The champions of the Euro 2020, Italy have been knocked out from World Cup 2022 contention by world number 131 North Macedonia in their play-off matchup in Palermo. The four-time world champions will miss their second consecutive trophy hunt and will be away from the tournament for a span of 12 years now. The Aluzzri failed to qualify in the World Cup qualification as they ended as the runners-up to Switzerland in their group last time.
After completing one of their greatest triumphs, Roberto Mancini’s men entered this game as clear favourites. They started the game on the front foot, and were blessed with an incredible opportunity to get ahead. But North Macedonia keeper Stole Dimitrievski ran out of the goal and cleared the ball. Aluzzri’s Domenico Berardi waited at the edge of the box but could not hit a precise shot to find the back of the net.
The Italians pushed away in the final third but couldn’t penetrate the North Macedonian defence. A similar one-sided toothless attack continued into the second-half as the game was set for penalties. But in the 92nd minute, the unthinkable happened as North Macedonia’s Aleksandar Trajkovski took a right footed shot from outside the box that crashed into the bottom left corner to create history. The former Palermo winger was assisted by Bojan Miovski sinking Aluzzri’s World Cup dreams once again.
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Italian midfielder Jorginho deemed the loss as a ‘huge disappointment. He said, “It is a huge disappointment. It hurts, it hurts so much. We have always created and dominated matches but we have not been able to finish teams off. It is not to blame anyone in particular but it is the reality. I don’t know why we haven’t been able to do this, I am also involved in this, and it hurts me to think about it.”
Veteran defender Leonardo Bonucci was dejected with the loss as he said, “We weren't presumptuous. We made mistakes from September until today and we paid them. I am proud of this team, it is obvious that we are disappointed and destroyed. We have to start again."