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Italy are the current European champions after winning the UEFA Euro 2020 last summer but failed to qualify directly for the 2022 Qatar World Cup from the group stage. Roberto Mancini's side now has a last chance to make it and the first game of the playoffs will be against North Macedonia on Thursday. The winner of this match will advance to the Path C Finals and will play on the road against the winner of Portugal and Turkey next Tuesday, March 29. 

Here's what you need to know: 

Viewing information

Date: Thursday, March 24 | Time: 3:45 p.m. ET
Location: Stadio Renzo Barbera -- Palermo, Italy
TV/Live stream: ESPN+
Odds: Italy -675; Draw +550; North Macedonia +1700 (via Caesars Sportsbook)


Italy: After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the Azzurri can't miss the same competition again after four years. Italy have never missed consecutive World Cups and it would be their 19th World Cup appearance (2nd-most all-time behind Brazil), their first since 2014. Italy have won four World Cups in their history, tied for 2nd-most with Germany while Brazil lead with five World Cup titles. Azzurri would be the 4th reigning European champion to miss the next World Cup, the first since Greece won EURO 2004 and then missed the 2006 World Cup. Italy allowed just two goals in eight games during their World Cup Qualifying group stage, tied for the fewest in the competition with Switzerland. However, Roberto Mancini won't count on defender Giovanni Di Lorenzo who is out with a muscular injury and also on Federico Chiesa, who will miss the rest of the current season after tearing his ACL last January with Juventus. 

Expected XI: Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Acerbi, Chiellini, Emerson; Verratti, Jorginho, Barella; Berardi, Immobile, Insigne.

North Macedonia: North Macedonia will look to qualify for their first ever World Cup appearance, after making their first EURO appearance last year, going out in the group stage. North Macedonia scored 23 goals during their World Cup Qualifying group stage, tied for 8th-most in the competition with Israel and finished 2nd in Group J with 18 points from their eight matches. Stole Dimitrievski conceded 11 goals during their World Cup Qualifying group stage, 2nd-most among all keepers that advanced to the playoffs.

Expected XI: Dimitrievski; Ristovski, Velkovski, Musliu, Alioski; Ademi, Nikolov, Bardhi; Churlinov, Ristovski, Trajkovski.


Italy can't miss the opportunity to win the first game of the playoffs and the question is only where they will play the final against either Portugal or Turkey. Losing against North Macedonia would be worse than when they lost against Sweden on November 2018 and they failed to qualify for the World Cup. PICK: Italy 2, North Macedonia 0.