A few months ago it was unthinkable, but now there is a real risk for the reigning European champions Italy to miss on a World Cup for a second consecutive time. The Azzurri welcome North Macedonia in Sicily in an attempt to reach the play-off final and face the winner of Turkey and Portugal for a place in Qatar in December.
Where and when: Renzo Barbera – 24 March, kick-off 19:45
Where you can see Italy vs. North Macedonia: Sky Sports
Last time: Italy failed to beat North Macedonia in a crucial World Cup qualifier back in 2017, as Giorgio Chiellini’s strike was cancelled by Aleksandar Trajkovski’s second-half equalizer and the game ended as a 1-1 draw in Turin.
Italy vs. North Macedonia Predictions and Preview
Italy are firm favourites to progress in this World Cup play-off semi-final, but Roberto Mancini’s men must be wary of North Macedonia’s threat, as the Eastern Europeans proved to be a tough nut to crack for the Azzurri. Both sides shared a qualifying group for Russia 2018, when the Macedonians held Gianpiero Ventura’s side to a 1-1 draw and contributed to Italy’s failure to qualify.
However, things are different now and although Squadra Azzurra had their share of problems in recent months, the defending European champions have only lost one game in their last 41 games in all competitions. The hosts will be full of confidence and have enough potential, despite missing a few big names because of injuries.
The visitors were one of the surprising packages during the group stage and managed to earn a historic 2-1 win over Germany away from home and eventually finished second in what was a tough group. North Macedonia have only one defeat in their last seven outings, but it’s unlikely that they’ll continue their heroics against one of the best teams in the world, especially without Goran Pandev.
Italy vs. North Macedonia full time result odds
The reigning European champions enter these World Cup play-off without several key players, as Federico Chiesa, Leonardo Spinazzola, Federico Bernardeschi and Giovani Di Lorenzo are all injured. However, Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti both returned to full fitness, with the Lazio skipper expected to lead the line, while Cagliari’s Joao Pedro was also called up for depth up front.
Although, he still plays with Parma in Serie B, North Macedonia’s hero Goran Pandev retired from international football and will not feature for the visitors. Napoli’s Eljif Elmas remans the big star in Blagoja Milevski’s selection, but ex-Palermo forward Aleksandar Trajkovski, who scored the last goal in this rivalry, returns to Stadio Renzo Barbera and should start up front.
Italy vs. North Macedonia both teams to score odds
North Macedonia have scored at least once in each of their last seven games on the road and while Italy are firm favourites to go through, the Azzurri’s recent home record has been far from perfect. Roberto Mancini’s side conceded at least once in four of their five games on Italian soil after Euro 2020, so our pick for these Italy vs. North Macedonia tips is BTTS at 6/4.
Italy vs. North Macedonia correct score odds
Italy won only two of their last five games at home, but their last victory on home soil was a 2-1 triumph over Belgium in the UEFA Nations League’s semi-final. North Macedonia are unbeated in their last three games on the road, but their last defeat was by 2-1 against Ukraine. Considering all this our pick for Thursday’s World Cup semi-final play off is a 2-1 win for the Azzurri at 17/2.
Italy vs. North Macedonia first goalscorer odds
Domenico Berardi reached double-figures for both goals and assists for Sassuolo this term and the left-footed winger is almost certain to start for the Azzurri in the absence of Chiesa and Bernardeschi. Berardi already proved that he can make a difference when it matters, so watch out for him to break the deadlock in a 2-1 Italy win at 40/1 .