Fans upbeat as Northern Ireland face Switzerland in World Cup play-off

The European play-off draw for the 2018 World Cup in Russia pits Northern Ireland against Switzerland, with the Republic meeting Denmark
The European play-off draw for the 2018 World Cup in Russia pits Northern Ireland against Switzerland, with the Republic meeting Denmark

The World Cup qualifying play-off draw pitting Northern Ireland against Switzerland has gained a largely positive reaction from fans here.

Boxing hero Carl Frampton tweeted that “the Swiss will be crying into their toblerones”, while radio presenter Colin Murray tweeted his relief after the draw was finally made, saying: “Yes! Can do both dates! That was so stressful waiting! Near burst out crying in the street when I saw this!”

The crunch tie will take place across two matches to be played in the middle of next month, the first in Windsor Park on Thursday, November 9 and the second at St Jakob Park in Basel on Sunday, November 12.

After a qualifying campaign taking in a trip to far-flung Azerbaijan, Northern Ireland fans will be glad of the transport options available for the crucial second match in Basel.

Gary McAllister, chairman of the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters’ Clubs, said: “From a travel point of view, along with Denmark, it would probably have been the country of choice for most fans.

“With Italy, we don’t have that information about where the game will be played. With Croatia, your travel options are limited.

“There are good transport links for direct flights into Switzerland and good rail links into Switzerland from neighbouring countries so I think that gives a lot of people extra opportunity to try and get across – if they can get a ticket.”

The demand for tickets is expected to be very high, and the IFA have moved to publish their methods for determining who is entitled – calculated through a loyalty scheme – on their website.

That move was welcomed by Mr McAllister, who said: “A loyalty points system has been put in place by the IFA and a table showing the various numbers of points has been published by them. That is something we have pushed them very hard on.”