North Macedonia take on the visitors Italy in the round 5 match of UEFA Euro-2024 qualification. The match will be played on Saturday, September 9th at National Arena Toshe Proeski (Skopje).
We still remember how the Macedonians sensationally denied the Squadra Azzurra a spot at the 2022 World Cup. They defended throughout the match and scored a crazy goal right at the end, ultimately securing their own trip to Qatar. However, we also understand that such occurrences are extremely rare. Once in a lifetime, Russia beats the Netherlands, and Morocco reaches the World Cup semi-finals. What am I getting at? The past sensational achievements don't negate the fact that even in a home match against Italy, North Macedonia are a clear underdog. It will be practically impossible for the hosts to take points from such an opponent. Yes, they managed to defeat modest Malta (2-1), but they lost to Ukraine at home (2-3) and were then on the receiving end of seven unanswered goals from England.
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Italy should hand Macedonia their third consecutive defeat in the Euro qualifying cycle. They've learned from past mistakes, and it's unlikely that the Squadra Azzurra wants to go through playoff matches for the right to play in a major tournament. Italy's only competitors for the top spot in the table are Ukraine and England. They haven't played against Ukraine yet, but they lost to the originators of football, England, at home (1-2). After that, they comfortably defeated Malta (2-0). Italy has no room for error in matches against group outsiders, and Macedonia happens to be one of them, despite all due respect.
The scenario for this match seems straightforward - the visitors will press with their class, while the hosts will defend with all their might. If the Italians manage to score a goal or two early, they will likely settle and secure the victory. I expect such a development and take the favorite's victory based on their class, combined with the overall Under 4.5 goals. It's unlikely that the Macedonians will allow the opponent to score many goals, but they won't create many chances at the other end either.
Prediction for the match: Italy to win and Under 4.5 scored goals.