European champions Italy miss out on second consecutive World Cup as North Macedonia secures monumental win
European minnows set to face Portugal in playoff final
North Macedonia secured the biggest result in their history as they denied European Champions Italy a place at the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup following a 1-0 win at the Stadio Renzo Barbora in Palermo.
North Macedonia reached the playoffs for the World Cup after they finished second in their qualifying group behind Germany, who they famously defeated this time last year.
Italy finished second behind Switzerland in their own group to reach the playoffs despite having won Euro 2020 only months earlier.
The Italians were without first-choice central defensive pairing of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, with Gianluca Mancini and Alessandro Bastoni starting for the Azzurri instead.
North Macedonia were on the back foot for most of the match, but Italy struggled to create clear-cut chances despite having Jorginho, Nicolo Barella and Marco Verratti in midfield.
With the match seemingly destined to go on to extra time, North Macedonia pulled off the impossible through former Chelsea trialist Aleksandar Trajkovski in the second of five added minutes.
A hopeful punt of a goalkick from goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski was headed on by Bojan Miovski for Trajkovski to pick up the ball and lash it from all of 20 yards into the far corner of Gianluigi Donnarumma’s goal, sparking wild celebrations from the away fans and players.
Italy will now miss the 2022 edition of the Mundial in Qatar after they missed the 2018 edition, as well. The European giants have now missed out on consecutive FIFA World Cup tournaments for the first time in their history.
North Macedonia will now face 2016 European champions Portugal, who made light work of Turkey with a 3-1 win in their semi-final in Porto, in the final on March 29th to determine who qualifies for the World Cup.