Despite being reigning European champions, and four-time world champions, Italy haven’t had a good relation with the World Cup over the past few years. The Italians were absent in Russia in 2018, the first time they had failed to reach the World Cup in 60 years, having bowed out at the group stages in 2010 and 2014. And they’re not in Qatar yet either.
Italy returned from their Euro 2020 triumph with five games left to play in World Cup qualifying and their fate in their own hands. But Robert Mancini’s men would win just one of their final five matches, a 5-0 thrashing of Lithuania that was expected. Italy drew with Bulgaria, had two stalemates against Switzerland but still knew a win over Northern Ireland would have been enough in their final game as long as Switzerland didn’t better their scoreline. But, Italy drew while Switzerland beat Bulgaria 4-0, dropping the Azzurri into the play-offs.
A single-legged affair, their opponents are North Macedonia who are still awaiting their first appearance at a World Cup. A relatively new nation in European football, having previously been within Yugoslavia, North Macedonia had their own reasons to celebrate in Euro 2020 – their first ever major tournament. It ended without a point in the group stages, beaten by Netherlands, Austria and Ukraine but it was an appearance that North Macedonia will be hoping to repeat sooner rather than later.
North Macedonia secured their spot in the play-offs after finishing second in Group J behind Germany and one point clear of third-placed Romania, having enjoyed some big wins including a 2-1 victory over Germany in Duisburg. But the winner of this tie still have a difficult game in the final of the play-offs, facing either Portugal or Turkey.
CLICK HERE to claim. 18+ only. *New members. £10 min deposit & bet on sportsbook, placed & settled at 1.5 min odds within 14 days of sign-up. Win part of E/W bets. 2 non-withdrawable £10 Free Bet Tokens: accept in 7 days, valid for 7 days from acceptance (ex. E/Ws & Multiples), stakes not returned. Bet Responsibly. BeGambleAware.org. Full T&Cs apply.
Italy vs North Macedonia: Match Stats
Macedonia are not a bad team but they go into this game as the massive underdogs so will be fighting to control the game wherever they can while also disrupting the Italian’s gameplan. That could lead to some frustration and, despite being one of the best midfielders in the world, Marco Verratti is susceptible to reacting. The Italian has been shown 10 yellow cards in Ligue 1 for PSG this season.
Despite winning Euro 2020, Italy haven’t been too great in front of goal since the start of the tournament last summer. In 14 games, including their Euro 2020 opener against Turkey, Italy have scored more than one goal in a game on just six occasions – though one of those included extra-time. Since beating Belgium 2-1 in the Euro 2020 quarter-finals, just three of Italy’s nine matches have seen over 2.5 goals scored, with four 1-1 draws and two 0-0s.
6 October 2017 – Italy 1-1 North Macedonia – World Cup qualifying
9 October 2016 – North Macedonia 2-3 Italy – World Cup qualifying
This will be just the third time Italy have faced North Macedonia, having previously met in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. The Azzurri won in North Macedonia but drew in Italy and ultimately missed out on a place in Russia, losing to Sweden in the play-offs.