Northern Ireland 0-0 Italy: Play-Offs needed for World Cup

Italy are heading for the World Cup play-offs after failing to break down Northern Ireland in Belfast, as Switzerland win the group after thrashing Bulgaria 4-0.

Liveblog: Northern Ireland vs. Italy

The Azzurri were leading Group C only on goal difference, +11 to +9, so had to keep a close eye on the result from Switzerland’s home game with Bulgaria as well as try to become the first team to score at Windsor Park in this qualifying campaign. Italy had never won in Belfast, emerging with two draws and a 2-1 defeat that cost them a spot at the 1958 World Cup.

Injuries continued to pile up, so Lorenzo Insigne was False 9 with Sandro Tonali coming into midfield.

Bailey Peacock-Farrell fingertipped a Giovanni Di Lorenzo cross-shot away, while an Insigne curler and Federico Chiesa effort were too predictable and slow.

When Chiesa did force a tricky save, he had wandered offside on Insigne’s pass. Bryan Cristante replaced booked Tonali at the break.

Gianluigi Donnarumma had to make the first real save of the game when Jamal Lewis knocked back a cross for George Saville to hit it first time from 10 yards.

Insigne tested Peacock-Farrell at the near post, but news came through that Switzerland had taken the lead against Bulgaria, putting them top of the group.

Chiesa curled just wide, while Mancini made changes, but Switzerland took a 3-0 lead, meaning Italy needed more than just a 1-0 victory.

Emerson’s snapshot from distance took a deflection off Davis to go wide of the far post, but Northern Ireland also threatened with a counter-attack as Stuart Dallas drilled off target from the edge of the box.

In fact, the hosts nearly won it in stoppages when Donnarumma was caught in no man’s land by Connor Washington, but Leonardo Bonucci got back for a goal-line clearance.

Northern Ireland 0-0 Italy

45 Comments on “Northern Ireland 0-0 Italy: Play-Offs needed for World Cup”

  1. Useless better off if this team don’t even go to the World Cup. Absolute rubbish can’t believe this team has not got one decent striker. No talent at all.

  2. repate of 2018 is coming. Can’t put the ball in the back of the net right now. Hopefully we don’t draw Sweden, Portugual or Poland.

  3. Can anyone explain to me the logic behind a short corner?

    A professional football player has a free cross without any pressure from the byline, the attacking players can’t be offside and can time their runs perfectly in anticipation of the cross.

    Why would a team give that up for a short corner?

    And then in contrast when a team has a deep free kick from a central angle that is impossible to score from then they lump it forward.

    I don’t understand.

  4. Deserved playoffs with their record this qualifying. One of worst qualifications ever by team. Disappointing to say the least. Feast or famine with this team unfortunately.

  5. Guys, I know everything looks extremely bad right now, but maybe this is a blessing in disguise. Maybe this is the slap in the face italy need to rediscover their form. When we didn’t qualify for the World Cup, if you would of told me 3 years from now they would win the euros, I would of said you was pazzo. Non the less, no excuse what so ever. The lads played horrible. Should of had the last few games in the bag, but that’s how football is sometimes. Forza Italia

  6. The penalty miss last game killed us. To be there one second and then not the next was a hammer blow. It showed tonight because we were flat. We score early and the pressure is piled on the Swiss. I bet they can’t believe their luck – two pens against and two misses. The odd thing is we played well in those drawn games but tonight was dreadful. So, so flat. I hope for a lucky draw. Maybe we can exorcise some demons along the way.

  7. well, in the end Jorginho’s penalty misses has cost us first spot in the group and automatic qualification. If Jorginho has any decency, he will not volunteer to take another penalty for Italy again. Simply inexcusable to miss 3 in a row – and he almost cost us the euro final.
    All that being said, missed auto qualification rests on Mancini’s shoulders. Italy has become stale and too predictable. They have not played with any verve since the Bulgaria game. He needs to find a striker and be more flexible in his formations – 4-3-3 does not always work and if you stick to one system rigidly, like the Dutch have for 60 years, you will come undone at some point.

  8. Chiesa is the last Azzurri striker to score in open play. That was the spain game in the Euro Semifinal. since then no Italian striker has put the ball in the back of the net. I don’t think we go through, no matter who we draw. Mancini needs to pull a rabbit out of his hat & shake things up IF gli azzurri are going to go through. Personally, I think we draw Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo does what no Azzurri Striker (in 5 or 6 matches) has done. . . Score consistently.

  9. To all Italy fans, sorry to say with this kind of performance Italy dont have any chance in playoffs.

    And this year playoffs is more difficult compared to last edition.

  10. The situation of Italy is about the moment a team Stops to create and innovate. Reliance and over-trust on a group will surely come at a cost… given a situation of injuries, absentees, lack of form etc.

    Mr. Mancini should revive the hunger and recreate with innovations.

    Surely Qatar is achievable.

    NB: Many amongst his wards that won the Euros have drastically depleted in form.

  11. Portugal, Sweden and italy will be seeded. Scotland and Poland will be a tough draw for Italy. I can’t imagine italy miss out again… the world needs Italy in Qatar.

