Italy vs North Macedonia
The stakes are at an all-time high for Italy as they entertain North Macedonia in a must-win Euro 2024 qualifier at the Stadio Olimpico.
Missing out on back-to-back major tournaments would be a disaster of epic proportions for the nation that won the European Championship title only two years ago. However, that’s Italy’s reality going into the penultimate round of Euro 2024 qualifying as they sit three points adrift of Group C runners-up Ukraine, albeit with a game in hand. Italy’s superior H2H record after a 2-1 win on home turf means a victory in this fixture would put them in the driver’s seat ahead of the final round’s ‘make or break’ H2H. Yet, beating North Macedonia has proved tricky for the Italians as they’ve gone winless in their last three H2Hs (D2, L1), including a 1-1 draw in Skopje on Luciano Spalletti’s touchline debut in September. On the upside, since losing 2-1 to England in their first Group C outing at home, ‘Gli Azzurri’ have won both subsequent home outings.
On the other hand, North Macedonia inflicted national pain on Italy when they eked out a 1-0 win in Palermo in the 2022 World Cup qualifying playoffs last year. While they can add insult to injury here, not even a victory would suffice to get their bid to reach a major tournament for only the second time as an independent country after falling six points behind Ukraine. Blagoja Milevski’s men have lost three of their last five Euro qualifiers (W1, D1), including a disastrous 7-0 defeat to England on the road. That result forms part of Stole Dimitrievski’s poor run of 11 international outings without a clean sheet since fending off Italy in the abovementioned playoff match. Scoring has been another problem for the visitors. Except for their wins over Malta, they’ve netted just three goals in their four remaining games in this qualifying cycle.