TURIN, Italy, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Italy’s hopes of qualifying directly for next year’s World Cup were dashed as they produced another uninspired performance and were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Macedonia in their qualifier on Friday.
The result, coupled with Spain’s 3-0 win over Albania, ensured that Italy will finish second in Group G, almost certainly guaranteeing them a place in a two-leg playoff for a place in Russia next year.
Giorgio Chiellini put Italy ahead five minutes before halftime but the hosts were stunned when Aleksandar Trajkovski levelled in the 77th minute.
Italy have 20 points in Group G and are set to finish as one of the best eight runners-up who progress to the playoff round from the nine European groups. The group winners all qualify directly.
Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Toby Davis