  12. Italy, I wait this team in the Doha.
    I am fan Russia team and I not happy see Italy in play off.
    I am memory 1997 year and play off WC98.

  13. Big difference when you get the team together for a month before a tournament, then to when you get the players a week before two important matches. Not to mention when you have several players walk out because of last minute injuries. Mancini’s coaching style is much more suited to tournaments, where there is more time for preparations. The individual talent of the players just isn’t there, and Mancini just doesn’t have enough time to get these players ready. If he has just one proven goal scorer Italy would have walked this qualifying. How this country hasn’t produced a strong scoring center forward for the National Team in almost 15 years is staggering.

  14. Time to trust players based on form not on club….What happened to Destro,Dimarco..he should sometimes change formation

  15. “The comments are still not loading, they have crashed the system. Might be a good thing, frankly.”

    Careful everyone. You have to enjoy your meal even if it’s a knock-off pot noodle, and even if it gives you the runs. Otherwise you will offend someones delicate sensibiities and will be mischaracterized and lord knows what else.

    FI, the majority of fans here judge the Azzurri on a game-by-game basis, and right now and pretty much since the Euros, we have been objectively mediocre – we were even fortunate to beat a reserve Belgium side in the Nation’s League. The fans should be allowed to voice their displeasure, and should not have to put up with such sanctimony from yourselves. Stop conflating passion with hate.

    @Maldini’s Heir. I could not agree more. Just smash the damn thing in there with lots of swerve; in and out swingers, bend it under the bar….. Anything but those powder-puff short corners.

  16. Mancini has to take load of the blame. He should have taken off Jorghino from penalty duties after 2 misses in a row. He made a big mistake of not starting Chiesa in the away match with Swiss. When anyways we are not scoring with the forwards we have why not try Lucca or give Scamacca a proper chance?? I think Destro and Politano should’ve been given a chance. Team is too predictable and with many players off .. new hungry energetic players should have been brought in. Fratessi??

    I don’t know how the playoffs work but to look from a positive point of view just qualifying after last misses wouldn’t suffice and then go and perform badly in the tournament .. so instead having to work hard to get there .. sorting out all the issues will only be helpful going forward. Very disheartened and upset .. bit still hopeful we’ll qualify 🤞.. Forza Azzurri Sempre 🇮🇹👍👊

  17. As always. Without Verratti, the midfield penetration/creativity is bog average. Then you end up with Chiesa trying to pull some miracle play every time because the rest of the team looks scared.

    Oh and we’re pretty much out of the WC. All the pressure goes on the more fancied team (Italy) in playoffs and when the team is overrated, like the current team, its a recipe for failure.

  18. Aslam you 100% right this team will get trashed by n Macedonia innplayoff . This wasn’t a surprise at all and I even commented yesterday Swiss 4-0 5-0 and it happened .

  19. @Maldini’s heir
    The logic in it tonight, was that there wasn’t much height or a regular striker starting, so they were trying to engineer space for a shot from the edge of the area or a low pull-back from the by-line. They have scored 3 goals from set-pieces recently too. But with Acerbi + Bonucci up there from the back, they could’ve mixed it up a bit. Then when Belotti + Scammaca came on, EVERY corner was swung in. But it was desperation by that point + it’s like they’d run out of ideas.
    Anyway, If FI were really so sensitive to our comment’s, then they wouldn’t publish them here would they? And you can’t say they won’t qualify based off of 1 game! Even with the consistent striker shortage, complacency, injuries, too many not at 100% + small margins going against them, they still had more than enough chances to book it over the entire qualification period! The Jorginho pen’s + the 1-1 home draw with Bulgaria sit top in missed opportunities. That match tonight had Karmic synchronicity written all over it though, with the similar circumstances to 1958. Luckily, they are still in it this time + cycles can be changed. But the reaction to tonight is very important. Because it’s not just the weight of history + pressure but I think a lot of it is psychological too. They look drained. It will seem a long time until March, which will either play on the fans’ + players’ mind’s or give everyone the time to recoup, recover + fathom out what’s not been working. Wail at the Moon tonight or for however many nights, but then the team will need all the uplifting support + positive energy from us that it can get. Forza Azzurri!

  20. In each of the the playoff groups each team will play the other 3 and the number 1 team will play the 4th in one SF and the 2nd vs 3rd in the other SF. So every team has to play atleast 4 matches?? Am I right here??

  21. @House Party Very well put .. your words are like Balm .. much needed! Forza Azzurri .. our team will qualify 👊

  22. @Incredible

    Sweden won’t be seeded, I think. And Italy may not be either. I think the seeding comes down to how many points you got in this qualifiers, so Sweden and Italy are both quite low.

  23. I forgot to add. Life can be difficult + throw up challenging situation’s sometimes + often it depend’s on how we react to disappointment, whether we meet it or give up which decides if we win or lose! We know the talent is there, the Euro’s was proof + they’ve got other options coming through now. Even the U-21 side has an awesome team-sheet in terms of potential. But in this case, the best we can do as fan’s is support them. Forza Azzurri!

