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Swiss hold out hope for World Cup

Switzerland's Tranquillo Barnetta in action during the match

(Keystone)

Switzerland's crucial World Cup qualifying match with Ireland has ended in a goalless draw, earning the team a place in the playoffs.

The team ended in second position in their group, after France pulled off an astonishing performance to beat Cyprus 4-0 on Wednesday.

Switzerland gained 18 points, putting them equal with Israel, but ahead on goal difference.

France - whom Switzerland held to a 1-1 draw on Saturday - easily won Group 4, qualifying with 20 points. Ireland came fourth.

The result means that the Swiss squad will have to wait for the playoffs for a chance to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The draw will take place on Friday in Zurich.

"Clearly everyone can be proud. The team played football as they should, with heart," said Swiss coach Köbi Kuhn.

"I'm really proud of them, even if it's a bit disappointing, because even 1-0 would have qualified us. But we'll go through in the playoffs."

Missed opportunities

Ireland desperately missed the midfield dominance of Roy Keane and attacking prowess of winger Damien Duff, both out injured.

Ian Harte missed a great chance with an early header, but after that the Irish created few opportunities.

Meanwhile striker Alexander Frei missed Switzerland's best chances - an early header wide and a late run blocked by Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given.

"We're not dead yet... of course it's disappointing," said Swiss captain Johann Vogel.

"We played perfectly in defence. We didn't give them any scoring chances... but then we didn't get through either."

The match, which took place in Dublin, was an emotional one with many local fans booing their team off the field.

Ireland's manager, Brian Kerr, who faces the possible non-renewal of his contract, said that his team had been unlucky.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

European Group 4 rankings: 1. France 2. Switzerland 3. Israel 4. Ireland 5. Cyprus 6. Faroe Islands.
France qualifies, Switzerland go to the playoffs.
These will take place from November 12-16.
Switzerland will face the Czech Republic, Spain or Turkey.
Match draws will take place on Friday in Zurich.

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