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5 Italy players who underperformed against North Macedonia | 2022 World Cup Qualifiers

Italy v North Macedonia: Knockout Round Play-Offs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Italy v North Macedonia: Knockout Round Play-Offs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
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Sushan Chakraborty

European champions Italy fell to a 1-0 shock defeat against North Macedonia in their 2022 World Cup qualifying play-off semi-final on Thursday night.

Playing at the Renzo Barbera Stadium in Italy, the hosts were expected to cruise home to a comfortable win over the minnows. Unfortunately for the four-time World Cup winners, Macedonia were in no mood to give in to the heavyweights.

In second-half injury time, Aleksander Trajkovski dispatched a stunning right-footed strike from 25 yards out, comprehensively beating Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. His goal ensured a hard-fought win for North Macedonia, sealing their passage to the qualifying play-off final, where they will face Portugal.

The visitors’ gameplay was clear right from the get-go. They surrendered possession to the hosts and focused on keeping things neat and tidy at the back.

The Azzurri flooded the North Macedonian box with crosses inside the opening quarter, but could not force a save out of their keeper Stole Dimitrievski. Just past the half-hour mark, Dimitrievski denied Domenico Berardi and Ciro Immobile in quick succession to keep his side in the game.

More of the same continued in the second half, with the hosts creating one chance after another. Unfortunately, they lacked much-needed sharpness in front of the North Macedonian goal. Berardi went for goal in the 53rd minute, but his effort did not have enough venom to trouble the keeper.

Substitute Lorenzo Pellegrini had a pretty decent chance in the 85th minute, but his indecisiveness kept him from troubling the Macedonian keeper.

With the game creeping towards extra time, former Palermo man Trajkovski broke millions of Italian hearts with a scintillating 25-yard strike. Despite having three Italian defenders in front of him, the 29-year-old somehow managed to dispatch a shot at goal. Donnarumma saw the ball late and could not react in time to save his strike.

The shock elimination means Italy will miss two consecutive World Cups for the first time in their history.

Here are five players who underperformed in Italy's defeat to North Macedonia in the World Cup qualifying play-off semi-final:


#5 Gianluigi Donnarumma

Italy v North Macedonia: Knockout Round Play-Offs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Italy v North Macedonia: Knockout Round Play-Offs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier

The Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper did not have much to do on Thursday night, with North Macedonia rarely threatening his goal.

He faced only two shots last night. He saved one, while the other turned out to be the winner for Macedonia.

Anyways I want apologies from everyone who thought Donnarumma was better than Edouard Mendy, it’s not even close.

A player of Donnarumma’s caliber probably should not have been caught on his heels during a counter-attack. Granted, he might have seen the ball late, but that cannot be an excuse for his slow reaction time.

Holding him responsible for the goal would be a bit too harsh, but we do believe the PSG custodian could have done a little better.


#4 Lorenzo Pellegrini

Italy v North Macedonia: Knockout Round Play-Offs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Italy v North Macedonia: Knockout Round Play-Offs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier

Roma skipper Lorenzo Pellegrini endured a disappointing cameo against North Macedonia.

Introduced in Ciro Immobile’s place in the 77th minute, Pellegrini had a golden opportunity to put his side ahead but failed to make it count.

Pellegrini squares the ball but there’s no one there for the finish. Big chance missed.

In the 85th minute, Emerson Palmeiri played Pellegrini through on goal down the inside-left channel. Failing to decide between a shot and a cross, Pellegrini was caught in two minds and squandered the opportunity.

A player of his quality should certainly have done better in that crucial moment.


#3 Dominico Berardi

Italy v North Macedonia: Knockout Round Play-Offs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Italy v North Macedonia: Knockout Round Play-Offs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier

Dominico Berardi was by far the most menacing Italian forward on the pitch against North Macedonia on Thursday night, always popping up in dangerous areas. Unfortunately, he failed to make the most of the opportunities he created.

In the first half, the Sassuolo star pounced on a rare mistake from Dimitrievski to get himself in a great position. However, his left-footed effort was tame and allowed the keeper to make a simple stop.

In the second half, he cut in from the right-wing to have a go at goal but couldn’t put enough power behind the shot. A minute later, he was played on through once again, only this time, he failed to hit the target altogether.

How did Domenico Berardi miss from there? 😱🤯 https://t.co/V5A7qB8NgD

Before being subbed in the 89th minute, Berardi registered only two shots on target (out of eight attempts), lost possession 24 times, and committed two fouls.


#2 Lorenzo Insigne

Italy v North Macedonia: Knockout Round Play-Offs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Italy v North Macedonia: Knockout Round Play-Offs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier

Napoli legend Lorenzo Insigne was successfully nullified by the North Macedonian defense on Thursday night. He was rarely afforded any space to make a difference and even when he was, the visitors popped up with impressive blocks.

He made Dimitrievski work with a free-kick in the first half, but the strike was not convincing enough to beat him.

Have serious doubts if Insigne is going to be a starter in Toronto FC

Before being subbed off in the 64th minute, Insigne only had one shot on target, lost four duels and ceded possession 20 times.

A disappointing outing from the 30-year-old, who will be joining Major League Soccer outfit Toronto FC at the end of the season.


#1 Ciro Immobile

Italy v North Macedonia: Knockout Round Play-Offs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Italy v North Macedonia: Knockout Round Play-Offs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier

During Italy’s European Championship campaign last summer, Ciro Immobile only scored two goals, with both coming in the group stage.

Despite his lackluster form in front of goal, he played in every knockout fixture, primarily due to his link-up play.

On Thursday night, the Lazio man needed to be his country’s lead performer. He was tasked with penetrating North Macedonia’s defense, both with his creativity and finishing.

Sadly, the 32-year-old striker failed miserably on both fronts. He lacked the pace to run in behind opposition, couldn’t carve open spaces to test the keeper, and struggled to create chances for his teammates.

immobile couldnt even get a shot off here. runs like he is wearing jeans https://t.co/sxDbesa6vb

Before being subbed off in favor of Lorenzo Pellegrini in the 77th minute, Immobile registered only one shot on target (six blocked) and didn’t make a single key pass.

Additionally, he lost possession nine times and won only one of his four duels.


Also Read: Ranking Portugal's 5 best players against Turkey | 2022 World Cup Qualifiers


Edited by Samya Majumdar
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