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One of the final games in the EURO 2024 qualifiers sees North Macedonia host England at the Toše Proeski Arena, named in memory of a popular Macedonian singer who sadly passed away at just 26. During the last five meetings of the two nations, North Macedonia, formerly Macedonia, have failed to see a win, with England winning on three occasions and the game ending in a draw twice.
Both teams have nothing to play for, with England having qualified for Germany and North Macedonia finishing the group in a guaranteed spot of fourth. However, this game is not entirely meaningless. England will be wanting to end their matches with an unbeaten run, having won six and drawn seven of their group games. North Macedonia will be playing for pride in what could be their last European game for some time, and will undoubtedly want to put on a good show for their fans.
This will be the sixth time North Macedonia have clashed with England, and if the last game is anything to go off, this game could be some spectacle. The Three Lions were victorious when they played North Macedonia in June, thrashing them 7-0. Golden-boy Bukayo Saka bagged himself his first hat-trick for England on the day.
We have delved deeper into the last two times these teams have faced off, with a particular emphasis on the most recent game just five months ago. Will there be just as much excitement this coming Monday?
2️⃣ The Last Two: North Macedonia v England
England 7-0 North Macedonia, Date: 19th June 2023: A true landslide victory
Utter domination. The Three Lions took seven corners, had ten shots on target, and had over two-thirds of the ball, meanwhile, North Macedonia did not manage a shot or even a corner. This marked England’s joint-biggest victory over the last decade, if you exclude games played against San Marino.
Harry Kane opened the scoring, guiding the ball into the back of the net after a well worked move down the left-hand side. Saka then scored his first of the match, rifling the ball into the top of the net from a tight angle. Further goals then came from Marcus Rashford and Kalvin Phillips, as well as Saka bagging two in quick succession before Kane finished the game with a composed penalty kick.
Despite this, North Macedonia, who knocked out Italy in a shock victory in the World Cup play-offs last year, initially looked strong defensively in this game, holding out for 30 minutes before the first goal.
So, how did they win by so much? Trent Alexander-Arnold played a big role, adapting well to his new position in midfield, providing an amazing assist to Saka’s second goal. He had a pass accuracy of 98% and was pulling the strings behind the majority of England’s attacking moves. Alexander-Arnold started in midfield against Malta this week and looks likely to do the same for England to conclude the campaign.
Another one of England’s key strengths in this game was the depth of the quality on the bench. Southgate made five subs in the game, with a combined transfer market value of £220 million. Not many teams have this luxury. Man City talents Jack Grealish and Phil Foden were amongst them, both creating lots of space and chances for England.
In terms of discipline, this match saw England continue their high fouling streak, committing 13 despite winning the game so comfortably. Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips also picked up bookings, as did Egzon Bejtulai of North Macedonia.
England 0-0 North Macedonia, Date: 7th October 2006: Steve McClaren’s men unable to break down resistance
Played at Old Trafford, this clash brought over 72,000 spectators to the stadium.
Looking through the line-up England put out this game under the management of Steve McClaren brings back lots of memories. A defence of Ashley Cole, John Terry, Ledley King and Gary Neville did their job of preventing North Macedonia from finding the back of the net.
Other familiar faces in midfield included Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick, playing behind Peter Crouch and Wayne Rooney up top. With such talent on display, it was surprising to see this game finish goalless.
England failed to convert two key chances in this match, with Gerrard and Neville hitting the woodwork. It was also the Macedonian keeper, Jane Nikoloski, who had a game to remember, making crucial saves to deny Lampard and Crouch.
There were two bookings in this match, one for Robert Petrov of North Macedonia, and one for Gerrard. At the time Gerrard’s card was a big blow to England, as it meant that he would be missing out on a clash with Croatia in their next game.
England made some changes in the 70th minute in an attempt to try and break down their opponent’s backline. However, their choices on the bench were not quite the same level of quality as they are now. Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jermain Defoe came on for Stewart Downing and Crouch, yet were also unable to provide much going forward.
Given England’s recent run of games, people would be surprised if the game ended goalless on Monday evening, but with such a ‘golden generation’ 2006 side being held in the second-to-last match between the two countries, there’s always a chance we see a shock with England safely through.
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