Rome (AFP) – Italy’s bid to return to the World Cup after eight years away is still in the balance after a late penalty miss from Jorginho led to the European champions drawing 1-1 with Switzerland on Friday.

The Azzurri remain ahead of the Swiss at the top of Group C on goal difference thanks to Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s header which equalised Silvan Widmer’s rocket opener for the away side.

However passage to next year’s tournament to Qatar is far from secure after Chelsea midfielder Jorginho blasted over a spot-kick in the final moments following a VAR check for a foul on Domenico Berardi.

Now the only two sides who can claim the group’s single guaranteed qualifying spot head into their closing fixtures on Monday with it all still to play for.

Roberto Mancini’s side travel to Northern Ireland while Switzerland, who recovered some pride at the Stadio Olimpico after being thumped at the same ground by Italy at Euro 2020, host Bulgaria.

Italy now have to match Switzerland’s result to ensure a place in the World Cup, assuming that Switzerland fail to beat Bulgaria heavily enough to finish the group with the superior goal difference.