North Macedonia blew the World Cup play-offs in Qatar by knocking Italy out of the semi-final. With a 92nd-minute goal from Trajkovski, from a cross after earning extra time from Miovski, the Macedonians exploited the best chance they could find and leveled a 0-0 draw that seemed etched in the home plate at the Palermo stadium scoreboard. Thus opened the curtain on one of the greatest tragedies in the history of national team football. Italy, four-time world champions and current European champions, have been ruled out of the second consecutive World Cup after attending every edition since 1958. Now North Macedonia, who have never attended a final phase, will play the ticket for their game. -off next Tuesday with Portugal, who beat Turkey (3-1) in Porto.
Gianluigi Donnarumma, Emerson, Alessandro Bastoni, Gianluca Mancini (Chiellini, min. 89), Florenzi, Verratti, Jorginho, Barella (Sandro Tonali, min. 76), Berardi (João Pedro, min. 88), Insigne (Giacomo Raspadori, min. . . . 63) and Motionless (Lorenzo Pellegrini, min. 76)
Dimitrievski, Ristovski, Musliu, Velkovski (Ristevski, min. 85), Alioski, Churlinov, Ademi (Askovski, min. 58), Boban Nikolov (Spirovski, min. 58), A. Trajkovski, Enis Bardhi and Milan Ristovski (Bojan Miovski , minute 71)
Goals 0-1 mins. 91: A. Trajkovski.
Yellow cards Velkovsky (min. 79)
“Last July, I experienced the greatest glory of my career,” lamented Roberto Mancini, after elimination. “Now I have experienced the greatest disappointment.” The Italian coach was the author of the resurgence that took the team from depression, after being sidelined from the World Cup in Russia in 2018, to the top step of the podium with the conquest of the Championship of Europe at Wembley. Along the way, Italy completed a football revolution. By inhibiting the old procedures of catenaccio and counter-attack, Mancini convinced his players that the path to success lay through elaborate play from the first to the last quarter of the pitch. To complete this countercultural feat, the coaching staff had to endure the erosion of much of the calcium industry, resistant to change from the start.
Portugal were preparing to face Italy in what was shaping up to be the big duel of the European qualifiers. Porto’s match next Tuesday was announced as a final, the result of which would inevitably be cruel. But the drama precipitated much earlier. Italy, weighed down by the injury of Chiesa, the poor form of Chiellini and Bonucci and the inconsistency of Verratti, did not shine in Palermo.
Seized by an unbearable environmental pressure, dazed by the idea of failure, the Italian players neither pushed with determination nor enjoyed lucidity in traffic, nor imagined anything worthy of a good attack in the rain of crosses that he unleashed on the heavy infantry of the Macedonian defense, always victorious in direct action against the powerful Ciro Immobile. They dominated. Yes, they sent the stat dimension, which said 32 shots for four against. But without playing well. Doing everything in a rushed way that over the minutes only revealed a lack of confidence. The conditions for the accident were ready when Trajkovski, in the explosion of any counterattack, sang a goal at minute 92. Even the stretch of the long Donnarumma did not interrupt the low trajectory of the ball towards the far post .
“Football is like that,” Mancini said. “Sometimes incredible things happen. I find it difficult to analyze this game. The victory at the Euro is deserved. The fortune that accompanied us turned into total bad luck. We shouldn’t have come to this. I don’t know what will happen to my future. Now the disappointment is too great.
The draw against Switzerland, in the last match of the regular qualifying phase, directly qualified the Swiss and condemned the Italians to the torture of a new barrage. “I’ll never forget the two penalties I missed,” said Jorginho as he left the Palermo stadium, referring to missed shots against Switzerland in Basel (0-0) and Rome (1-1); “I regret not having been able to help the team”.
“We have to ask ourselves a lot of questions,” stammered Marco Verratti. “It didn’t go well. That Trajkovski goal was a crazy nightmare.”
The psychological pressure allied with the Macedonians and defeated the Italian players, European champions in the summer and unable at the end of winter to overcome the fear of repeating the failure of 2018.
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