Italy may be the reigning European champions, but they still have to secure their place at this year’s World Cup in Qatar.
Roberto Mancini’s side takes on North Macedonia, who have never previously qualified for the World Cup, in a single-elimination playoff knockout match. The survivor will travel to Portugal or Turkey for another playoff knockout match for a ticket to the World Cup.
Although Italy will undoubtedly be the favorites to prevail in this match, they won’t be able to take anything for granted against a spirited North Macedonia side that pulled off a surprise by even reaching this stage.
Sporting News is following the match live and providing live score updates, commentary.
MORE: What happens if teams are tied after 90 minutes in the playoffs?
Italy vs North Macedonia live score
(All times Eastern)
46 mins: The second half is underway. Extra time will follow if the game ends 0-0.
half-time: Italy 0-0 North Macedonia. Italy have dominated proceedings as expected, but North Macedonia have defended diligently and the game is goalless at the break.
45 minutes: Trajkovski forces a save from Donnarumma, who is finally called into action.
35 minutes: Immobile takes too long to shoot and his effort ends up being deflected wide. Italy are still yet to break the deadlock, but the pressure is unrelenting. Now Italy appeal for a penalty for a handball. Florenzi makes an excellent challenge to cut out the danger at the other end.
29 mins: It’s a terrible mistake from Dimitrievski, who gives the ball straight to Berardi, but the Italy player’s effort lacks conviction. A good opportunity missed.
27 mins: North Macedonia are continuing to frustrate Italy, who are still finding it difficult to make the breakthrough. However, North Macedonia haven’t been able to pose much of a threat themselves in an attacking sense. Barella shoots wide for Italy.
19 mins: Immobile threats for Italy but his effort is closed down. North Macedonia are continuing to stand firm as they make life difficult for Roberto Mancini’s side. North Macedonia goalkeeper Dimitrievski struggles to claim the ball following a corner and later suffers a shoulder problem but he is able to continue.
13 mins: Italy are getting the ball out wide frequently, with Emerson in particular seeing a lot of possession. North Macedonia have managed to withstand the pressure so far, but how long can they keep it up for?
8 mins: Italy are continuing to dominate possession and are playing with confidence, but North Macedonia have defended well so far and don’t appear fazed by the amount of work that they’re having to do at the back.
3 minutes: Italy have started brightly and the first opportunity of the game sees Emerson shoots over. It’s an early warning sign for North Macedonia, who would have expected to have been on the back foot early on.
1 minute: The game is underway. There is an excellent atmosphere inside the Renzo Barbera stadium in Palermo. The winners of this game will face Portugal or Turkey in the playoff final.
3.43 pm: The national anthems are sung with typical passion, with kick-off rapidly approaching. Will Italy prevail or will North Macedonia be able to spring a major surprise?
3:30 pm: Whatever happens in this match, it bears keeping in mind that kind of run that Mancini’s Italy have been on in last few years:
Italy’s last 40 results in all competitions: @Azzurri_En
✅ 31 Wins (77.5%)
🤝 8 Draws
❌ 1 Loss
— StatmanJames (@JamesStatman) March 24, 2022
Italy vs. North Macedonia Lineups
There had been suggestions Mario Balotelli could be recalled for the playoffs after an absence of nearly four years, but Cagliari striker Joao Pedro instead won a place in Mancini’s squad.
Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma is back after missing their most recent training camp, as is Chelsea star Jorginho. Veteran center backs Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci are sitting out with fitness issues. Juventus star Federico Chiesa is out with a long-term knee injury.
Italy starting lineup (4-3-3): 21-Donnarumma (GK) — 13-Emerson, 23-Bastoni, 19-Mancini, 16-Florenzi — 6-Verratti, 8-Jorginho, 18-Barella — 10-Insigne, 17-Immobile, 11-Berardi
Italy subs (12): 1-Sirigu (GK), 14-Cragno (GK), 3-Chiellini, 15-Acerbi, 2-De Sciglio, 20-Politano, 5-Cristante, 7-Pellegrini, 4-Tonali, 12-Pessina, 12-Raspadori , 9-Joao Pedro
Goran Pandev, North Macedonia’s record goalscorer and formerly of Inter, Lazio and Napoli, will not face Italy after retiring from international football following Euro 2021. Experienced forward Adis Jahovic is out with injury.
Napoli midfielder Eljif Elmas already has five goals in Qatar 2022 qualifying, including two in the 3-1 win over Iceland that secured his side’s playoff spot, but he’s suspended for this game.
North Macedonia lineup (4-4-2): 1-Dimitrievski (GK) — 8-Alioski, 6-Musliu, 14-Velkovski, 13-S. Ristovski — 16-Nikolov, 10-Bardhi, 5-Ademi, Kostadinov, 11-Churlinov — 9-Trajkovski, 19-M. Ristovskic
North Macedonia subs (12): 22-Shishkovski (GK), 12-Naumovski, 15-Serafimov, 2-Todoroski, 4-Ristevski, 20-Spirovski, 21-Atanasov, 3-Askovsky, 17-Ethemi, 7-David Babunski, 23-Miovski, 18- Dorian Babunskic
Italy vs North Macedonia betting odds
North Macedonia coach Blagoja Milevski insisted his side would go into the contest without fear, and they certainly proved a troublesome opponent during qualifying for Russia 2018, holding Italy to a 1-1 draw in Turin after a narrow home defeat.
Still, it would be a monumental shock should the four-time world champions fail to progress from this match. They are priced at -525 to win in regular time, and -210 to get a clean sheet (+150 for North Macedonia to score at least a goal).
Sports Interaction (Canada) odds:
DraftKings (USA) odds:
- moneyline: Italy -525 / Draw +650 / North Macedonia +1300
- Spread: Italy -1.5 (-175) / North Macedonia +1.5 (+135)
- Over/Under 2.5 Goals: Over -140 / Under +115
- Both Teams To Score: Yes +180 / No -240