ROME (AP) — Another missed penalty from Ballon d’Or candidate Jorginho means European champion Italy still has some work to do in order to qualify for the World Cup.
A 1-1 draw with visiting Switzerland on Friday kept Italy atop Group C entering the final round of qualifiers — but only on goal difference.
Silvan Widmer put Switzerland ahead early on with a booming shot from beyond the 18-yard box after being set up by Noah Okafor, who impressed in his first start for the national team.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo equalized for Italy before the break with a brave header to redirect a free kick from Lorenzo Insigne inside a crowded area.
Jorginho had a chance to win it for Italy but blasted a 90th-minute penalty attempt over the bar — after also failing to convert against Switzerland in September, and in Italy’s penalty-shootout victory over England in the Euro 2020 final.
Jorginho abandoned his stutter-step approach after getting befuddled by Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer in their previous encounter. And Italy coach Roberto Mancini was yelling for Federico Chiesa to take the latest spot kick.
“Jorginho is our penalty taker,” said Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci. “Four months ago he scored the decisive (penalty) against Spain (in the Euro 2020 semifinals). It happens to everyone.”
Sommer also made difficult saves to deny Nicolò Barella and Insigne.
Italy, which failed to qualify for the last World Cup following a playoff loss to Sweden, will want to make sure it scores some goals at Northern Ireland on Monday, when Switzerland hosts Bulgaria.
“We’ve simply got to go there and get the job done,” Bonucci said.
Italy and Switzerland each have 15 points to top the group but Italy leads 11-9 on goal difference, which is the first tiebreaker.
Northern Ireland, which beat Lithuania 1-0 in the other group match, is next with eight points. Bulgaria also has eight points, while Lithuania has three.
Only the first-place finisher gets a direct spot into next year’s tournament in Qatar. The second-place team goes into the playoffs in March, needing to advance past two opponents to reach the World Cup.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf
Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.