BERNE, Switzerland (AP) – Salzburg striker Noah Okafor was rewarded for his Champions League goals with a place in the Swiss squad on Friday for the World Cup qualifiers, including a key game in Italy.
Italy lead Switzerland in the tiebreak on goal difference in Group C of the European qualifiers before playing their penultimate match in Rome next Friday. The winners of the European groups qualify directly for the World Cup in Qatar and the finalists advance to the qualifiers in March.
The only previous international game for Okafor, 21, was in 2019 playing several minutes as a late substitute against England in the UEFA Nations League final.
Okafor is back after scoring twice for Salzburg in a 3-1 Champions League win over Wolfsburg last month.
Switzerland coach Murat Yakin said the former Basel player also impressed for the Under-21 team.
Captain Granit Xhaka is still out with a knee injury while playing for Arsenal against Tottenham.
Xherdan Shaqiri is on track to reach 100 caps for the national team if he plays against Italy and again when Switzerland host Bulgaria three days later.
European champion Italy will complete their program in Northern Ireland on November 15. Italy made the playoffs four years ago and were eliminated by Sweden in two sets to miss the 2018 tournament.
The European qualifiers this time involve three groups of four teams each playing in a one-way semi-final and a final format to decide which three teams will qualify for Qatar.
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