North Macedonia stunned hosts Germany 2-1 in their World Cup Group J qualifier on Wednesday, scoring an 85th-minute winner by Eljif Elmas as the Balkan country celebrated their biggest international triumph.
Elmas entered the game after the four-time world champions had dominated the game but failed to convert chances against the disciplined North Macedonians, who are ranked 65th in the world and were +2800 underdogs.
It was Germany’s first home World Cup qualifying defeat in 20 years, and it came in coach Joachim Low’s last qualifying game before leaving after the European Championship this summer. “It’s a bitter loss,” Low said.
“We weren’t young enough, and we made mistakes.” We were risky when we played fast, but we didn’t find the instruments to be very threatening.
“Overall, it was disappointing to lose at home like that.”
Before the clash, the German players unfurled a banner in defense of human rights.
Last week, players from Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway wear t-shirts protesting human rights violations in Qatar.
Facing Germany’s 70 percent possession in the first half and Leon Goretzka’s crossbar strike, it was the visitors who scored in first-half stoppage time when 37-year-old Goran Pandev was left unmarked in the box and tapped home.
The Germans had their rivals boxed in their half but had nothing to show for it before Leroy Sane was taken down in the box, thanks to a Serge Gnabry effort.
Gundogan’s penalty in the 63rd minute brought the hosts level, but facing late pressure and a golden opportunity for Timo Werner 10 minutes from time, Germany was unable to find a winner.
They were fortunate not to concede a penalty due to an Emre Can handball, but they were also punished for failing to capitalize on their superiority as Elmas found room in the box to turn in a cutback for the winner.
“These lads have done North Macedonia proud against four World Cup champions and three European champions,” North Macedonia coach Igor Angelovski said.
“We’ve never beaten a team with so many titles; now we need to relax because what we’ve done hasn’t hit home.”
The victory moved North Macedonia into second place in Group J, six points ahead of Germany on goal difference and three points behind champions Armenia.