Italy suffer fresh World Cup misery after shock play-off loss to North Macedonia

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European champions Italy will not feature at the World Cup later this year after a monumental upset defeat to North Macedonia in their play-off semi-final.

After stubborn defending repelled Italy for large spells of the contest in Palermo, the visitors capitalised in stoppage time thanks to Aleksandar Trajkovski’s strike to seal a 1-0 victory.

Latching on to a flick-on, Trajkovski got the ball out from under his feet before unleashing a stunning low drive from 25 yards out that beat the despairing dive of Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

The goal sparked jubilation as players and coaches on the North Macedonia bench rushed on to the pitch as several Italian players were left with their head in their hands.

Nine months on from triumphing at Euro 2020, the Azzurri are left to reflect on a shock loss that means they will miss a second successive World Cup, having also been absent at the 2018 edition in Russia.

After one of the greatest wins in their history, North Macedonia, who at 67th in the world were ranked 61 places below Italy, can look forward to a play-off final against Portugal, who defeated Turkey 3-1.

Gareth Bale’s double helped Wales overcome Austria 2-1 while Sweden edged out the Czech Republic 1-0 courtesy of Robin Quaison’s extra-time winner.