Northern Ireland secured a World Cup playoff spot before kicking a ball on Sunday as other results went their way and then lost 1-0 to Norway in Group C after an own goal by Chris Brunt put paid to their chances of being among the seeded second-placed teams.
Scotland’s earlier 2-2 draw with Slovenia allowed Slovakia to finish runners-up in Group F and stay in contention for a playoff spot, while Northern Ireland’s superior record meant their playoff place was secured before kickoff in Oslo.
The home side were looking to end their campaign on a positive note, and a looping high ball from captain Stefan Johansen in the 71st minute forced Brunt’s error as he tried to clear the ball from under the crossbar.
The Northern Irish, currently ranked fifth of the eight playoff teams with the top four being seeded, played plenty of tidy football but despite some late chances the game slipped away.
The Irish finished second in Group C with 19 points from 10 games behind world champions Germany who had a perfect record with 30 points. Czech Republic were third on 15.
Europe’s nine group winners qualify automatically for next year’s 32-team tournament in Russia while the eight best runners-up enter a two-leg playoff for the remaining four berths.