North Macedonia stun Germany with late winner

DUISBURG, Germany, March 31 (Reuters) – North Macedonia scored an 85th-minute winner through Eljif Elmas to stun hosts Germany 2-1 in their World Cup Group J qualifier on Wednesday as the Balkan country celebrated their greatest international victory.

Elmas slotted in after the four-times world champions had controlled the game but struggled to create chances against the disciplined North Macedonians, ranked 65th in the world.

It was Germany’s first home World Cup qualifying loss in 20 years in coach Joachim Loew’s last qualifying game in charge ahead of his departure following this summer’s European Championship.

Despite Germany’s 70% possession in the first half and Leon Goretzka’s shot onto the crossbar, it was the visitors who scored when 37-year-old Goran Pandev was left unmarked in the box to tap home in first half stoppage time.

A 63rd-minute Ilkay Gundogan penalty drew the hosts level but despite late pressure and a golden chance for Timo Werner 10 minutes from time, Germany could not find a winner.

Instead, it was Elmas who scored to lift North Macedonia to six points, level with Germany in Group J and three behind leaders Armenia. (Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond)