Michael O'Neill: Northern Ireland run an 'amazing achievement'

Switzerland draw with N. Ireland to reach fourth straight World cup finals

Three days after being on the wrong end of one of the most high-profile refereeing decisions in recent times, Northern Ireland drew 0-0 in Basle, meaning Switzerland qualified for Russian Federation with a 1-0 aggregate win.

A controversial Ricardo Rodriguez penalty in the first leg ultimately proved the difference between the two sides in the end, leaving a bitter taste in O'Neill's mouth as Norn Iron's wait for a fourth World Cup finals appearance goes on.

O'Neill, who wouldn't be drawn on his own future, was quick to point to the gulf between the two sides and what that said about his team's character and spirit.

"It would have been..."

There were chances at both ends and Northern Ireland went close to equalising late on.

O'Neill admitted that some of his long-serving players like Gareth McAuley, Aaron Hughes and Chris Brunt, could now call time on their global careers. Within minutes every player on the pitch was soaked in mud and there was always something slightly lower league about this duel to get into the biggest show on earth.

Northern Ireland came to Basel with aggression in its play that had been strangely lacking in the home leg.

"We have to be more clinical in front of goal", Petkovic said through a translator.

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"I think we are a good team and maybe a better team when compared to Northern Ireland".

In the first of four stoppage-time minutes, Evans rose at the far post to meet a cross that goalkeeper Yann Sommer misjudged to leave himself stranded.

"We will take it match by match, opponent by opponent and we're not setting any limits".

Rodriguez moved across the goalmouth toward the post and hooked the ball clear as he fell backward into the goal.

Northern Ireland saw their World Cup dream die in Basel on Sunday evening, though it was a controversial penalty three days earlier that ultimately sent Switzerland through to Russian Federation. "It could be even to the final", said Petkovic, who should have his best players at their peak in Russian Federation.

Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka has taken aim at Northern Ireland's players.

All three now have at least 50 worldwide appearances.

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