In a dramatic turn of events, England narrowly avoided defeat in their final Euro 2024 qualification match against North Macedonia, thanks to a fortuitous own goal by Jani Atanasov. This moment came shortly after Harry Kane, arguably in his prime, entered the match as a substitute. His introduction was a game-changer, leading to the equalizer just 40 seconds later. It was Kane’s presence and a sharp run onto Phil Foden’s corner that unsettled Atanasov, leading to the own goal.
England’s Euro 2024 Qualification Journey
This draw marks the end of an otherwise stellar qualification campaign for England. Their journey, characterized by strong performances, was never really in doubt, starting with a significant win against Italy in Naples. This latest result, albeit a bit underwhelming, showcased the team’s resilience and ability to find results even in challenging circumstances.
The Controversial Role of Referee Filip Glova
The match was also notable for the controversial decisions made by referee Filip Glova. His choices, particularly in awarding a penalty to North Macedonia, significantly influenced the game’s flow. Glova’s decision to penalize debutant Rico Lewis for a foul on Bojan Miovski was one of many instances where his interventions were questioned. Despite a save from Jordan Pickford, North Macedonia’s Enis Bardhi scored on the rebound, putting England under pressure.
England’s Performance: A Mixed Bag
While England’s display was not flawless, it was an improvement over their previous 2-0 win against Malta at Wembley. The team’s record for the year stands impressive with eight wins and two draws from ten games. However, the true test for England will be how they perform at the European Championship in Germany.
North Macedonia’s Resilient Display
North Macedonia entered the match determined to show their grit and resilience, especially after their heavy defeat by England earlier in the year. Their physical approach, particularly against England’s wingers Bukayo Saka and Jack Grealish, was a significant aspect of their strategy. This approach tested the temperament of the English players and led to moments of frustration for coach Gareth Southgate.
Key Moments and Decisions
- Harry Maguire’s Challenge: Maguire found himself in a tricky situation, losing balance and clashing with Eljif Elmas, which could have led to a penalty.
- Lewis’s Controversial Foul: Lewis was penalized for an alleged foul on Miovski, leading to North Macedonia’s penalty and subsequent goal.
- VAR’s Role: The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) played a crucial part, especially in the decision against Lewis, which many deemed harsh.
- England’s Disallowed Goal: England’s efforts were further thwarted when a goal was disallowed for offside after a promising move involving Saka and Grealish.
- Ollie Watkins’ Missed Opportunity: Starting ahead of Kane, Watkins struggled to make a significant impact, touching the ball only 11 times.
- Grealish and Saka’s Challenges: Both wingers faced physical challenges but remained key components of England’s attack.
- Kane’s Instant Impact: Kane’s introduction immediately boosted England’s attacking threat, leading to the equalizing goal.
Southgate’s Tactical Decisions
Coach Gareth Southgate’s lineup was progressive, with notable decisions like retaining Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield and omitting Kalvin Phillips. Rico Lewis, playing as a left-back, was involved in several key moments, both positive and negative.
As England reflects on this qualification campaign, the focus now shifts to the upcoming European Championship. The team’s ability to adapt and overcome challenges, as seen in this match, will be crucial in their pursuit of European glory.
England’s draw against North Macedonia in their final Euro 2024 qualifier was a mixed bag of tactical decisions, controversial refereeing, and resilient opposition. While the team showed improvement and the ability to salvage points, the real test will be how they perform in the upcoming European Championship. This match serves as a reminder of the unpredictability of football and the importance of adapting to every situation on the field.