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European champions Italy have been knocked out of qualifying for this year’s World Cup.

They suffered a 1-0 defeat to North Macedonia in their play-off semi-final thanks to a last minute goal by Aleksandar Trajkovski’s that earned the visitors a famous win.

European champions Italy did not qualify for the World Cup four years ago, their first failure to reach soccer’s global showpiece tournament since 1958, but they dominated from the off in Palermo and looked on course for victory.

The hosts became more desperate in their search for a winner after the break as chances continued to come and go before, in stoppage time, Trajkovski arrowed in a stunning winner to spark wild North Macedonian celebrations.

Roberto Mancini’s Italy side had 32 efforts at goal in the match, but somehow fell short, with North Macedonia going on to play Portugal in the playoff final next week for a place in the Qatar World Cup which will not involve Italy once more.

Without veteran pairing Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini through injury, Italy’s makeshift defence was barely troubled in the first half, as all the action took place down the other end.

Domenico Berardi had the best of the openings having been presented with the ball after North Macedonia goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski misplaced a pass, but the Sassuolo forward’s shot was tame, with Dimitrievski getting back to make the save.

Ciro Immobile also wasted a glorious first-half chance for Italy when blazing over the bar from a good position.

Berardi was again guilty of profligacy after the break, shooting over when he should have hit the target.

As the match wore on, Italy nerves kicked in and their finishing became more erratic. Mancini shuffled his pack, giving Cagliari striker Joao Pedro his debut, but with their only meaningful attack of the match, North Macedonia seized their chance.

Italy did not look to be in too much danger, but Trajkovski, who plays in Saudi Arabia for Al-Fayha, had other ideas, writing his name into North Macedonian folklore with a shot that crept inside the post to stun the home fans.

Elsewhere, Portugal will take on North Macedonia for a place in Qatar after they beat Turkey 3-1.

Wales remain on course for a first World Cup appearance since 1958, following a 2-1 win over Austria.

Gareth Bale scored twice for the winners in Cardiff. They will meet either Scotland or Ukraine in the play-off final.

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Azurri flops in World Cup qualifying

Italy could go from winning Euro 2020 to missing the 2022 World Cup in the span of just a few months.

The Azzurri failed to secure a direct ticket to next year’s World Cup, dropping into the playoff round after shooting blanks in Monday’s 0-0 draw in Northern Ireland.

Switzerland powered past Bulgaria 4-0 to knock Roberto Mancini’s side out of first place in Group C and claim an automatic berth in Qatar.

Italy famously missed the 2018 World Cup in Russia after falling to Sweden in the playoffs. Its last appearance in the tournament came in Brazil in 2014 when it failed to advance from the group stage.

The playoff draw will take place Nov. 26.

Twelve teams – including the 10 runners-up from Europe’s first round of qualifying and the two best group winners from the 2020-21 UEFA Nations League – will vie for the final three qualification berths.

The teams will be divided into three groups of four and play one-off semifinals and a final to determine the best of each lot.

Portugal, Russia, Italy, and Scotland will make up four of the six seeded teams, with two yet to be determined.

Sweden, Poland, and North Macedonia will also take part in the draw as runners-up. Wales, currently in second in Group E, is likely to follow suit, with one of the Netherlands, Turkey, and Norway to finish in second place in Group G and one of Finland and Ukraine to drop down from Group D.

Austria will advance as one of the top-ranked teams from the Nations League, with the Czechs likely to follow if they can’t dislodge Wales from second place in Group E.

Italy will have flashbacks of the infamous goalless draw against Sweden in November 2017 that forced the four-time World Cup winner to miss the quadrennial tournament for the first time in decades.

It would be a far greater blow to national morale this time around. Just a few months ago, Italy won the Euros for the second time in its history following an intense penalty shootout against England at Wembley Stadium.

The Italians entered Monday’s qualifier at Windsor Park needing to match Switzerland’s result against Bulgaria. Starting without a recognized striker in the lineup, they struggled to break down Northern Ireland’s back five, often resorting to ineffective long balls.

Italy’s chances of direct qualification took a hit well before Monday’s stalemate. It succumbed to a 1-1 draw at home to Bulgaria in September before blowing a chance to beat Switzerland on Friday. Jorginho missed a late penalty in the latter match to deny his country a win that would’ve put it in a commanding position in Group C.

“We should have won against Bulgaria and had two penalties against Switzerland,” Mancini said. “These are games that could have finished in our favor. I’m completely confident about the playoffs.”

