Italy beats North Macedonia, needs just a point against Ukraine to qualify for Euro 2024
ROME (AP) — Federico Chiesa scored two first-half goals and defending champion Italy beat North Macedonia 5-2 Friday to gain a measure of revenge and move closer to qualifying for the European Championship.
Italy now needs only a draw against Ukraine on Monday to secure a spot at next year’s tournament in Germany.
North Macedonia kept Italy from qualifying for last year’s World Cup with a 1-0 playoff win over the Azzurri in Palermo.
“The important thing is that we won the game. Unfortunately, we conceded two goals that overall I don’t think we deserved to let in, but now we will fight it out directly with Ukraine,” Chiesa said. “We showed that we wanted to dominate the match and we deserved the victory."
North Macedonia had already been eliminated from contention before its latest visit to Italy and the Azzurri quickly took control when fullback Matteo Darmian scored 17 minutes in at the Stadio Olimpico with a header following a corner for his first national team goal in more than eight years,
Chiesa, who also had a goal disallowed for offside early on, scored his first by using one touch to launch in a long shot. Then he scored another with a looping effort in first-half added time.
Substitute Jani Atanasov pulled one back for North Macedonia with a header early in the second half and then scored again with a shot that deflected in off Italy defender Francesco Acerbi to make it a nervy ending for coach Luciano Spalletti's team.
But Giacomo Raspadori finished off a counterattack for Italy in the 81st and Stephan El Shaarawy added another in stoppage time to restore the three-goal advantage.
Italy and Ukraine now each have 13 points but Italy holds the advantage after beating Ukraine 2-1 in September.
England, which beat Malta 2-0 and has 19 points, won the group.
North Macedonia trails in fourth place with seven points and Malta has zero.
A weak penalty kick from Italy midfielder Jorginho was saved by goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski — bringing back memories of two key missed penalties by Jorginho during World Cup qualifying.
“The goalkeeper made him think he had space there. But Jorginho remains a special penalty kicker for Italy,” Spalletti said.
Dimitrievski, who plays for Rayo Vallecano, recently kept a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw with Real Madrid.
Ukraine will host Italy in Germany — at the stadium of Bundesliga leader Bayer Leverkusen — because it cannot play international games at home for security reasons during the military invasion by Russia.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/Soccer