EURO champions Italy fail to reach second-straight World Cup
Italy’s 2022 World Cup qualifying effort just asked its failed 2018 World Cup qualifying run to hold its chianti, as the four-time World Cup champions will not reach the tournament in Qatar.
The EURO 2020 champions lost to North Macedonia in a UEFA World Cup qualifying playoff semifinal when Aleksandar Trajkovski took an inch of space off a stoppage-time goal kick and smashed a dipping effort outside the reach of Gianluigi Donnarumma.
North Macedonia was out-attempted 32-4 but Italy only put five of its shots on target as goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski bailed himself out of an early gaffe to make five saves in the win.
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Domenico Berardi will be haunted by his less-than-100% effort off a Dimitrievski error and Jorginho will be left wondering if his raised hand for offside on Trajkovski’s winner stopped him from getting in the way of the striker’s shot off a bobbled dribble.
North Macedonia can reach the World Cup with a second-successive stunning upset should it take care of Portugal, who beat Turkey 3-1 and will be heavily-favored to win.
Italy finished behind Spain in a tough group for qualifying out of UEFA in 2018 and failed to score over two legs against Sweden in playoff round, but this is even harder to fathom given the nation’s EURO triumph.
Italy finished second to Switzerland in a straightforward five-team group and wasn’t caught looking ahead to a playoff final, as evidenced by their 32 shots. The Azzurri just didn’t score, again, and it’s difficult to imagine a nation as big as Italy would ever miss two-straight World Cups (especially with a team good enough to win EURO).