After Aleksandar Trajkovski’s stoppage-time goal gave North Macedonia a shock 1-0 victory at Renzo Barbera, Italy will miss the World Cup for the second time in three years.
The European champions will not go for glory in Qatar this year after suffering their first World Cup qualifying defeat on home soil. They also failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia.
Roberto Mancini’s team dominated the game, but in a dramatic finish, they were punished for their lack of cutting edge.
North Macedonia’s hero was Trajkovski, who beat Gianluigi Donnarumma in the second minute of stoppage time to set up a battle with Portugal for a spot in the World Cup.
Within the first 15 minutes, the Azzurri had nearly three-quarters of the possession, but the North Macedonian defense held firm with numerous key blocks to hold their opponents at away.
As the visitors attempted to play out from the back, Stole Dimitrievski miscued his pass straight to Domenico Berardi, virtually undoing their defiance. The goalie, however, recovered to save the Sassuolo forward’s poor attempt.
After sloppy play in the Italian midfield, Alessandro Florenzi performed an inch-perfect sliding challenge to deny Darko Churlinov a shot on goal at the other end.
After the break, Italy continued to threaten. Berardi missed a couple of good chances from the edge of the box, while substitute Giacomo Raspadori nearly missed the target.
The game appeared to be going for extra time when Trajkovski received the ball in the 92nd minute and fired a ferocious long-range attempt that flashed into the far corner, leaving Italy stunned.