Italy humiliated by North Macedonia to miss second consecutive World Cup

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Palermo (Italy) (AFP) – Italy will miss their second straight World Cup after suffering a shock 1-0 semi-final loss to North Macedonia on Thursday.

Aleksandar Trajkovski’s weak drive in the second minute of stoppage time stunned the European champions in Palermo and set up a qualifying final with Portugal in Porto on Tuesday to have a shot at Qatar in November.

Roberto Mancini’s side were loudly booed after a loss meaning Italy will have to wait until at least 2026 to see their national team at a World Cup.

At that point, 12 years will have passed since the Azzurri last participated in the biggest football tournament in the world after failing to qualify for the 2018 edition, also collapsing in the play-offs on that occasion.

As expected, Italy dominated play, but as they have in recent matches they struggled to break down a resolute away side and, when they did come with chances, was not clinical enough to grasp them.

The hosts should have been ahead on the half-hour mark when Domenico Berardi received the ball on the edge of the box from goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski.

The Sassuolo winger, who has been in fine form this season for his club, took too long to shoot and hammer his effort into Dimitrievski’s welcoming arms.

It was wave after wave of Italian attacks, but an initially buoyant crowd began to grow frustrated with their inability to carve out a clear scoring opportunity, and it showed in a side that were starting to look desperate. to make the breakthrough.

Those fans were on their feet to hail an Italian hero seven minutes before the break, but it was Alessandro Florenzi who stopped Darko Churlinov from giving North Macedonia a shock lead after taking an excellent goalscoring position.

Berardi watched Italy’s biggest threat and went close three times in the space of five second-half minutes, first hitting a weak shot on Dimitrievski before curling in another seconds later. late.

And the 27-year-old had his head in his hands in the 58th minute when, after spinning beautifully into a shooting chance, he crashed down with his weaker right foot.

He was frustrated again just after the hour mark, this time Ezgjan Alioski throwing himself into a fantastic block after Marco Verratti clipped Berardi with a typically classy ball.

Giacomo Raspadori then smashed a first shot over the bar from the edge of the box and Gianluca Mancini headed a corner over the bar as Italy continued to push but never managed to break their opponents.

And just when the game appeared to be headed for tense extra time, Trajkovski appeared to hit a perfect low kick past Gianluigi Donnarumma and cause another earthquake for Italian football.

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