Switzerland wins to set up WCQ showdown with Italy
VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Switzerland set up a World Cup qualifying showdown game with Italy by beating Lithuania 4-0 on Tuesday.
The win lifted Switzerland level on points with Italy ahead of the last two rounds next month — starting with their meeting in Rome on Nov. 12.
Italy is top because its goal difference is two better than the Swiss, who got their biggest win in qualifying Tuesday 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 halftime in Lithuania. Substitute Mario Gavranovic got the fourth goal deep in second-half stoppage time.
European champion Italy aims to return to the World Cup after failing to qualify for the 2018 edition.
Italy hosts the Swiss before traveling to Northern Ireland three days later. Switzerland completes its program at home to Bulgaria which it beat 3-1 in Sofia in March.
Two second-half goals by Todor Nedelev helped Bulgaria beat Northern Ireland 2-1 on Tuesday, hours after its soccer federation’s election restored Borislav Mihaylov as president almost two years after he resigned.
Mihaylov, who was goalkeeper in Bulgaria’s 1994 World Cup semifinalist team, beat candidates including former Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov.
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