World Cup recap: Heartbreak for Norn Iron, Italy on the brink & Ivory Coast exit

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A number of the final World Cup places were decided in an enthralling weekend of international football.

Two of the UEFA spots were determined with the other two on a knife edge, while Africa saw a big-name exit.

We take a look at the big news stories and a look ahead to the play-off second legs.

Swiss edge Northern Ireland in high drama

Northern Ireland’s World Cup odyssey came to an end on Sunday evening in heartbreaking fashion.

Michael O’Neill’s team ultimately exited off the back of a horrendous refereeing decision in the first leg at Windsor Park.

Norn Iron acquitted themselves brilliantly in Basel in the second leg and could have levelled it late. Jonny Evan’s header was cleared off the line in a dramatic finale.

Italy have it all to do after a disastrous 1-0 defeat to Sweden in Solna. The Italians haven’t missed a World Cup since 1958.

The Republic of Ireland managed a comfortable 0-0 draw against Denmark and could qualify for their first finals since 2002.

Ivory Coast exit in high-stakes defeat

There was huge drama in Africa as Ivory Coast met Morocco in a top of the table clash in Abidjan.

Les Elephants needed to win at home to overtake Morocco and qualify in top spot. Herve Renard’s Moroccans needed just a point.

However, the Atlas Lions took all three with a magnificent 2-0 win to stop Ivory Coast making it four World Cup finals in a row.

Elsewhere, Senegal beat South Africa in a 2-0 win to secure their first World Cup finals spot in 16 years.

Tunisia completed the African spots with a point in a 0-0 draw against Libya.

Still all to play for south of the equator

In the other play-off games, Australia managed to bag a draw against Honduras.

Tim Cahill and co. defended solidly to take the Hondurans back to Sydney for the second leg and now have a big chance of qualification.

In the Oceania/South America play-off, Peru stopped New Zealand in Wellington to grab a valuable draw in their first leg encounter.

The Peruvians now head back to Lima and will be ultra confident of a win to book their World Cup finals spot.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Cian Carroll

Starting life as a football columnist for his local paper in Dundalk, Cian has written for a number of media outlets with pieces published in The Birmingham Mail and Spain’s El Mundo Deportivo. A lover of football, GAA, boxing, rugby and MMA, he’s a big Aston Villa and Dundalk fan. He can be regularly spotted on various mountain tops.