North Macedonia pull off one of the great upsets in World Cup qualifying history by defeating Italy at the Renzo Barbera, knocking the Azzurri out of the competition.
Aleksandar Trajkovski scored the decisive strike for the visitors in stoppage time with a perfect effort on his right foot that beat Gianluigi Donnarumma to hand his side the victory.
Italy pressed all evening but failed to find the back of the net courtesy of brilliant defending from Blagoja Milevski’s men and wasteful finishing from the hosts.
The European champions will not be in Qatar, while North Macedonia advance to the final stage in Path C qualifying.
ITALY (4-3-3): Gianluigi Donnarumma; Alessandro Florenzi, Alessandro Bastoni, Gianluca Mancini, Emerson; Nicolo Barella, Jorginho, Marco Verratti; Domenico Berardi, Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne.
NORTH MACEDONIA (4-4-2): Stole Dimitrievski; Stefan Ristovski, Darko Velkovski, Visar Musliu, Ezgjan Alioski; Darko Churlinov, Arijan Ademi, Enis Bardhi, Boban Nikolov; Aleksandar Trajkovski, Milan Ristovski.
What does it mean? Azzurri makes unwanted history.
Italy has failed to qualify for successive World Cup finals for the first time.
The Azzurri were expecting to cruise through for a showdown with Portugal. Still, they could not break down a stubborn North Macedonia side and paid the price to leave the underdogs celebrating an astonishing win.
Trajkovski does it again.
Trajkovski scored the equaliser when the two sides drew 1-1 in a World Cup qualifier in October 2017.
The 29-year-old made an even more significant impact on this occasion in a game with so much at stake.
He was responsible for all four of his side’s shots on goal, saving his best until last emphatically.
So, what’s next for North Macedonia and Italy?
North Macedonia will take on Portugal in the final Path C qualifying on March 29 in Porto.
Meanwhile, Italy will be left to re-assess after a damaging defeat. Roberto Mancini led them to a historic European Championship triumph last year, but this will leave a lasting mark on his legacy.
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