Berlin, 25 March 2022 (STATS Perform/dpa/MIA) — Italy will miss out on a second successive World Cup after Aleksandar Trajkovski’s stoppage-time strike gave North Macedonia a sensational 1-0 victory at Renzo Barbera.
Having also failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia, the European champions will not go for glory in Qatar this year after suffering their first World Cup qualifying defeat on home soil.
Roberto Mancini’s side dominated the game, but they were made to pay for their lack of a cutting edge in a dramatic finale.
Trajkovski was North Macedonia’s hero, beating Gianluigi Donnarumma from 25 years in the second minute of stoppage time set up a showdown with Portugal for a place in the World Cup.
The Azzurri enjoyed over three-quarters of the possession inside the opening 15 minutes, but the North Macedonia defense stood firm with several important blocks to keep their opponents at bay.
That defiance was almost undone when Stole Dimitrievski miscued his pass straight to Domenico Berardi as the visitors tried to play out from the back. However, the goalkeeper recovered to keep out the Sassuolo forward’s tame attempt.
Alessandro Florenzi produced an inch-perfect sliding challenge to deny the breaking Darko Churlinov a shot on goal at the other end after sloppy play in the Italian midfield.
Italy continued to threaten after the break. Berardi was off target with a couple of decent opportunities from the edge of the box, while substitute Giacomo Raspadori fired narrowly over.
The game appeared to be heading for extra-time until the ball broke kindly for Trajkovski in the 92nd minute, and the striker unleashed a fierce long-range effort that flashed into the far corner to leave Italy not knowing what had hit them.