The Germany national team suffered a painful setback in their FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, losing 2-1 to North Macedonia in Duisburg. Goran Pandev opened the scoring on the stroke of half time, with Ilkay Gündogan levelling the scores from the penalty spot on the hour mark. However, Eljif Elmas grabbed a late winner for the underdogs.
Head coach Joachim Löw made two changes to the starting XI compared to the meetings with Iceland and Romania, with Marc-André ter Stegen and Robin Gosens coming in for Manuel Neuer and Lukas Klostermann.
The visitors were happy to sit deep, keep things tight at the back and look for counterattacking opportunities from the get-go in Duisburg. Die Mannschaft had to work the ball around to open up space and had their first chance in the ninth minute when Leon Goretzka’s effort struck the frame of the goal.
Germany were in control, but North Macedonia were offering strong resistance, certainly on a physical front, albeit without really carrying a threat when trying to break out of defence.
When Löw’s side were able to move the ball around quickly, opportunities opened up. Serge Gnabry had two promising chances, first being denied by the feet of goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski in the 27th minute, before leaning back too much with a powerful volley four minutes later and sending it over the target. Kai Havertz also get into dangerous territory moments later, but dallied getting a shot off and was crowded out (33’).
It felt like it was only a matter of time until Germany scored and it required a last-ditch interception from Darko Velkovski to keep Goretzka at bay after 36 minutes. As half time crept up, however, the away side suddenly had their first chances. A free-kick delivery that eluded everyone required sharp reactions from ter Stegen to parry the ball away (40’), but the FC Barcelona goalkeeper was helpless to keep out Goran Pandev’s tap-in from Enis Dardhi’s lay-off in first-half stoppage time, putting North Macedonia 1-0 up at the interval.
The goal came at a bad time and it took Germany a little while to find their stride again in the second half. Joachim Löw reacted by bringing on Amin Younes and Timo Werner for Havertz and Gosens. A foul on Leroy Sané in the box by Ezgjan Alioski finally opened the door for Die Mannschaft to get back in the game, and Ilkay Gündogan fired the resulting spot-kick down the middle to make it 1-1 (62’).
The hosts struggled to turn the goal into serious momentum though and continued to find swathes of Macedonian shirts in their way, with both Younes and Joshua Kimmich having efforts blocked away by the stubborn defence. The golden chance then fell to Werner in the 80th minute, only for the Chelsea striker to fluff his lines from Gündogan’s square pass and drag the shot wide. The misery was compounded five minutes from time when a rare North Macedonia breakaway allowed Elmas to nick the winner and condemn Germany to a painful 2-1 defeat.###more###