Blerim Dzemaili - Switzerland - Celebrates victory with fist pump
REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

International roundup: Dzemaili helps Swiss win, Nikolic scores for Hungary

Switzerland took a big step to reaching the 2018 World Cup on Thursday, and Montreal Impact midfielder Blerim Dzemaili played a part.

The Swiss defeated Northern Ireland 1-0 in Belfast in the first leg of the teams' UEFA playoff for next year's World Cup. Ricardo Rodriguez scored a second-half penalty to give Switzerland an advantage ahead of the second leg on Sunday in Basel.

Dzemaili started and played 83 minutes for the visitors, while setting up two near-misses for the Swiss before the go-ahead penalty was awarded.

In other action involving MLS players on Thursday, Panama lost 2-1 in a friendly against Iran in Graz, Austria. Armando Cooper (Toronto FC) started for the World Cup-bound Central Americans, while Michael Murillo and Fidel Escobar (both New York Red Bulls) came off the bench in the match. Panama will play another friendly in Europe on Tuesday against Wales.

Finally, three MLSers were involved in a friendly between Luxembourg and Hungary on Thursday in Luxembourg City that ended in a rather surprising 2-1 win for the host country.

MLS Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic (Chicago Fire) tied up the score in the 18th minute for Hungary, but a red card early in the second half for the visitors doomed their hopes of winning. Krisztian Nemeth (New England Revolution) started and played 63 minutes for Hungary, while Zoltan Stieber (D.C. United) came off the bench to play the final seven minutes for the Central European country.