  24. hate it when they, La Nazionale totally waste best opportunity to win a MUST WIN game playing best variation of their pedigree, and style-fashion… and in the away / white strip kits no less. would of been magical. instead it always ends up being anti climatic. now its getting close to a very gloom outcome.they have just 2 more chances / games left after failing the last 4 to qualify.
    they will and should be seeded so most likely not meet Portugal Sweden in the draw …but wouldnt that be insane ?

  25. Ferban Italy is seeded I just checked it out on wiki . Sweden is not yet so they may be possible first opponent . If and that a big if they win first game then that where they could get a seeded team like Portugal . So basically they totally screwed and will miss 2nf word of
    Up in row

  26. I’m still extremely proud of this team. The amount of joy I experienced after winning the Euros can never replaced by any failure. Even if we finished dead last I couldn’t be bothered. I knew the win at the Euros was the end of a cycle. We just need to rebuild with younger players. We’ll be back on top, it will just take a few more years. I can remember following Italy since the 1990 WC and we’ve always had ups and downs. It’s not the end of the world not qualifying for the WC (assuming we won’t make it through the qualifiers), even though it hurts. We’ll be back. Forza Azzurri!

  27. Guaranteed we will get the hardest teams in the play-offs. Classic Italy. Nothing is ever easy for us.

  28. Wrote it on here last month ahead of the Switzerland vs Lithuania match that Italy were struggling to qualify and I was dismissed. The warning signs were there but partial arrogance did us in.

    Point totals were only looked at, not Matches Played. Then Switzerland made up their 2 matches in hand and suddenly they are even with us.

    This is a mentally weak team. If they get Sweden, it will weigh on their pretty little heads, be reminded of it, and crumble.

    Get a team like North Macedonia and they will play like crap because their mentality won’t be right.

    Portugal give up nothing to us in terms of players. But their fans absolutely despise Fernando Santos and blame him. Conversely we have a good Coach but problems with the team that may not be solvable by March.

    Portugal is not the team we want to play. Especially since Chiellini and Bonucci always get quoted mentioning Ronaldo. He’ll remember that.

  29. How is the play off seeding based on points obtained in the group games when some groups like that of Italy had 5 teams and thus teams played 8 games, when other groups had 6 teams and thus teams played 10 games? So a team with 10 games and say 15 points and another with 15 points from 8 games, how are they balancing that?

  30. 1) The real issue for me has been the failure of the talented none Euro stars/starters ike Pellegrini, Keane, Zaniolo, Bastoni, Calabria to integrate in the team. They always walk out of the camp “injured” only to see them playing for their clubs at the weekend 3 days later.

    2) The game was played at walking pace. The corners were casual. All passes were towards the back except the odd forward one which was always too long. With that kind of play they could not beat even a team of 80 year olds.

    3) In all honestly, they had no chance yesterday. The two missed penalties vs. the Swiss sealed it. No team goes to NI and wins 3 – 0

    4) With a full flowing Azzurri, only Portugal is a worry in the play offs. And may the Dutch if they fail to make it today. All the other teams are very beatable in one off knock out games – including Sweden.

  31. Agree with Rainbow BALSAMO on most of the points in his post.
    Failure to integrate or be integrated regarding the younger talented players after Euro 21 has been one of the big factors for the team’s stagnation now. Both the manager and his same selected players carry responsibility for the decline in form and intensity in play.
    Mancini was totally correct though when he stated before last night’s match that the key to beat a team like NI would be with quicker, sharper passing and quicker movement in behind the defence with sharper link-ups. He must have told the players the same – and yet we saw mostly the slow build-up with lots of sideways and backwards passing where only Bonucci was trying to play forward diagonal balls and lack of those sharp link-ups and movement in and around the box that were imperative to break down the dour NI with their blocks of defence.
    The team badly missed the input from the likes of Spinazzola, Verratti, even Immobile as he help create more space for Chiesa and Insigne/Berardi up front, and the leadership of Chiellini in the last two crucial group matches. Bastoni, Zaniolo/Pellegrini would have been much better options than Acerbi, Jorginho, Cristante who keep getting picked by Mancini. Tonali is a better option than Jorginho anyway and just needs more confidence from more playing time.

    The hope and some positive for March is that those better players should be available for the playoffs and perhaps some newer blood will be introduced to la Nazionale after that, eg from Under-21 team.

  32. We are all pissed at Jorgihno and for good reason. But this team should have relied on that alone to win. They tied Bulgaria for crying out loud! They win that game and it’s light out for the Swiss. They didn’t play well overall since the Euro victory. Some letdown was inevitable but this is inexcusable. Goal scoring is their biggest weakness followed very closely by their defending (perhaps even equal to their scoring problems). They have no quality world class centre backs to replace Bonucci and Chiellini.
    Additionally, I think it’s safe ti say that Mancini place this part in all of this revealing a bit of stubbornness by playing the same characters in many of those games, such as Emmerson. Calabria and even Zappacosta should have seen the pitch.. Donnarruma was shaken last night on that near goal.

    Very stressful time to be an Azzurri fan.

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