Crystal drop

World Cup qualifiers: Switzerland in Qatar and Italy in the playoffs

Swiss players pose for a photo to celebrate the match’s victory and 2022 World Cup qualification in Qatar.
Image credit: Reuters

Lucerne, Switzerland: Swiss forward Noah Okafor scored his first international goal by beating Bulgaria 4-0 to seal a place at next year’s World Cup in Qatar as Group C winner.

Ruben Vargas, Cedric Itten and Remo Freuler were also on track for the hosts as they rose to 18 points in eight matches, two points ahead of European champion Italy.

The Italians were held in check by a 0-0 draw against Northern Ireland and are now scheduled to make the March qualifiers.

Switzerland qualified for a fifth consecutive World Cup in a way, having also touched the post twice and having two goals ruled out for offside as they made their way through the Bulgarian defense with ease.

It was a special night for Swiss captain Xherdan Shaqiri, who marked his 100th appearance with an excellent performance, rolling the ball as he prepared for the home side’s opener.

“It’s like a dream for me in my 100th game for Switzerland,” an enthusiastic Shaqiri told reporters. “I have to give the team a big compliment. We believed in it, we entered this match with confidence. Rarely has a day been so beautiful.

Okafor came closer when he hit the post and the ball rolled agonizingly down the goal line before being cleared.

But the 21-year-old was able to score his first international goal when Shaqiri’s cross provided a free header from six yards.

Shaqiri almost doubled the advantage by hitting the post at close range.

Mario Gavranovic passed for Vargas and Vargas exploded the ball into the net to make it 2-0 in the 57th minute.

The home side had two goals ruled out for offside in quick succession, before Itten scored a third, and the rout was complete when Freuler passed the ball past Bulgarian goalkeeper Ivan Karadzhov from the edge of the box. .

“We also have to thank (coach) Murat Yakin,” Shaqiri said. “It was not easy for him to follow in Vladimir Petkovic’s footsteps. He did a great job, the team is in excellent shape. It’s fun to play with this team.

“There were a lot of players missing, it would be nice if everyone could be there… we are all going to Qatar together!


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