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Nicolo Barella’s thunderous strike and a penalty converted by Domenico Berardi proved enough to earn hosts Italy a 2-1 victory over Belgium on Sunday and third place in this year’s Nations League.

It offered some consolation for the European champions, whose semifinal loss to Spain in Milan on Wednesday ended their world-record 37-match unbeaten run.

They returned to winning ways as Barella volleyed a poor corner clearance into the net one minute into the second half and Berardi added the second from the spot in the 65th minute, after Timothy Castagne had brought down the tricky Federico Chiesa.

Belgium claimed a consolation in the 86th minute when substitute Charles De Ketelaere finished off a quick counterattack.

Belgium, who were without Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku and only brought on Kevin De Bruyne in the second half, hit the woodwork three times but were outplayed for large portions of the contest by the hosts at the Juventus Stadium.

“Today we played very well, we were excellent. We have different solutions and quality in midfield, today they did well,” Italy coach Roberto Mancini told RAI television.

Early chances for Berardi and Giacomo Raspadori were dealt with by the Belgium defence before Alexis Saelemaekers, who plays in Serie A with AC Milan, slammed a shot against Italy’s crossbar in the 28th minute.

But immediately after the break, Belgium fell behind to Barella’s snap effort, cleanly hit after a clearing header from a corner fell perfectly into his path.

Michy Batshuayi then had an effort come back off the woodwork as Belgium came close to a 60th minute equaliser but fell 2-0 behind when Castagne mistimed a tackle on Chiesa to offer Italy a chance to extend their lead from the penalty spot. Berardi’s kick squeezed past Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Toby Alderweireld then proved an unlikely attacking threat with two efforts that brought out fine stops from Italy’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma before Yannick Carrasco smashed a curling shot against the Italian post in the final 10 minutes.

Courtois’ quick clearance set up Belgium’s goal with De Bruyne passing to the youthful De Ketelaere to squeeze it past Donnarumma from close range, but it came too late to offer a dramatic finish to the game.

“We had a lot of younger players today and they did decently,” De Bruyne said. “It was good for them to play against a team of Italy’s quality.”

France and Spain meet in the Nations League final in Milan later on Sunday.

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Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma has signed for Paris St Germain on a five-year deal.

The 22-year-old joins PSG after reaching the end of his contract with AC Milan, with whom he had been since 2013.

Donnarumma was handed his Milan debut aged 16 in 2015 and ended up making over 200 Serie A appearances for them.

Confirmation of his move to PSG comes three days on from Donnarumma, holder of 33 senior caps, helping Italy win Euro 2020 and being named player of the tournament.

His efforts included keeping three clean sheets and saving one penalty in the shootout in the semi-finals against Spain and then two more in the one that settled Sunday’s final as the Azzurri got the better of England at Wembley.

Donnarumma said in quotes on PSG’s official website: “I am very happy to be part of this great club that is Paris St Germain.

“I feel ready to take on this new challenge, and continue to grow here. With Paris, I want to win as much as possible and give joy to the supporters.”

PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said: “We are pleased to welcome Gianluigi Donnarumma to Paris St Germain.

“We congratulate him on his victory at Euro 2020, and his title as the best player of the competition.

“I know Gianluigi will receive a warm welcome from everyone at the club, including his teammates, our staff and all the Parisian support.”

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One person died and several were injured in Italy as the country celebrated their victory over England in Sunday’s Euro 2020 final.

Italy won the championship in London for the first time since 1968, with a 3-2 penalty shootout win after the match finished 1-1 in regular and extra time.

A 22-year-old man died in a car crash in Caltagirone, Sicily, as he was rushing to the town centre to join victory festivities, police said.

In Milan, 15 people were hurt, three seriously, when post-match partying became rowdy. One of them lost three fingers when a firework exploded in his hand.

In a town near the southern city of Foggia, police believe a hitman took advantage of the chaos in the streets to settle a score, shooting dead his target in the crowd before escaping on a motorbike.

The victim’s six-year-old niece was also wounded in the attack, with media reporting that she was in a “very serious” condition.

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Italy claimed a first European Championship since 1968 after goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma saved twice in a dramatic 3-2 penalty shootout victory in the Euro 2020 final against England at Wembley on Sunday.

After a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes, Donnarumma saved from Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka — Marcus Rashford also missed by hitting a post with his spot-kick — to give Roberto Mancini’s team glory in London.

Andrea Belotti and Jorginho both saw their penalties saved by England’s Jordan Pickford, but Donnarumma’s stop from Saka decided the game to hand Italy the title.

