Italy will have to go through the playoffs once again in its bid to reach the World Cup.
Switzerland and England are heading straight to Qatar.
By drawing 0-0 at Northern Ireland, Italy — crowned European champion only four months ago — had to settle for finishing as the runner-up in its European qualifying group behind Switzerland, which beat Bulgaria 4-0.
The Italians also failed to secure automatic qualification for the 2018 World Cup and wound up losing to Sweden in a two-leg playoff for one of the darkest moments in the Azzurri’s soccer history.
This time, they’ll need to get through two one-leg matchups to advance in a newly devised playoff system. The draw takes place on Nov. 26 and Italy will be at home for its first match because it will be a seeded team.
England needed only a point to finish in first place in its group but got a lot more -- a 10-0 win over San Marino for its biggest win in a competitive fixture.
Scotland will be seeded, like Italy, in the playoffs after a 2-0 victory over Group F winner Denmark, whose perfect record in qualifying came to an end.
Poland finished second in England’s group and closed with a 2-1 loss at home to Hungary, and will likely be away in its first match in the playoffs.
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Steve Douglas, The Associated Press