BASEL, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Switzerland full back Ricardo Rodriguez was also eligible to play for Chile and Northern Ireland might have been wishing on Sunday that he had.
For the second time in four days, Rodriguez proved decisive as Switzerland clinched their two-leg playoff tie 1-0 on aggregate.
Having converted the hugely controversial penalty which gave the Swiss a 1-0 win in Belfast on Thursday, Rodriguez made a timely intervention which prevented the tie going into extra time.
Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer failed to cut out a corner, Jonny Evans beat his marker to the ball and headed towards goal only for Rodriguez, born in Zurich to a Spanish father and Chilean mother, to hook it off the line.
The set-ball specialist is one of Europe’s top left backs although he currently finds himself in a struggling AC Milan side and had the misfortune to give away a decisive penalty when they lost the Milan derby last month.
“He had two good games and he was in the right place at the right time,” said Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic, using his words sparingly as usual.
Petkovic said he was proud of his players although he was not so happy when misfiring forward Haris Seferovic was jeered off the field by a section of the home crowd.
“It’s a shame,” said Petkovic. “We should learn from the Northern Ireland supporters who continued supporting there team all the time, even though they were behind.”
“That’s not to say that our fans didn’t support us, but we need their backing for the whole 90 minutes.”
The Swiss players were relieved to have finished a 12-match campaign which featured 10 wins, one draw and a single defeat, away to European champions Portugal in their final group match
“The best moment was the final whistle,” said team captain Stephan Lichtsteiner. Asked to analyse the game, midfielder Granit Xhaka said: “Nobody is interested in how the game went.” (Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Pritha Sarkar)