European champions Italy on Thursday faced off with North Macedonia in a World Cup play-off in Palermo that saw the underdogs secure an incredible win.

The home side, Italy, went into the match in blistering form, having won 31 of their last 40 games, and losing just one.

Expectedly, the home side, which began the match with a full squad, dominated proceedings from the beginning of the game, but failed to score in the first half despite continuous and relentless pressure on the opposition.

Also read | World Cup play-offs: Portugal beat Turkey 3-1 in comfortable home win

In fact, Italy’s domination of the game was so complete that it took North Macedonia 45 minutes to get a shot off at Italy keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who denied the visitors a goal near the half-time mark.

The second-half also saw Italy dominate the ball despite a more determined offensive performance by North Macedonia, who fashioned a couple of early chances.

Italy almost broke the deadlock near the hour mark when Marco Verratti found Domenico Berardi in space, but the wide player produced a disappointing shot to keep the game level.

Also read | Euro 2028: Russia makes shocking bid to host game despite football ban

A second-half double change, however, saw North Macedonia turn up the style, but the game remained level as the clock ticked on, despite attempts by both sides to take the lead and settle the draw.

While Italy continued to create chances throughout the second half, the home side’s attack looked blunt against the stubborn Macedonian defence.

As the clock ticked on and the deadlock remained, the two teams looked to be headed to extra-time, but there was some late drama in store.

Also read | La Liga: Resurgent Barcelona demolish Real Madrid 4-0 in El Clasico

With extra-time looking all but confirmed, it was North Macedonia who stole the show in the dying minutes of the game when Aleksandar Trajkovski helped his team take the lead via a superb strike in the 92nd minute.

Trajkovski’s goal came a bit too late for the hosts, and Italy did not have time to rally and respond, leading to a severely disappointing exit.

North Macedonia will now face Portugal in the next round for a spot in the 2022 FIFA World Cup finals.