Switzerland vs Northern Ireland - McAuley could be sent into international retirement

Posted Sunday, November 12, 2017 by PA

Gareth McAuley will contemplate international retirement if Northern Ireland fail to beat Switzerland in their World Cup play-off.

McAuley, who turns 38 next month, will win his 76th cap at St Jakob-Park on Sunday when Michael O'Neill's team look to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit from Thursday's encounter in Belfast.

Should they not, and miss out on reaching their first World Cup since 1986, a number of veterans will mull over their Northern Irish futures.

West Brom centre-back McAuley admits his decision may hinge on whether O'Neill remains in charge or is lured away having enhanced his reputation by taking the nation to the brink of back-to-back major tournaments.

"What I do is probably a lot to do with what Michael does and what happens after this campaign - that will have a lot to do with what I decide to do with my future," McAuley said.

"So it's possible Sunday could be my last game.

"You never know. I need to make sure I'm playing regular football to even consider coming away to play international football, and there are obviously other factors involved that will possibly come to light and would be a factor in me deciding what I want to do, but I would like to be available to play.

"Michael gets linked with all the jobs going. It's a difficult one. There will be clubs looking at him, seeing what he has done with us over the last few years. He's had to build that process.

"It's that crystal-ball thing, looking to the future, looking too far ahead and that's not something I've ever really done.

"But it would be a consideration of mine, if Michael was to move on and get a club job, as to what I would do going forward into another qualifying campaign."

Granit Xhaka has told Northern Ireland to stop moaning about the penalty call that has left Switzerland in charge of the tie.

The Northern Irish are still reeling from referee Ovidiu Hategan's decision to point to the spot at Windsor Park on Thursday for a dubious handball against midfielder Corry Evans, with Ricardo Rodriguez converting from 12 yards.

Replays showed O'Neill's men had every right to feel aggrieved as Evans' arm was tucked into his side and Xherdan Shaqiri's shot may have struck his back anyway.

But Arsenal midfielder Xhaka has told Northern Ireland to get over it, saying: "I don't know why it is such a big topic or why there is such a big discussion around it; we should leave it.

"We were the better team and we want to show it again on Sunday and qualify for Russia. We are a good team.

"We are maybe the better team compared to Northern Ireland and on Sunday, with all the support that we will have behind us, we want to make them proud and qualify for the World Cup.

"To discuss the penalty, and whether it was a penalty or not, it is the decision of the referee and not of interest to us.

"It is difficult to play Northern Ireland - defensively they are very strong - but I thought we played a good match from the beginning in Belfast and created a couple of good chances.

"Sunday is a totally different game. Both teams will act differently but I think our victory in Belfast was deserved."

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