North Macedonians on Thursday were revelling in their football team’s remarkable victory over Germany, dubbed “the Miracle of Duisburg”, in World Cup qualifying.
Goals from veteran striker Goran Pandev and Napoli’s Eljif Elmas helped North Macedonia inflict only a third ever World Cup qualifying loss on Germany, and the first since 2001.
Local press unsurprisingly greeted the feat with glee. “Macedonian miracle in Duisburg,” read the headline in daily Sloboden Pecat.
Nova Makedonija said that “Elmas and Pandev brought the quadruple champions of the world to their knees” in the “historic victory”.
Germany have never failed to qualify for the World Cup, a tournament they have won four times, alongside three European Championship titles.
“We’ve never beaten a team with so many titles,” North Macedonia coach Igor Angelovski said. “These boys have made North Macedonia proud.”
On the streets of capital Skopje, many people could still not believe the incredible win.
“Pandev has placed North Macedonia on football’s world map,” said supporter Igor Ordev, who had bought tickets for the game but could not attend due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I felt something was going to happen there,” he added.
Last November, North Macedonia had already scaled new heights when they qualified for a major tournament for the first time by booking their place at the delayed Euro 2020 finals, which get underway on June 11.
They qualified through the Nations League play-offs.
North Macedonia only bears its current name after signing an agreement in 2018 with Greece, which disputed the right to use the Macedonian name.
A curfew in the nation from 10pm local time prevented any wild celebrations in city centres.
“I think this is one of the best results ever for the national team,” another supporter, Jovan Dimitrov, told AFP.
The team and their supporters will now be dreaming of a World Cup finals debut next year in Qatar, with North Macedonia sitting second in Group J, ahead of Germany on goal difference and three points behind surprise leaders Armenia.
“I expect them to continue… and that they will give us reason to rejoice by qualifying for the World Cup,” said another fan, Petar Mladenovski.
Next up though will be Euro 2020, where North Macedonia have been drawn to face the Netherlands, Ukraine and Austria in Group C.
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