Italy, Switzerland set for World Cup qualifying clash
VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP):
Switzerland set up a World Cup qualifying showdown game with Italy by beating Lithuania 4-0 yesterday.
The win lifted Switzerland level on points with Italy ahead of the last two rounds next month — starting with their meeting in Rome on November 12.
Italy are top because their goal difference is two better than the Swiss, who got their biggest win in qualifying yesterday to close the gap. Only the group winner advances directly to the World Cup in Qatar, and the runner-up enters a 12-nation playoffs in March.
Switzerland forward Breel Embolo scored twice either side of Renato Steffen’s lobbed shot in a 14-minute spell just before half-time in Lithuania. Substitute Mario Gavranovic got the fourth goal deep in second-half stoppage time.
European champions Italy aim to return to the World Cup after failing to qualify for the 2018 edition.
Italy host the Swiss before traveling to Northern Ireland three days later. Switzerland completes their programme at home to Bulgaria, which they beat 3-1 in Sofia in March.
Two second-half goals by Todor Nedelev helped Bulgaria beat Northern Ireland 2-1 yesterday, hours after their football federation’s election restored Borislav Mihaylov as president almost two years after he resigned.
Mihaylov, who was goalkeeper in Bulgaria’s 1994 World Cup semi-finalists team, beat candidates including former Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov.