North Macedonia in five numbers
North Macedonia will face Italy in the European play-offs for Qatar 2022
We deliver five stats from the team who stunned Germany in Group J
A legend and a prospect feature
After defying expectations to reach the European play-offs, North Macedonia are now hoping to overcome reigning European champions Italy and move to within one game of a maiden FIFA World Cup™. Ahead of the 24 March showdown at the Stadio Renzo Barbera in Palermo, we bring you five stats about this young and valiant Balkan team, who are proudly flying the flag for their two million compatriots.
North Macedonia earned their spot in the European play-offs by finishing second in Group J behind Germany. Blagoja Milevski's side won five of their ten games, including an historic 2-1 triumph over the Germans in Duisburg on Matchday 3. Deploying an attack-minded formation, the Red Lions finished the group phase with the second most potent attack in their section (23 goals).
Eljif Elmas has four goals to his name during Qatar 2022 qualifying, including a decisive brace in a 3-1 win over Iceland in their final group game. The team’s talisman has also started 2022 well, as evidenced by his four assists in Serie A since 17 January. Still only 22, he is already among the top five scorers in the history of the national team (nine goals) and is unquestionably their prized asset.
Goran Pandev is the age and North Macedonia goal tally of Goran Pandev, the country’s all-time leading scorer. Currently on the books of Parma in Serie B, the former Inter Milan, Lazio and Napoli forward will not face his country of residence on 24 March, having opted to retire from international football after last year’s UEFA EURO.
Currently 67th on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, North Macedonia graced their first major tournament at EURO 2020. The Red Lions performed valiantly there but ultimately lacked the experience to make the most of their strengths. Beaten by Austria, Ukraine and the Netherlands, they failed to progress beyond the first round.
The national team, known at the time as Macedonia, played their first official match as recently as 13 October 1993, hitting the ground running with a 4-1 defeat of Slovenia. Coached at the time by Andon Doncevski, they won their first four friendlies before going down 2-0 to Turkey on 31 August 1994.