Italy fire blanks in Northern Ireland as Swiss qualify as group winners

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Switzerland striker Noah Okafor scored his first international goal as they brushed Bulgaria aside 4-0 to seal a place at next year’s World Cup in Qatar as Group C winners.

Ruben Vargas, Cedric Itten and Remo Freuler were also on target for the hosts as they moved to 18 points from eight matches, two points ahead of European champions Italy.

The Italians were held to a 0-0 draw away to Northern Ireland and must now play in March’s playoffs.

Italy coach Roberto Mancini was upbeat about his side’s chances of playing at the 2022 World Cup despite the European champions missing out on an automatic qualification spot on Monday.

Four months on from their Euro 2020 success, Italy’s 0-0 draw in Northern Ireland meant Switzerland finished top of World Cup qualifying Group C following their 4-0 win over Bulgaria in Lucerne, condemning Mancini’s men to the playoffs.

It is the second successive World Cup qualification campaign that Italy have only made the playoffs, with three teams from the 12 involved this time around progressing to Qatar.

The Azzurri failed to qualify for a World Cup finals tournament for the first time since 1958 four years ago after defeat by Sweden in the playoffs over two legs.

via Reuters

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