Germany's keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen averts North Macedonia's Darko Velkoski try during the match, in Duisburg, Germany on Wednesday
Germany's keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen averts North Macedonia's Darko Velkoski try during the match, in Duisburg, Germany on Wednesday
AFP

Duisburg (Germany): True to their names, 'the tall ones or 'highlanders' North Macedonia produced the biggest upset of European's Qatar 2022 qualifiers thus far with a famous win away to Germany. Goran Pandev finished off a delightful team move to stun the Brazil 2014 winners just before the break, but Ilkay Gundogan’s penalty restored parity in the 63rd minute. After Timo Werner had missed a golden chance to put Germany ahead, Eljif Elmas pounced to seize North Macedonia one of their best-ever results.

Germany levelled after Goran Pandev's opening goal in first-half stoppage time but had no answer to Eljif Elmas' 85th-minute winner for North Macedonia, which moved above Germany into second place in Group J on Wednesday.

Armenia is the surprise leader as the only team to win all three games so far, after coming from behind to beat Romania 3-2.

"The fact is that that this obviously shouldn't happen," said the Germany midfielder Ilkay Gündogan.

Pandev opened the scoring when Germany's defense completely lost track of the veteran Genoa forward. However, Gundogan equalised from the penalty spot in the 63rd after Leroy Sane was brought down by Ezgjan Alioski.

North Macedonia could have had a penalty for apparent handball by Emre Can at a corner, but it wasn't spotted by the referee. There is no video review system for qualifiers. Soon after, Timo Werner missed Germany's best chance to go ahead, scuffing a shot badly wide when one-on-one with the goalkeeper off Gundogan's pass on the break.

As Germany pushed for another goal, it was North Macedonia which made the breakthrough. Arijan Ademi squared the ball through Antonio Rüdiger's legs as Pandev drew away the German defenders, leaving space for Elmas to score past Marc-André ter Stegen.

Germany had gone 35 games unbeaten in World Cup qualifying since a 5-1 loss to England in Munich in 2001, and had won its last 18 in a row as it pursues a place at the 2022 tournament in Qatar.

North Macedonia has never played at a World Cup but will make its tournament debut at the European Championship this year after Pandev scored the winning goal in a playoff against Georgia in November.

It was the last qualifying game in the 15-year reign of Germany coach Joachim Low, who is stepping down after the European Championship in June and July.

Trailing 2-1 in the 87th minute, Armenia scored twice to beat 10-man Romania 3-2 for its third straight win in World Cup qualifying.

Armenia has never come close to qualifying for a World Cup before, but those three wins already make it the country's second-best qualifying campaign. It's a remarkable turnaround for a country that was beaten 9-1 by Italy as recently as 2019.

Romania has played at the World Cup seven times, but not since 1998, and its wait looks set to continue after beginning the group-stage campaign with one win and two losses.

Iceland beat Liechtenstein 4-1 to end a seven-game losing run.

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