Northern Ireland v Switzerland live stream, Sky Sports, Wednesday 8 September, 7:45pm BST
Northern Ireland must realistically avoid defeat by Switzerland on Wednesday to keep their World Cup dreams alive.
Northern Ireland have not participated at a World Cup since 1986 and are desperate to make it back to the biggest sporting event on earth. They were drawn in a tough qualification group alongside Switzerland and Italy, but victory at Windsor Park would move them into second place in the standings. Ian Baraclough's side beat Lithuania 4-1 last week to take their tally to four points, having previously lost to Italy and drawn 0-0 with Bulgaria.
That second result could come back to haunt Northern Ireland at the end of the campaign, although simply getting close to the top two would be an achievement. Italy are the European champions and have not suffered defeat since October 2018, a stretch which now takes in 36 matches. Switzerland, meanwhile, reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 and have become regular participants at the World Cup.
Northern Ireland warmed up for this match with a 1-0 victory over Estonia in a friendly, with Shane Ferguson grabbing the only goal of the game in the 75th minute. Baraclough's men had only 39 per cent possession in Tallinn and a similar backs-to-the-wall approach could be in store against the more talented Swiss.
Murat Yakin's side performed well in a 0-0 draw with Italy last time out, and that result keeps their hopes of automatic qualification for Qatar 2022 alive. The Swiss are four points behind Italy going into the next round of fixtures, but they have played two games fewer than the European champions.
With Italy expected to comfortably beat Lithuania on Wednesday, Switzerland realistically need to win in Belfast to keep the pressure on. They will again be weakened by the absence of Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka Mario Gavranovic, Loris Benito and Breel Embolo, but Yakin will feel his side still has enough quality to emerge victorious on Wednesday.
Kick-off is at 7:45pm BST and the game is being shown live on Sky Sports Football the UK.
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