The European Champions, Italy were left shocked after being beaten by Switzerland for Group C top spot, while the Azurri were held goalless at Belfast by Northern Ireland.
Four months after beating England in the final of Euro 2020 and Four years after suffering play-off heartbreak at the hands of Sweden, the Italians surrendered top spot in Group C to Switzerland who qualified with a win at home to Bulgaria.
Switzerland national team will have to thank Northern Ireland for a resolute defensive performance led by the superb Jonny Evans that produced the best result of Ian Baraclough’s reign.
The Northern Ireland team led by manager Barraclough have in four matches not Conceeded at Windsor Park and succeeded in shutting out an injury-hit Italy to end their campaign on a high note.
Italian coach Roberto Mancini spoke more about depression, anxiety, tension and frustration after their last minute penalty miss that denied them victory against Switzerland, but frustration was the overriding emotion as they sought a way through.
The European champions were on a best chance during the 8 minutes of the encounter which arrived when Lorenzo Insigne’s sublime pass picked out Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s run to the back post but his effort was tipped away by Bailey Peacock-Farrell who then dealt comfortably with efforts from Insigne, Nicolo Barella and Federico Chiesa.
Even the Juventus on fire player Federico Chiesa fired wide in the second half and Peacock-Farrell was equal to Domenico Berardi’s free kick.
Barraclough’s men sensed their best chance of game to snatch a famous victory in their history when Gianluigi Donnarumma produced a reflex save to keep out George Saville’s volley, Stuart Dallas was inches away with a 25-yard drive, and Leonardo Bonucci cleared off the line from Conor Washington in the 90th minute.
The 1958 world cup 63 years ago, saw them failing to qualify to after being beaten at Windsor park and now have a second chance this time which they also failed to rewrite history and so, this brought Mancini and his players back to earth with a bump after the high of Euro 2020.