Aleksandar Trajkovski played the hero for North Macedonia, scoring the game-winning goal during the 92nd minute. Entering the match, North Macedonia closed as +1700 underdogs per Caesars Sportsbook. It will face Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo in the UEFA playoff finals on March 29. North Macedonia is the first team to win road games in competitive fixtures against Germany and Italy, per ESPN Stats & Information. The squad defeated Germany less than a year ago on March 31, 2021.
Thursday's loss ends an unblemished home record in World Cup qualifiers for Italy. Before the game, the team was 48-0-11 in such contests. It's also the second consecutive World Cup miss for Italy, the first time this has ever happened for the Azzurri. It joins Czechoslovakia (1978), Denmark (1994) and Greece (2006) as the only reigning Euro champions to miss the following World Cup.
After North Macedonia's stunning upset, stars and teams took to social media with their reactions:
💔— GIUSEPPE ROSSI (@GiuseppeRossi22) March 24, 2022
Italy not being in the World Cup seems weird to say the least 😟— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) March 24, 2022
For Italy to go from being European Champions to not even making the final playoff stage is an almighty and devastating fall.— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) March 24, 2022
Good thing they're expanding the World Cup to 48 teams in 2026.— Jimmy Conrad (@JimmyConrad) March 24, 2022
Don't want Italy to miss it again!
Verratti was devastated after Italy's loss 🥺 pic.twitter.com/tqWonSifKx— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 24, 2022