European champions Italy will not be at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after they suffered a shock defeat to North Macedonia.
North Macedonia, who have never previously participated at the World Cup, produced a spirited display and prevailed despite Italy having 34 attempts.
Aleksandar Trajkovski scored with a fine finish in the 92nd minute for North Macedonia, who will take on Portugal in the playoff final.
Italy tried their utmost to break the deadlock but their play was too labored at times as they lacked incisiveness.
This is the second time in succession that Italy have failed to qualify for the World Cup and it surely means that some players, such as veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini, will not take part in the tournament again.
Sporting News followed the match live and provided live score updates, commentary.
MORE: What happens if teams are tied after 90 minutes in playoffs?
Italy vs North Macedonia result
goals: MAC – Trajkovski – 90
(All times Eastern)
North Macedonia will face Portugal in the final playoff but they won’t be afraid of anything after this.
Italy may be the European Champions, but they won’t be heading to Qatar. North Macedonia made matters extremely difficult for Roberto Mancini’s side, who had 32 attempts but were unable to score.
95 min: FULL TIME – Italy 0-1 North Macedonia. There are wild celebrations from the North Macedonia players and staff following a major shock. Italy have missed out on the World Cup finals again.
94 min: North Macedonia have done extremely well to restrict Italy’s attacking momentum and they’re continuing to do so in stoppage time. Joao Pedro has a late chance but he can’t connect with it properly.
92 min: incredible. North Macedonia take the lead in added time, with Trajkovski scoring with a superb strike. Are the European Champions Italy going to fail to make the World Cup finals?
88 min: Italy bring on Joao Pedro for his debut as he replaces Berardi. Chiellini is on for the injured Mancini. There will be five added minutes.
83 min: Extra-time is creeping ever closer and North Macedonia are remaining resilient as they look to limit the threat of Italy. Pellegrini sends the ball across the face of goal but he can’t locate a team-mate. North Macedonia bring on Ristevski for Velkovski. Dimitrievski collides with Mancini following a corner.
74 min: It’s a double change for Italy as Tonali replaces Barella and Pellegrini is on for Immobile. North Macedonia deserve a lot of credit for the work they’ve done so far, but will they be able to hold out for extra-time? Raspadori shoots just over. Spirovski is booked for a late challenge.
70 min: Raspadori has been lively since coming on but Italy are finding it difficult to create clear-cut chances now. North Macedonia make a change as Miovski replaces Ristovski.
62 min: North Macedonia appear to be playing with greater flair since the double change, but Italy are still constantly attempting to create openings and Berardi is denied by excellent covering from Alioski. Immobile’s cross almost causes a problem from Dimitrievski.
Italy send on Raspadori in place of Insigne.
58 min: A great opening for Italy as Verratti plays the ball in towards Berardi, but the latter’s effort is disappointing. North Macedonia make a double substitution as Ashkovski and Spirovski replace Ademi and Nikolov.
51 min: Nikolov shoots wide for North Macedonia, who are looking to show a little more attacking threat themselves. At the other end Berardi’s effort is saved.
46 min: The second half is underground. Extra time will follow if the game ends 0-0.
half-time: Italy 0-0 North Macedonia. Italy have dominated proceedings as expected, but North Macedonia have defended diligently and the game is goalless at the break.
45 min: Trajkovski forces a save from Donnarumma, who is finally called into action.
35 min: Immobile takes too long to shoot and his effort ends up being deflected wide. Italy are still yet to break the deadlock, but the pressure is unrelenting. Now Italy appeal for a penalty for a handball. Florenzi makes an excellent challenge to cut out the danger at the other end.
29 min: It’s a terrible mistake from Dimitrievski, who gives the ball straight to Berardi, but the Italy player’s effort lacks conviction. A good opportunity missed.
27 min: North Macedonia are continuing to frustrate Italy, who are still finding it difficult to make the breakthrough. However, North Macedonia haven’t been able to pose much of a threat themselves in an attacking sense. Barella shoots wide for Italy.
19 min: Immobile threatens for Italy but his effort is closed down. North Macedonia are continuing to stand firm as they make life difficult for Roberto Mancini’s side. North Macedonia goalkeeper Dimitrievski struggles to claim the ball following a corner and later suffers a shoulder problem but he is able to continue.
13 min: Italy are getting the ball out wide frequently, with Emerson in particular seeing a lot of possession. North Macedonia have managed to withstand the pressure so far, but how long can they keep it up for?
8 min: Italy are continuing to dominate possession and are playing with confidence, but North Macedonia have defended well so far and don’t appear fazed by the amount of work that they’re having to do at the back.
3 min: Italy have started brightly and the first opportunity of the game sees Emerson shoots over. It’s an early warning sign for North Macedonia, who would have expected to have been on the back foot early on.
1 minute: The game is underground. There is an excellent atmosphere inside the Renzo Barbera stadium in Palermo. The winners of this game will face Portugal or Turkey in the final playoff.
3.43 pm: The national anthems are sung with typical passion, with kick-off rapidly approaching. Will Italy prevail or will North Macedonia be able to spring a major surprise?
3:30 pm: Whatever happens in this match, it bears keeping in mind that kind of run that Mancini’s Italy have been on in last few years:
Italy’s last 40 results in all competitions: @azzurri_en
✅ 31 Wins (77.5%)
🤝 8 Draws
❌ 1 loss
— StatmanJames (@JamesStatman) March 24, 2022
Italy vs. North Macedonia line-ups
There had been suggestions Mario Balotelli could be recalled for the playoffs after an absence of nearly four years, but Cagliari striker Joao Pedro instead won a place in Mancini’s squad.
Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma is back after missing their most recent training camp, as is Chelsea star Jorginho. Veteran centerbacks Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci are sitting out with fitness issues. Juventus star Federico Chiesa is out with a long-term knee injury.
Italian starting line-up (4-3-3): 21-Donnarumma (GK) — 13-Emerson, 23-Bastoni, 19-Mancini, 16-Florenzi — 6-Verratti, 8-Jorginho, 18-Barella — 10-Insigne, 17-Immobile, 11-Berardi
Italian subs (12): 1-Sirigu (GK), 14-Cragno (GK), 3-Chiellini, 15-Acerbi, 2-De Sciglio, 20-Politano, 5-Cristante, 7-Pellegrini, 4-Tonali, 12-Pessina, 12-Raspadori , 9-Joao Pedro
Goran Pandev, North Macedonia’s record goalscorer and formerly of Inter, Lazio and Napoli, will not face Italy after retiring from international football following Euro 2021. Experienced forward Adis Jahovic is out with injury.
Napoli midfielder Eljif Elmas already has five goals in Qatar 2022 qualifying, including two in the 3-1 win over Iceland that secured his side’s playoff spot, but he’s suspended for this game.
North Macedonia line-up (4-4-2): 1-Dimitrievski (GK) — 8-Alioski, 6-Musliu, 14-Velkovski, 13-S. Ristovsky — 16-Nikolov, 10-Bardhi, 5-Ademi, Kostadinov, 11-Churlinov — 9-Trajkovski, 19-M. Ristovsky
North Macedonia subs (12): 22-Shishkovski (GK), 12-Naumovski, 15-Serafimov, 2-Todoroski, 4-Ristevski, 20-Spirovski, 21-Atanasov, 3-Askovski, 17-Ethemi, 7-David Babunski, 23-Miovski, 18- Dorian Babunsky
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.