North Macedonia humiliated Germany 2-1 at home on Wednesday, handing the hosts their first World Cup qualifying setback in 20 years and adding pressure on coach Joachim Loew.
“The disappointment is immense,” a dejected Loew said after the final whistle in Duisburg.
Elif Elmas of Napoli scored the game-winning goal five minutes from time after Ilkay Gundogan’s penalty had brought Germany level following 37-year-old striker Goran Pandev’s first-half opener.
The four-time world champions had never struggled to qualify for football’s most prestigious competition, but they did not participate in the inaugural edition in 1930 and were barred in 1950.
However, Loew’s men are still third in Group J, three points behind champions Armenia and on goal difference behind the Macedonians.
“We had a strong foundation after the first two games (wins over Iceland and Romania),” Loew said after Germany’s first World Cup qualifying defeat after a 5-1 thrashing by England in 2001.
“The target was nine points, and it was our fault that we threw that away.”
The loss was Germany’s latest disappointment, after an embarrassing 6-0 thrashing by Spain last November and a shock group-stage exit from the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The loss, which ended an 18-match winning streak in World Cup qualifying, adds to the spotlight on Loew, who will step down in July after 15 years as coach.