European Champions Italy continue their bid to secure a spot at the 2022 World Cup when hosting North Macedonia in their World Cup qualifying match on Thursday, with the winners meeting the winners of Turkey's clash with Portugal.
Both sides have met each other twice previously, with Italy undefeated against the minnows. A 2016 meeting between the two sides ended with the Azzurri securing a narrow 3-2 win, and in their most recent matchup in 2017, the two sides played out a 1-1 draw.
The Italians will come into this match wary of the fact that Macedonia could spring a surprise. With just two wins from their last seven in all competitions, one of them coming in this tournament, Italy come into this crucial match with form that doesn't inspire any confidence. Their squad, however, is full of players with experience and talent and should see the reigning European champions through.
Three successive defeats in their Euro 2020 group meant Macedonia exited their first major tournament in 27 years without a point, but with 3 wins in their last 5 in this tournament, including a 3-1 win over Iceland, their recent form could be a source of hope for them to pull off an upset.
Two players that will be vital in Italy’s bid to qualify for the World Cup are Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne. Immobile has scored 21 goals in 25 Serie A matches for Lazio and will be desperate to add to the 15 goals he has scored in 54 appearances for the Azzuri.
Meanwhile, Insigne is also having a superb season for his club side, Napoli, firing in nine goals and creating seven assists across all competitions. The 30-year-old will perhaps feel that he is overdue a goal in the European World Cup qualifiers, having not scored for Italy since the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 against Belgium.