Italy, The Euro 2020 champions have failed to qualify for the World Cup final two times in a row. After losing to FYR Macedonia with a score 0-1 in the 2022 World Cup European qualifiers round 2 Path C semi-final at the Stadio Renzo Barbera, Palermo.
After failing to beat Sweden four and a half years ago, the Azzurri have been dealt another devastating blow, with the team ultimately paying the price for the home draw against Bulgaria and two missed penalties against Switzerland during the group stage, even if they did remain unbeaten. 90 minutes spent on the attack wasn’t enough for Mancini’s men this evening as they failed to break through the North Macedonian wall and were punished in second-half stoppage time. Eight months on from the triumph at Wembley, we won’t be going to the World Cup, and the tears aren’t those of joy tonight.
The team that took to the pitch at the Stadio Barbera wasn’t the first-choice side from the Euros, with Spinazzola, Chiesa and Di Lorenzo all out through injury. However, seven of the eleven players who started the final against England were in Mancini’s line-up in Palermo. With Bonucci and Chiellini not fit enough to start, Gianluca Mancini partnered Bastoni at the back, while Florenzi and Emerson were selected in the full-back roles. The midfield consisted of Barella, Jorginho and Verratti, with Immobile, Berardi and Insigne forming the forward trio.
North Macedonia lined up in a 4-4-2 formation. The attacking duo up front comprised of Milan Ristovski and former Palermo player Trajkovski.
Right from the get-go, Italy looked to take the game to their opponents, who were happy to sit deep and defend in an attempt to frustrate Mancini’s men. The first effort of the match came from Emerson, who sent his right-footed shot over the bar.
The opening exchanges saw the Azzurri pile on the pressure without, however, finding the required opening. A lot of Italy’s play was going through Marco Verratti, who was linking up well with Insigne on the left flank in a similar fashion to the way they used to under Zeman at Pescara.
On the half-hour mark, the Azzurri came incredibly close to opening the scoring: Dimitrievski presented the ball to Berardi, who, with the goal at his mercy, failed to get enough power behind his shot and sent it into the goalkeeper’s grateful arms. Only one team were attacking, and just a goal was missing. Immobile had a go, as did Insigne, who tested Dimitrievski from distance. In the 39th minute, the visitors almost hit Italy on the counter, but Florenzi made a crucial tackle to deny Churlinov. The Milan defender celebrated as if he’d scored.
At the end of the first half, Milevski’s side had their first shot on target, but Donnarumma had no problems keeping out the attempt from Trajkovski. The thinking at half-time was clear: a goal was needed; otherwise, things could get complicated.
Italy came out for the second half with every intention of getting what they deserved. Berardi was among the liveliest on the field, with the Sassuolo man firing just off target with his left foot and then over the bar moments later after escaping the attentions of Musliu.
North Macedonia were trying to push up the pitch, although they weren’t prepared to leave themselves open. Their attempt to press wasn’t exactly convincing, with the Azzurri continuing to put moves together and threaten.
In the 63rd minute, there was more good work from Verratti, who picked out Berardi, but the latter was thwarted by Alioski’s crucial last-ditch block. Raspadori came on for Insigne and, with just under 15 minutes of normal time left, Immobile and Barella made way for Pellegrini and Tonali, with Raspadori moving into the centre and the Roma man taking up a position on the left. The 22-year-old Sassuolo player came close with an attempt that finished inches over after 79 minutes, while no Italy player was on hand to convert Pellegrini’s ball across the six-yard box six minutes later. In the 90th minute, with extra time probably in his mind, Mancini made another double switch on came Joao Pedro (his Italy debut) and Chiellini for Berardi and Mancini.
But a sucker punch came in stoppage time as Trajkoski let fly from distance to send the guests through to the final, where they’ll play Portugal on Tuesday. There was one final attempt from Joao Pedro, but the ball simply didn’t want to go in. The Azzurri won’t be going to Qatar.
Source : FIGC
Credit Photo : Alberto PIZZOLI/AFP