Sport

Internationals: Italy’s World Cup dream ends but Ampadu goes on with Wales and Gilmour features in Scotland draw

While Ethan Ampadu’s Wales march on in World Cup qualifying, there was a shock defeat for European champions Italy as the first international action of 2022 got underway with plenty of drama…

Eight months after securing Euro 2020 glory at Wembley, there was heartbreak for Italy as they failed to reach the World Cup finals for the second time in a row following a crushing home defeat at the hands of North Macedonia.

Jorginho and Emerson Palmieri were in the starting line-up for the Azzurri on an incredibly frustrating night in Palermo, with Roberto Mancini’s men dominant throughout but ultimately lacking that cutting edge in attack.

Emerson had the first effort of the game after three minutes but fired over on his right side and that set the tone for an evening of profligacy and pain. They had 15 attempts and nine corners in the first half but rarely troubled Stole Dimitrievski between the posts for North Macedonia

Domenico Berardi fashioned the best opportunity of the first 45 minutes, latching onto a misplaced clearance from Dimitrievski, but his left-footed strike lacked the power to punish the goalkeeper’s mistake.

The majority of Italy’s efforts came from distance, underlining the effectiveness of North Macedonia in protecting their 18-yard box and forcing their hosts into speculative shots. Their track record should not have surprised onlookers given a creditable recent showing at Euro 2020 and their shock 2-1 win away in Germany earlier in the qualification campaign.

Jorginho played his usual metronomic role in central midfield, registering the third-highest amount of successful passes of any player on the pitch and the second-highest number of key passes, but Italy’s issues came not in progressing play but in creating and converting clear-cut chances. Meanwhile, Emerson ended up operating as an auxiliary winger, playing higher than almost any Italy player down the left flank

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