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World Cup qualifying tournament reaching its climax

The lineup of teams at the World Cup in Russia will be confirmed over the next week.

Here’s a look at the two-leg European and intercontinental playoffs matches, as well as how African qualifying is shaping up:

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NORTHERN IRELAND vs. SWITZERLAND

Northern Ireland is within reach of its first World Cup in 32 years after hitting its target of second place in a group won by defending champion Germany.

Switzerland, ranked No. 4 in August, finds itself in a tense playoff despite nine straight wins to start qualifying.

On Monday, Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic was still looking back to the 2-0 loss at Portugal last month, saying he had imagined playing a “nice friendly” game this week. He acknowledged his team was too passive against Portugal, and challenged players he did not identify to take more responsibility now.

The Swiss need to forget about that match before the first leg Thursday at Windsor Park, where only…

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