“The guys were extraordinary. I don’t have words for them, this is a magnificent group. There were no easy games and this one became very difficult, but then we dominated,” Italy boss Mancini said.

“You need a bit of luck with penalties and I’m a little sorry for England. This team has grown so much, I think it can still improve. We are so happy for all.”

England had taken the lead inside two minutes when Luke Shaw, on the eve of his 26th birthday, scored the quickest-ever European Championship final goal after one minute and 57 seconds.

But Italy, unbeaten in 33 games ahead of this final, took the game to extra-time when Leonardo Bonucci equalised on 67 minutes.

Having been outplayed early in the game, Italy grew in strength with coach Roberto Mancini making greater use of his substitutions than his England counterpart Gareth Southgate, who sprung a tactical surprise before the game.

Southgate made one change to his starting team from the semifinal win against Denmark by selecting Atletico Madrid full-back Kieran Trippier ahead of Arsenal’s Saka, enabling his side to play with a three-man defence.

That tactical switch allowed Shaw and Trippier to play as advanced wing-backs and the plan paid dividends inside the opening two minutes when Shaw opened the scoring with his first international goal.

The Manchester United defender started the move in his own half by passing to Harry Kane before sprinting towards the Italy penalty area. Kane, meanwhile, moved the ball to Trippier on the right flank and the former Tottenham full-back delayed his cross long enough for Shaw to arrive at the far post and score with a half-volley past goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

England maintained their impressive start, with Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips controlling the midfield for Southgate’s team, but Italy grew into the game in the closing stages of the first-half.

Although chances were limited, Federico Chiesa went close with a low left-foot shot from 20 yards which flew narrowly wide of the England post shortly before half-time.

Chiesa’s near miss proved a warning of what was to come in the second-half, with Italy dominating the game and creating a number of chances before Bonucci levelled the scores halfway through the second-half.

Lorenzo Insigne sent a 20-yard free kick wide on 50 minutes before England keeper Pickford was forced to dive low to his left to deny Chiesa after a mazy run and shot by the Juventus forward.

Italy’s dominance was rewarded, though, when Bonucci scrambled home from close range after England had failed to clear a corner. Bonucci struck from the rebound after Pickford had pushed Marco Verratti’s header onto the post.

Southgate attempted to stem the tide for England by replacing Trippier and Rice with Saka and Jordan Henderson, but Italy continued to dictate the play and remained the team in control for the remainder of the 90 minutes and opening period of extra-time.

Aside from a 30-yard Federico Bernardeschi free kick on 117 minutes, which was spilled by Pickford, clear chances were limited as the game drifted towards the end of extra-time and penalties.

Kane was devastated to have come so close, only to come up short in front of the home fans.

“We got off to the perfect start, maybe dropped a little bit too deep. When you score that early it’s easy to try to soak up the pressure and try to hold on to that, and that’s probably what happened,” Kane said.

“They had a lot of the ball, they had a lot of possession, but to be fair we looked fairly in control, they didn’t create too many chances, and then obviously they got their breakthrough.”

Kane was quick to commiserate with Rashford, Sancho and Saka, all of whom missed in the shootout.

He said: “You’ve got to hold your heads up high. A fantastic tournament and these things can happen, a penalty shootout, you go through your process and you put it where you want to put it, but anyone can miss a penalty — we win together and we lose together.”

England were playing in a first major final in 55 years since winning the 1966 World Cup. This was their latest heartache in shootouts at major tournaments, after defeats in 1990, 1996, 1998, 2004, 2006 and 2012.

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England’s Football Association released a statement in the early hours of Monday morning condemning the online racist abuse of players following the team’s penalty shootout loss to Italy in Sunday’s Euro 2020 final.

The sides drew 1-1 after extra time, and Italy won the shootout 3-2, with England player

“The FA strongly condemns all forms of discrimination and is appalled by the online racism that has been aimed at some of our England players on social media,” the statement said.

“We could not be clearer that anyone behind such disgusting behaviour is not welcome in following the team. We will do all we can to support the players affected while urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible.”

The England team also released a statement condemning the abuse directed at its players on social media.

“We’re disgusted that some of our squad — who have given everything for the shirt this summer — have been subjected to discriminatory abuse online after tonight’s game,” the team tweeted.

British police said they would investigate the posts.

“We are aware of a number of offensive and racist social media comments being directed towards footballers following the #Euro2020 final,” the Metropolitan Police tweeted.

“This abuse is totally unacceptable, it will not be tolerated and it will be investigated.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also condemned the abuse:

He said: “This England team deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media.

“Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan called on social media companies to remove such content from their platforms.

“Those responsible for the disgusting online abuse we have seen must be held accountable — and social media companies need to act immediately to remove and prevent this hate,” Khan said in a tweet.

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Harry Kane propelled England to just their second major tournament final as Gareth Southgate’s men secured an extra-time penalty win against Denmark to set-up Sunday’s match against Italy.

Italy lie in wait after a tense, pulsating semi-final under the arch on Wednesday night, when Simon Kjaer’s own goal cancelled out a superb Mikkel Damsgaard free-kick before Kane sealed a 2-1 extra-time win after his penalty was saved.

England made a start as electric as the atmosphere at Wembley, but Damsgaard’s stunning 25-yard free-kick silenced the home support as the 21-year-old continued to shine in place of the sadly absent Christian Eriksen.

It was the first goal England had conceded during an unusually straightforward summer, but they responded well to the setback and Kjaer turned 19-year-old Bukayo Saka’s cross into his own goal under pressure from Raheem Sterling.

Kasper Schmeichel had superbly denied the latter moments earlier and the goalkeeper shone throughout a second half in which the video assistant referee cleared a Christian Norgaard challenge on Kane in the box.

The Denmark goalkeeper continued to impress in extra-time but could not stop England progressing to the final, with Kane slotting home after the Leicester man saved his initial spot-kick after Sterling was judged to have been fouled.

Denmark grew into proceedings, with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg seeing a shot saved and Jordan Pickford surviving a lackadaisical moment.

Kasper Hjulmand’s well-drilled side continued to push as Damsgaard bent wide, with Pickford entering England’s record books by breaking World Cup winner Gordon Banks’ long-standing 720-minute record without conceding. He only managed to extend it to 726 minutes.

Luke Shaw fouled Andreas Christensen when a free-kick came over, giving Denmark another chance from a better position.

Damsgaard stood over it and unleashed a thumping 25-yard strike that beat Pickford, sending Denmark’s red wall into raptures in the 30th minute.

England did eventually settle back into a rhythm and Schmeichel spread himself well to stop Sterling turning home a Kane cross from close range.

It was a missed opportunity that the forward helped atone for in the 39th minute.

Saka kept his cool and drove over a cross from the right that Kjaer turned into his own goal under pressure from Sterling.

Harry Maguire saw a goalbound header superbly denied one-handed by Schmeichel in a second half that England were controlling as Denmark began to retreat deeper.

Southgate turned to fan favourite Jack Grealish to change the dynamics and the VAR decided against awarding a penalty after reviewing a clumsy Norgaard challenge on Kane.

England continued to push right into stoppage-time, when Maguire saw another header saved by Schmeichel and Kane’s point-blank effort was blocked by Kjaer.

Grealish stung the palms as the onslaught continued, with fleet-footed Sterling creating havoc for the tiring Danish defenders.

Joakim Maehle was adjudged to have ended Sterling’s mazy run and Makkelie pointed to the spot. There was another ball on the pitch during a phase of play that the VAR reviewed, but the decision stood.

Kane stepped up and Schmeichel saved, only for the ball to land kindly for him six yards out to turn home and spark bedlam in the stands.

Denmark tried desperately to level in the second period but a Martin Braithwaite shot was the biggest threat they managed, with Sterling denied by Schmeichel before the final whistle sent the 60,000-plus crowd wild.

‘Sweet Caroline’ echoed around the ground as England celebrated reaching their first European Championship final.

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Roberto Mancini: ‘We must rest ahead of Euro 2020 final’

Roberto Mancini was delighted by Italy‘s fight and spirit after sealing a shot at European Championship glory by beating Spain on penalties following a scintillating semi-final.

England or Denmark lie in wait for the Azzurri back at Wembley on Sunday after edging past La Roja in a pulsating clash under the arch on Tuesday evening.

Italy struck first as Federico Chiesa curled home a sublime effort, but Spain substitute Alvaro Morata finished a fine team move to send the match into extra time.

The match would end 1-1 after 120 minutes and had to be settled by spot-kicks, with Morata denied by Gianluigi Donnarumma before Jorginho coolly swept home to seal 4-2 shootout triumph for Mancini’s men.

“First and foremost, we’re delighted to have been able to provide this wonderful evening’s entertainment to the Italian people,” the former Manchester City boss said.

“Now we still have one more game to go and we wanted to do exactly that if possible.

“We knew it was going to be a very tough match because in terms of ball possession Spain are the best around.

