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Northern Ireland’s Michael O’Neill laments cruelty of first-leg penalty

• Referee’s decision ‘means we are missing chance to go to World Cup’
• Manager deflects questions about his international future

Michael O’Neill condemned the “cruelty” of Northern Ireland’s World Cup play-off defeat by Switzerland after they were ultimately denied a place in Russia by the controversial first-leg penalty. The Northern Ireland manager also insisted it was too soon to say whether elimination marked the end of an era for himself and several senior players.

Northern Ireland produced a vastly improved performance in Basel but a goalless draw sent Switzerland through to a fourth consecutive World Cup finals thanks to Ricardo Rodríguez’s penalty in Belfast. Rodríguez was also on hand to clear a Jonny Evans header off the line in stoppage time in the second leg, increasing Northern Ireland’s torment.

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