northern-ireland-hold-firm-to-condemn-italy-to-play-offs

Northern Ireland hold firm to condemn Italy to play-offs

Northern Ireland produced a performance of superb defensive discipline to hold European champions Italy to a 0-0 draw and send them into the World Cup play-offs.

Ian Baraclough’s side saved their best performance of his reign for the last game of their World Cup qualifying campaign, and should have won late on with Conor Washington denied a last-minute goal by Leonardo Bonucci’s goal-line clearance.

The Green and White Army had to be strong defensively and their five-man defence restricted an uninspired Italy to a number of half-chances in Belfast, with Federico Chiesa twice going close and Lorenzo Insigne’s curling effort easily saved.

The full-time whistle was greeted with huge cheers from the capacity home crowd at the end of a profitable international break for Northern Ireland, whose four points from their final two games of qualifying have restored the belief around Baraclough’s side, earning them a third-placed finish in Group C and allowing Switzerland to leapfrog Italy and qualify automatically for Qatar 2022.

More to follow…