“They caused us problems. We had to dig in when we needed to. We tried to score or create opportunities when we could.

“It was a very open match and of course there were some issues because we did not have too much possession.

“However, we wanted to make it into the final and we kept trying right until the end.

“As ever, penalties are a lottery but I really want to take my hat off to Spain. They’re a wonderful team.”

Italy have impressed throughout the Euros and stretched their unbeaten run to a jaw-dropping 33 matches, but Mancini knows they have not achieved anything yet.

“I thank the players because they believed right from day one that we could create something incredible,” he said.

“We haven’t done everything we need to. There’s still one step to go. Now we have to rest up because this really was very challenging.

“I did say to them before the match this would be our hardest game of the competition because when you go into your sixth match in such quick succession with all the travelling that we’ve had to do it does become very tiring.

“We certainly struggled with Spain’s ball possession, had some issues, but we wanted to make the final.”

Spain shone for large spells against Italy but a lack of cutting edge proved costly for Enrique’s men.

“It’s not a sad night for me,” the Spanish manager said. “Not at all.

“Of course there’s disappointment but that’s elite football. You have to be able to win and lose.

“We were very pleased to win the penalty shootout in the quarter-finals but we can’t get desperate now. We have to just congratulate our opponents.

“You’re always thinking about the present, thinking about being competitive.

“I said at the start we were one of the eight teams that could have won it. I don’t think I was wrong about that.

“I think we now go home knowing we competed and were one of the best teams at the competition.”

Enrique said he gave his players an A- grade for their tournament and threw his support behind Morata after the striker’s crucial spot-kick was saved.

“Well, he has an adductor issue and it really says a lot about his personality that even despite that he wanted to take a penalty,” the Spain boss said in the post-match press conference.

“He has gone through some tough times during this competition but he was brilliant.

“He really created some uncertainty within the Italy ranks so he was excellent.

“I haven’t been able to see him because he’s had to go to doping control, but I will go and see him now.”

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Italy beat Spain 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in a magnificent Euro 2020 semi-final at Wembley on Tuesday, as Jorginho converted the decisive kick to take the Azzurri through to the final where they will face either England or Denmark.

Italy were not always on top though, with Spain the better side for long spells of an epic contest before Federico Chiesa, the Juventus forward, gave Italy the lead with a fabulous finish an hour into a match watched by a crowd of almost 58,000.

The much-maligned Alvaro Morata, who was dropped from the starting line-up, came off the bench to equalise with 10 minutes of normal time left.

No further scoring in extra time meant penalties again for Spain, who had beaten Switzerland in a shoot-out in the quarter-finals.

They had also beaten Italy on penalties at Euro 2008, but this time misses from Dani Olmo and then Morata saw Spain give up the advantage they had been handed when Manuel Locatelli failed with the first kick in the shoot-out.

The Italians celebrated at the end with a large contingent of their UK-based supporters, and a team that has been rejuvenated under Roberto Mancini continues to dream of winning a first European Championship since 1968.

Now unbeaten in 33 games, they go through to Sunday’s final to face either England or Denmark, who meet in Wednesday’s second last-four tie.

“I have to thank the players because they believed right from day one that we could do something incredible,” said Mancini.

“We haven’t yet done everything we need to though, there is still one step to go.”

It is nine years since Spain mauled Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final in Kiev to win a third consecutive major tournament, and this was the fourth successive Euro in which these powerhouses had met.

Spain won the first two of those meetings, but the last two have now gone to Italy.

“It is not a sad night for me by any means,” said Spain coach Luis Enrique.

“We can go home knowing we competed and were among the best teams.”

This meeting took place in the chill of a damp July evening in London, but the atmosphere at Wembley was no damp squib.

There were no traveling supporters, given the obligatory quarantine for all visitors to the United Kingdom.

However, the large Spanish and Italian communities already in Britain meant a combined 20,000 fans of the two teams were in the 57,811-crowd allowed inside Wembley.

They added a noise and colour so sadly lacking at major sporting events since the pandemic began, and that provided the perfect stage.

The football itself was absorbing and of the highest quality, particularly in midfield where Italy’s outstanding trio of Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella met their match in Spain’s Sergio Busquets, Koke and the brilliant Pedri, a frightening talent at just 18.

But it was Italy who reached their 10th major tournament final and ended Spain’s hopes of a record fourth European crown.

Standing in the Azzurri’s way will either be England, who have never reached a Euro final, or Denmark, playing in their first major semi-final since surprisingly winning the competition in 1992.