Italy suffer further World Cup misery after shock play-off loss to North Macedonia

European champions Italy will sit out the World Cup later this year after a monumental loss to North Macedonia in the play-off semi-final.

After a stubborn defense that held Italy back for long periods of the game in Palermo, the visitors capitalized on stoppage time through Aleksandar Trajkovski’s strike to seal a 1-0 victory.

Hanging on to a kick, Trajkovski brought the ball out from under his feet before unleashing a superb low drive from 25 yards that beat a desperate dive from Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

The goal sparked jubilation as players and coaches from the North Macedonia bench rushed onto the pitch as several Italian players found their heads in their hands.

Nine months after triumphing at Euro 2020, the Azzurri must ponder a shock loss which means they will miss a second consecutive World Cup, having also been absent at the 2018 edition in Russia.

After one of the biggest victories in their history, North Macedonia, who in 67th place in the world were ranked 61 places below Italy, can expect a play-off final against Portugal, who beat Turkey 3-1.

Gareth Bale’s brace helped Wales beat Austria 2-1 while Sweden edged the Czech Republic 1-0 through Robin Quaison’s extra-time winner.

ITALY: Donnarumma, Florenzi, Mancini (Chiellini 90), Bastoni, Emerson Palmieri, Barella (Tonali 77), Jorginho, Verratti, Berardi (Joao Pedro 89), Immobile (Lorenzo Pellegrini 77), Insigne (Raspadori 64).

NORTH MACEDONIA: Dimitrievski, Stefan Ristovski, Velkovski (Ristevski 86), Musliu, Alioski, Ademi (Askovski 59), Churlinov, Nikolov (Spirovski 59), Bardhi, Trajkovski, Milan Ristovski (Miovski 72).

Referee: Clement Turpin (France).

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