- England’s Euro 2024 qualifying campaign came to an unmemorable 1-1 draw in Skopje against North Macedonia.
- The point was sufficient to secure a spot in Pot 1 for the group-stage draw for Gareth Southgate’s team.
- After making their major tournament debut two years ago, North Macedonia will have another opportunity to qualify through the playoffs.
England’s Euro 2024 qualifying campaign came to an unmemorable 1-1 draw in Skopje against North Macedonia, the point was sufficient to secure a spot in Pot 1 for the group-stage draw for Gareth Southgate’s team.
After a decisive 2-0 victory against Malta three days earlier, the Three Lions controversially trailed by a penalty rebound from Enis Bardhi, but Jani Atanasov’s own goal tied the score and guaranteed that they would finish Group C undefeated.
Kieran Trippier left the team for personal reasons, so Southgate substituted Manchester City left-back Rico Lewis for the injured player. Rico Lewis, who turns 19 on Tuesday, made his senior debut in the fourth minute of play, although his effort was high and not particularly attractive.
However, within 14 minutes of gameplay, Declan Rice was the next to try his luck, seeing his strong long-range effort rocket off the post before North Macedonia were able to clear. The Three Lions had settled into a dominant stretch of possession.
When Harry Maguire carelessly threw the ball away in a critical location before crashing into Eljif Elmas in the 24th minute, the home crowd went wild. Blagoja Milevski’s team had already resorted to hacking down their opponents in an attempt to stem their momentum.
Lewis would not be so lucky in the 39th minute when he was heading away with a cross and accidentally struck Bojan Miovski in the face with his hand. North Macedonia’s pleas for a penalty eventually went unanswered as Maguire, who seemed to tumble into Elmas, counted his lucky stars.
Even though Miovski made a mess of the collision, Slovakian referee Filip Glova gave a spot-kick after examining the monitor. Jordan Pickford saved Bardhi’s awful attempt, but the captain of the home team scored easily from the rebound.
Just before halftime, the visitors had two penalty appeals rejected: Marc Guehi was bundled over, and then Maguire took a knee to the head. The unfortunate Lewis and Trent Alexander-Arnold were each denied by Stole Dimitrievski as England attempted to level the scores in added time.
The visitors put the ball in the net two minutes into the second half after England had mostly struggled to get through the low block of the North Macedonians. Bukayo Saka had ducked under the attention of two Lynxes players before crossing for Jack Grealish to score at the back post.
Replays, however, revealed that Grealish was offside, which strangely took the VAR room some minutes to confirm. Nevertheless, in the 59th minute, Southgate’s team was eventually rewarded for their efforts.
England finally score
The damage was caused by another inswinging cross that Phil Foden attempted to find Harry Kane, who had just entered the game. When Kane pushed Atanasov for the ball, the North Macedonia midfielder deflected the ball into his own net.
In the 88th minute, Nikola Serafimov’s looping header struck the roof of the net, giving Southgate’s team a scare. Despite their best efforts, their chances of scoring another three points were dashed by slow build-ups, poor finishing balls, and an overly enthusiastic referee.
Even though neither team was able to steal a victory in the last six minutes of additional time, England, who finished with 20 points, will be among the top seeds when they join France, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, and the host country Germany in the group-stage draw on December 2.
After making their major tournament debut two years ago, North Macedonia was already doomed to miss out on a second consecutive Euros appearance because Italy secured second place in Group C with a 1-1 draw against Ukraine, who will have another opportunity to qualify through the playoffs.