Italy sets record at 36 unbeaten in 0-0 draw at Switzerland

BASEL, Switzerland (AP) — Italy set an international record by extending its unbeaten run to 36 games in a 0-0 draw at Switzerland in a World Cup qualifier on Sunday that saw penalty expert Jorginho miss from the spot again.

The European champion has not lost under coach Robert Mancini for three years now, to pass the 35-game world record shared with Spain (2007-09) and Brazil (1993-96). Some credit Brazil with a 36-game run though one of those games, against Romania, is not officially recognized.

Still, Italy missed a clear opportunity to seize a tighter grip on Group C by failing to beat nearest rival Switzerland three days after being held 1-1 at home to Bulgaria.

Italy has 11 points from five games and leads the five-team group by four from the Swiss, who have played two games fewer. Bulgaria beat Lithuania 1-0 earlier Sunday and trails Italy by six points.

Jorginho’s reputation as one of world soccer’s trickiest spot-kick specialists — deceiving goalkeepers after a slow run and jump — already took a hit by failing in the Euro 2020 final shootout against England.

On Sunday, the newly crowned UEFA men’s player of the year became the latest European star to be outwitted from 12 yards by Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer.

Sommer made a quick stutter step to his right as Jorginho took his trademark hop then shifted to dive to his left and saved easily from a lightly struck kick in the 53rd minute.

The Swiss ’keeper is building quite a record of spot-kick saves — from Kylian Mbappé in the decisive kick of the shootout to eliminate France in the Euro 2020 round of 16, and twice from Sergio Ramos in a Nations League game against Spain last November in the same Basel stadium.

Sommer, who now plays for Borussia Mönchengladbach, returned to the home of his former club Basel to captain his country in the absence of midfielder Granit Xhaka, who missed the game after testing positive for COVID-19 in midweek.

“We’ve had a chaotic week with lots of absences, with lots of injuries,” Sommer said.

Switzerland extended its unbeaten home record to 20 games in the first competitive game for new coach Murat Yakin. He was hired last month to replace Vladimir Petkovic who ended his seven years in charge by leaving to join French club Bordeaux.

Italy next hosts Lithuania on Wednesday. Switzerland is at Northern Ireland on the same day.

Only the group winner advances direct to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The runner-up goes to a 12-team, two-round playoffs bracket in March.

In October, Italy will host the Nations League Finals four-team mini-tournament before the Swiss return to Rome on Nov. 12 for a potentially decisive qualifier.

At Stadio Olimpico in June, Italy beat Switzerland 3-0 in a Euro 2020 group-stage game and fielded 10 of the same starting lineup Sunday.

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