European champion in title, Italy is eliminated by North Macedonia and will not play the competition

History repeats itself for Italy. Eliminated in the play-offs in 2017 against Sweden, after a completely dominated second leg, but without scoring, the Italians once again cracked one step away from the World Cup. This time against North Macedonia, on Thursday March 24, with a goal fromAleksandar Trajkovski in stoppage time (90+2º). The Macedonians will face Portugal for a ticket to the Qatar 2022 World Cup

A real earthquake in Palermo, where the match between the Squadra Azzurra and the Macedonians was played. Although Roberto Mancini’s players dominated the entire match, they were surprised in the final seconds of the match by a shot from Aleksandar Trajkovski, who lodged in the side of Gianluigi Donnarumma’s net.

A wink of fate, the Macedonian played for four years at this Renzo Barbera stadium in the colors of Palermo FC. On Thursday, it is he who comes to punish the Italian inefficiency that will have lacked everything offensively.

Domenico Berardi perfectly illustrates this difficulty for the Italians to shake the nets. With four very clear chances to open the scoring, the Sassuolo striker wasted a lot. The shot from him without power from him when Stole Dimitrievski had completely failed in his recovery (30th) is the symbol of this chronic inefficiency that has haunted Italy for several games.

Marco Verratti, disappointed after the elimination of the Italians in the World Cup play-offs, March 24, 2022 in Palermo.  (ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP)

His shot from the entrance to the deflected area (54th), the one over the goal when he had no more defenders in front of him (58th) or his counterattack between the penalty spot and six meters (63rd) will remain in Italian memories. But he is far from being the only culprit in this collective failure as Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile were invisible on the attacking front.

Authors of 42 goals between them in Serie A, they failed to put Stole Dimitrievski in trouble with only five shots on goal in 32 attempts. His inability to put the Macedonian defense at risk from his 16 corners also weighed in the balance.

And yet the Squadra Azzurra had been warned. At the end of the first half, Aleksandar Trajkovski had already tried his luck in a quick transition and had the contribution of Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Also prevented by the two direct confrontations against North Macedonia in the qualifying phase for the 2018 World Cup in which Italy had barely won in Skopje (3-2) and had conceded a draw in Turin (1-1).

Finally, prevented above all by the disenchantment of 2017 in the play-offs against Sweden. After losing the first leg 1-0 to Solna, the Italians had pushed the entire game back to Milan but never found fault despite 75% possession and 26 goals (0-0). A national disaster, at the time, after fourteen consecutive participations since not qualifying in 1958.

This trauma was thought to have occurred with the arrival of Roberto Mancini, his 34-match unbeaten streak and victory at Euro 2021. However, the last two qualifying matches against Switzerland (1-1) and Northern Ireland ( 0-0) who pushed Italy into the dams were sinister birds.

After Russia, the European champions will also not see Qatar in November for the next World Cup. Two editions without the quadruple champions, a first in the history of the Transalpina competition. A new record that Roberto Mancini and his players would have dispensed with.

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