Ricardo Rodríguez from the penalty spot on Thursday after Corry Evans was controversially adjudged to have handled when the ball struck the back of his shoulder, proved to be pivotal. The Northern Irish failed to register a single shot on target in Belfast but they threatened three times in the opening five minutes in Basel, most notably when Brunt's long-range effort was pushed behind by Yann Sommer.

Northern Ireland were bright and offered plenty and can count themselves incredibly unfortunate not to be going to Russian Federation after another solid qualification campaign. 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.

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You've got to be realistic.

O'Neill brought on the more physical Josh Magennis and debutant Jordan Jones and switched to a 4-4-2 that soon featured centre-back Gareth McAuley as one of the forwards.

The Nottingham Forest forward produced a typically dogged performance as he played for 74 minutes in a spirited team performance.

However, the second leg saw the two nations play out a stalemate which was enough to see Switzerland advance to the showpiece in Russian Federation. We'll have some regrets. They only needed to nick one to take the game to extra time.

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