WCQ: Italy Vs North Macedonia – Match preview

WCQ: Italy Vs North Macedonia – Match preview

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22 Mar 2022
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Italy vs North Macedonia

The reigning European champions expected much better, but the unique atmosphere at the Stadio Renzo Barbera in Palermo will surely aid the ‘Azzurri’ here in their bid to avoid suffering successive World Cup qualification failures for the first time ever.

Italy

Italy face this FIFA World Cup Qualification playoff semi-final after failing to win in four of their last five group stage qualifiers, and subsequently, they finished second behind the less-fancied Switzerland in Group C. The reigning European champions expected much better, but the unique atmosphere at the Stadio Renzo Barbera in Palermo will surely aid the ‘Azzurri’ here in their bid to avoid suffering successive World Cup qualification failures for the first time ever. Having now witnessed his Italian squad net 2 goals in just two of the seven games they have played since the Euro 2020 final last July, coach Roberto Mancini was led to seriously think about calling up controversial maverick striker Mario Balotelli for the first time since 2018. He instead opted for Brazil-born Joao Pedro, who may make his international debut here.

North Macedonia

After their maiden appearance at the European Championship last year, North Macedonia are dreaming of a World Cup debut this winter. They finished in a credible second place behind mighty Germany in World Cup Qualification Group J, but with North Macedonia’s last two encounters against countries currently inside FIFA’s top-11 resulting in defeat by at least a three-goal margin, Blagoja Milevski’s men are clear underdogs. North Macedonia also lost all three of their matches at Euro 2020 last summer, while conceding first in each clash. This suggests that a lack of experience might be decisive, though they did score in both qualification H2Hs for the 2018 World Cup, with the draw seeing them equalise on hostile turf after trailing at half-time.

 

Italy will look to Serie A’s joint-top scorer Ciro Immobile, who has netted four goals in his last six appearances, doing so three times inside the opening 20 minutes. In opposition, Serie A player and North Macedonia star Elif Elmas has seen four of his last six goals arrive after the break. Italy have won their last seven matches held in Palermo!

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