Veteran striker Goran Pandev scored the decisive goal to send North Macedonia into Euro 2020 – the major tournament in their 27-year history.
The 37-year-old – Macedonia’s most-capped player and most goalscorer ever – sent the ball into the net in the 56th minute to beat Georgia in the final on Thursday.
The game may have been the largest in the history of two young soccer countries, but no fans were allowed into the National Stadium, which seats 54,000 in Tbilisi, due to the restrictions of Corona virus in Georgia.
With so much at stake, the match was predictably predictable and it took 28 minutes before either of the two could save when Georgian playmaker Tornik Okriashvili Stoll tested Dmitrievsky with a long-range shot.
There were 29 fouls in the kick-off match and only four shots on target but the meticulously executed winning goal was in contrast to an overall behind.
Iljev Elmas broke the left flank and hit Ilya Nestorovsky inside the penalty area and found Pandev, who beat Giorgi Luria, scoring his 36th international goal.
The former Yugoslavia will face Austria and Ukraine in Bucharest in Group C before the first-seeded Netherlands face in Amsterdam.
Currently, Macedonia ranks 65th in the FIFA world ranking, and Macedonia will be the largest outside team in the European Championship 2020 and the second newcomer to join Finland.
Hungary qualify after late rally
Hungary qualified for the Euro 2020 finals with a thrilling 2-1 victory over Iceland thanks to a late equalizer from Loic Nguy and the injury-time winner Dominic Zoboszlai.
Hungary will join Portugal, France and Germany in Group F in next year’s tournament, with the first and third matches to take place at the Puskas Arena in Budapest.
Iceland advanced when goalkeeper Peter Gulasi missed a free kick by Gilfi Sigurdsson in the 11th minute, prompting a long attack from the home side.
Playmaker Szoboszlai was a key factor in Hungary’s effort, hitting crosses and set pieces in the penalty area, nearly leveling his side just before the break with a free kick from long distances that required a full landing from Hannes Haldorsson to rescue.
The Hungarian blockade of Iceland’s goal continued in the second half, but they struggled to create many decent opportunities and looked weak at the break as the guests sought to use the space behind their home defense on the counter.
Icelandic substitute Albert Gudmundsson almost ended the game with a late shot but he just failed to call a cross from John Daddy Podvarson which was the most expensive.
The French-born Hungarian substitute joined the fight in the 84th minute and was the fastest in a shot of defenders in the area, scoring in the net two minutes after the end of normal time.
Overtime followed on the horizon but Szoboszlai had other ideas and capped off an impressive performance by shooting into the net in the second minute of extra time to clinch a stunning victory and send his team to the finals, sparking wild celebrations by his team.
Scotland qualified for their first major tournament since 1998 after David Marshall saved the penalty kick from Alexander Mitrovic to send her to the 2020 European Championship.
Scotland put their fans in trouble as Steve Clark’s men were two minutes away from a 1–0 victory in normal time in a winner-takes-all takeover after Ryan Christie’s goal but Luca Jovic’s stoppage-time goal forced overtime.
Clark disqualified the three most influential players – Lyndon Dykes, John McGinn and Christy – before Serbia’s dramatic equalizer and Scotland lost their luster in overtime, but they kept the penalty shootout.
In a shootout, all five of the Scottish captors found the nets before Marshall Mitrovich prevented him from sending an army of Tartans in a dramatic fashion.
Scotland’s prize for winning in Belgrade was its place in Group D, alongside England, Croatia and the Czech Republic, and the mouth-watering Euro 2020 table that will see two matches – against Croatia and the Czech Republic – in Glasgow.
But it was a struggle for Northern Ireland.
Their dreams of the European Championship 2020 fell at the last hurdle as extra-time winner Michel Doris sent Slovakia to next summer finals with a 2-1 win over Windsor Park.
Slovakia advanced at most normal times with the opening goal handed to them by George Saville, whose weak header was hit back by Joray Koca to hit the net from the edge of the penalty area (17).
The much-improved performance from the hosts was rewarded in the second half after three minutes of full time when Buddy McNair’s cross was passed past his own goalkeeper by Inter Milan defender Milan Scriniar, leading to an extra time tie.
But some poor defenses allowed a loose shot to find Doris 10 minutes before the extra half hour remaining, and after Billy Peacock Farrell allowed his shot to hit him in close position, Northern Ireland couldn’t find a way back as a qualifier. Hopes dashed in the final.
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