It was a shocking and disappointing night for Roberto Mancini and the boys as Italy were handed a defeat by North Macedonia in the play-off semi-final. With this result, Italy will be missing out on the FIFA World Cup for the second time in a row.

A defeat for Italy in this stage shows the beauty of this game. Undoubtedly the favourites both on paper and on the pitch, the Azzurri’s were meant to easily pass this test, but they were humbled by the 67th ranked football team.

When the draw was made, everyone was upset with the fact one giant would have to bow out from the tournament. The winner of this fixture was meant to take on either Portugal or Turkey in the play-off final. While we all expected a face-off between Italy and Portugal to be the likely outcome, only one team made could make it through.

Italy Handed Defeat by North Macedonia

A Dominant Display Shadowed by the Giant Killers

Italy were the favourites to lift the 2022 FIFA World Cup at one point given their resurgent form. However, a little slip in the group stage saw them miss out on a direct qualification opportunity. And when Portugal was meant to be their only task to qualify, North Macedonia spoiled it.

Missing out on the 2018 World Cup was a major shock as it was the first time they failed to do so since 1958. But they were resurrected once Roberto Mancini took charge. Italy’s performance from the first day itself showed their aim at getting back into the competition.

One by one, they pounced every opposition and created a new record of 37 match unbeaten streak. This form also helped them become the winners of Euro 2020 by defeating England on their own turf. That run came to an end when Spain defeated them in October 2021.

In the fixture last night, Italy had a staggering 32 shots but were only able to keep it on target five times. Whereas North Macedonia registered two on target out of the total four. The visitors held their ground from constant threats and dealt the blow in the added time when Aleksandar Trajkovski scored the winner.

Roberto Mancini Left Reeling After Italy Were Handed the Defeat

Mancini was the main protagonist in bringing Italy back to its glory. From the perfect month of July to the back to back knockout from the World Cup, it was a rollercoaster of a year for the manager.

“Last summer was the most beautiful joy, now comes the greatest disappointment. It is not easy to think of other things, I am very sorry for the boys: I love them much more tonight than in July.

“I am the coach, I am the first responsible, the boys are not. They have a great future, they are strong players for the future of the national team. We did not deserve this defeat,” a dejected Mancini told the reporters after the embarrassing defeat.

The 57-year-old Italian was further inquired about his future after the outcome, but the manager did not entertain the question in any way as he considered it was not the right time to discuss that.

Main Image Credit Embed from Getty Images