World Cup qualifiers: Impressive NI deny Italy a World Cup place with dramatic draw

George Saville
George Saville had an effort superbly saved by Italy keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma in the second half

Northern Ireland produced their best performance of the qualifying campaign to earn a 0-0 draw that denied Italy automatic World Cup qualification.

Substitute Conor Washington almost won it for the hosts in the last minute but his effort was cleared off the line.

Switzerland’s win over Bulgaria means they top Group C and European champions Italy must face a play-off for a place in Qatar.

The draw secured a third-place finish in the table for Ian Baraclough’s men.

Switzerland, who went into Monday night’s final qualifying matches in second place, came through to win the group by hammering Bulgaria 4-0.

An outstanding second-half performance from Northern Ireland in front of a raucous Windsor Park crowd almost delivered a win that would have been one of the biggest giantkilling acts in their history.

George Saville and Stuart Dallas had both gone close with good opportunities before Washington raced on to a long ball in the 90th and beat the outrushing Donnarumma to the ball.

By winning the challenge, the Charlton Athletic striker was through on goal but he failed to catch his left-foot shot cleanly and it allowed Italy captain Leonardo Bonucci to get back and clear off his line.

It had the entire home support on its feet and they were standing again when the full-time whistle sounded to cheer the players off the pitch.

Having said beforehand that he would not think about his international future until after the campaign, home captain Steven Davis savoured the Windsor atmosphere before exiting the pitch.

Roberto Mancini’s Italians, who came into the match ahead of the Swiss on goal difference, must now prepare for a play-off in March, having missed out on the last World Cup by losing a play-off to Sweden.

Evans sublime as well-drilled NI stand firm in first half

The pattern of the match looked to be set in the opening minutes as Italy enjoyed lengthy periods of possession, with a lot crisp one and two-touch passing while looking for the incisive final ball.

A diagonal ball from left to right seemed to be a regular ploy, with Jamal Lewis having to be alive at left-wing-back for the hosts as the visitors looked to get in behind him. Giovanni Di Lorenzo did just that in the eighth minute but his shot on the half volley was superbly saved by Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

As dominant as the visitors were in possession, Northern Ireland’s back five were well drilled and kept their shape well, marshalled superbly by the ever-composed Jonny Evans. The Leicester City centre-half had to make a number of telling interceptions in a back five that looked content to sit deep and thwart the European champions.

A corner routine just before the half hour found Lorenzo Insigne on the edge of the box but his curler was comfortable for Peacock-Farrell, but the Sheffield Wednesday keeper had to make a more difficult save with his feet a few moments later when Federico Chiesa fired in a low effort.

Northern Ireland offered little as an attacking force in the opening 45 minutes, with front two Gavin Whyte and Josh Magennis having to drop deep and help with the defensive effort, but, with manager Baraclough continually barking instructions from the sideline, they earned their level-pegging at the break.

More to follow.


Northern Ireland

Formation 5-3-2

  • 1Peacock-FarrellBooked at 83mins
  • 14Dallas
  • 4Flanagan
  • 5Evans
  • 20Cathcart
  • 3Lewis
  • 16McCann
  • 8Davis
  • 6SavilleSubstituted forEvansat 72′minutes
  • 18WhyteSubstituted forWashingtonat 72′minutes
  • 21MagennisBooked at 57mins


  • 2Bradley
  • 7McGinn
  • 9Washington
  • 10Taylor
  • 11Ferguson
  • 12Hazard
  • 13Evans
  • 15Jones
  • 19Galbraith
  • 22Brown
  • 23Southwood


Formation 4-3-3

  • 21G Donnarumma
  • 2Di Lorenzo
  • 19Bonucci
  • 15Acerbi
  • 13EmersonSubstituted forScamaccaat 80′minutes
  • 6TonaliBooked at 9minsSubstituted forCristanteat 45′minutes
  • 8JorginhoSubstituted forLocatelliat 68′minutes
  • 18BarellaSubstituted forBelottiat 64′minutes
  • 11Berardi
  • 10InsigneSubstituted forBernardeschiat 68′minutes
  • 14Chiesa


  • 1Meret
  • 3Zappacosta
  • 4Ferrari
  • 5Locatelli
  • 7Scamacca
  • 9Belotti
  • 12Pessina
  • 16Cristante
  • 17Cragno
  • 20Bernardeschi
  • 22Raspadori
  • 23Mancini

István Kovács

Match Stats

Live Text

  1. Match ends, Northern Ireland 0, Italy 0.

  2. Second Half ends, Northern Ireland 0, Italy 0.

  3. Foul by Federico Chiesa (Italy).

  4. Josh Magennis (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  5. Foul by Federico Bernardeschi (Italy).

  6. Stuart Dallas (Northern Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  7. Attempt blocked. Conor Washington (Northern Ireland) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

  8. Corner, Italy. Conceded by Steven Davis.

  9. Bryan Cristante (Italy) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  10. Foul by Josh Magennis (Northern Ireland).

  11. Attempt missed. Gianluca Scamacca (Italy) header from the centre of the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Federico Bernardeschi with a cross following a corner.

  12. Corner, Italy. Conceded by Tom Flanagan.

  13. Bryan Cristante (Italy) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  14. Foul by Josh Magennis (Northern Ireland).

  15. Attempt missed. Domenico Berardi (Italy) right footed shot from the right side of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Giovanni Di Lorenzo.

  16. Bailey Peacock-Farrell (Northern Ireland) is shown the yellow card.

  17. Attempt missed. Stuart Dallas (Northern Ireland) right footed shot from the right side of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Jamal Lewis.

  18. Substitution, Italy. Gianluca Scamacca replaces Emerson.

  19. Corner, Italy. Conceded by Steven Davis.

  20. Attempt blocked. Emerson (Italy) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Domenico Berardi.