EUROPEAN champions Italy will miss their second World Cup in a row after being stunned by minnows North Macedonia.
The four-time world champs crashed out in injury time when Alexsandar Trajkovski beat Gianluigi Donnarumma with a superb long-range winner.
The world’s 65th-ranked team North Macedonia show what the huge upset meansCredit: Getty
Alessandro Bastoni and Co can’t believe it as North Macedonia reach the World Cup finalsCredit: Reuters
It also surely means Cristiano Ronaldo is a huge step closer to reaching the finals as his Portugal side now await the victors in the battle for a place at Qatar.
Italy boss Roberto Mancini was left frustrated on the touchline as the Azzurri failed to make a breakthrough despite having THIRTY TWO shots on goal in Palermo.
Macedonia showed they had the balls to stand up to the Italians — quite literally — after Visar Musliu blocked Domenico Berardi’s volley off the line with his private parts.
And with their backs to the wall, the visitors showed the same grit which saw them reach last summer’s Euros by defending for 90 minutes.
Berardi blasted over the bar while Lorenzo Pellegrini fizzed another effort across goal.
The Italians were getting worried — and even blared their national anthem mid-game to inspire the crowd and the players.
Mancini even decided to bring on Giorgio Chiellini to shore up the defence before extra-time.
But the veteran was helpless as Trajkovski left the whole of Italy in shock.
The forward — who plays his club football in Saudi Arabia for Al-Fayha — picked up a loose ball after Chelsea midfielder Jorginho missed a header and drove into Italy’s half before firing into the bottom corner.
It left Italy feeling the same shame they felt back in 2017 when they lost a play-off to Sweden and failed to reach the 2018 finals in Russia.
‘Distraught’ Chiellini told RAI Sport: “It’s difficult to explain.
“I think we again had a good game and just didn’t score the goal.
Attacker Alexsandar Trajkovski, who plays for Saudi club Al-Fayha, thumps the most important goal of his career to KO ItalyCredit: Getty
Italy’s Marco Verratti shows the pain as North Macedonia celebrate a famous winCredit: Reuters
North Macedonia winger Alexsandar Trajkovski was the stunning late heroCredit: Getty
“I don’t think anyone can say we were presumptuous.
“We made mistakes from September to now and paid for them.
“I am proud of my teammates and this group, clearly we are distraught, we have to get restart. A large void is now within us.”
Now Macedonia are dreaming of their first World Cup after only being formed in 1991.
The minnows will have to do it the hard way though — as they must travel to Portugal for their play-off final on Tuesday.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s men squeezed through against Turkey in the other semi.
The star-studded Portugal side won 3-1 but it was a lot tighter than the scoreline suggested.