16 Nov 2021

Italy miss out on automatic spot at World Cup

11:56 am on 16 November 2021

European champions Italy missed out on automatic qualification for next year's FIFA World Cup in Qatar after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Northern Ireland in Belfast.

Italian footballer Domenico Berardi.

Domenico Berardi Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Switzerland won 4-0 against Bulgaria meaning they finish top of Group C with 18 points ahead of Italy on 16.

The Italians have to settle for second place and a playoff spot, four months after their Euro 2020 triumph.

Italy will now be a part of a twelve team playoff system that will determine the three European teams that will join the ten groups winners.

The playoffs do not hold fond memories for Italy, who failed to make the 2018 World Cup after losing to Sweden over two legs.

"We can't do anything about it now, we have this game in March and will try to give our best," Italy coach Roberto Mancini said.

"At the moment we are struggling to score goals, despite dominating possession. Northern Ireland put everyone in defence and we struggle to break sides like that down."

Italy go into the March playoffs despite finishing their World Cup qualification campaign unbeaten -- four draws since their Euro 2020 success being their downfall.

Switzerland qualified for a fifth successive World Cup in some style, having also hit the post twice and had two goals ruled out for offside as they cut through the Bulgarian defence with ease.

It was a special night for Swiss captain Xherdan Shaqiri, who marked his 100th appearance with an excellent performance, getting the ball rolling by setting up the home side's opener.

Harry Kane (England)

Harry Kane Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Harry Kane scored four goals in England's 10-0 demolition of San Marino to finish top of Group I.

Poland finished second in the group despite a 2-1 loss to Hungary.

Scotland scored a 2-0 win over Denmark in Group F to secure home advantage in the playoffs as they handed the Danes their only defeat of the campaign in front of a packed Hampden Park.

Denmark had already secured their spot in next year's finals by topping the group after reeling off nine straight wins.