World Cup qualifiers are continuing tomorrow with several exciting bouts. Let’s have a look at the European groups, specifically Group C featuring Switzerland and Northern Ireland.
Italy is currently leading Group C with 14 points after 6 matches. Switzerland sit in 2nd place with 8 points after 4 matches (meaning two wins could bring them level with Italy). Northern Ireland occupy the 3rd spot in the group with 5 points after 4 matches. Bulgaria also have 5 points, but they played 5 games in comparison to Northern Ireland’s 4, and they are 4th. Lithuania are clearly 5th with 5 losses in 5 matches.
The match between Switzerland and Northern Ireland at Stade de Genève tomorrow will then answer the question – which of the two can take the playoff spot and stay within a reach of the World Cup in Qatar next year.
Both teams already met each other precisely a month ago and the game in Belfast finished with a 0-0 draw. The star of the day and the savior of Northern Ireland was their goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell who managed to save a penalty in the 33rd minute which might as well have been the moment to decide the game.
Switzerland recently appointed a new manager Murat Yakin who has plenty of experience in managing Swiss clubs (from FC Luzern to FC Basel). So far he led the national team to two draws, one of which was the one mentioned above, and the other one was against the current European champions, Italy. Both matches finished with no goals from either side.
He is yet to earn his first win in a competitive bout with Switzerland. Are we going to see one tomorrow? It won’t be easy because he might be missing two crucial players on his team. Swiss captain Granit Xhaka got injured in his last game for Arsenal and could be out for months with a knee injury, and Swiss number one striker Haris Seferovic has muscle problems and his start is also not certain. On the positive note, Lyon winger Xherdan Shaqiri is back to full health and he is certainly going to be a big help to the Swiss offence.
Both teams are solid defensively. Switzerland only conceded a single goal in the 4 matches they have played in the qualification so far, while Northern Ireland conceded 3. Neither of the teams are big on scoring, as their average is only 1 goal per game. We predict a very closely contested match that will be decided by a single goal. As Switzerland are at home this time around, we predict they will win 1-0.