Germany dropped their first points in World Cup 2022 qualifying as they suffered a shock 2-1 loss at home to North Macedonia on Wednesday.
Joachim Low’s side had defeated Iceland and Romania in their first two Group J games without conceding, but they were stunned in Duisburg by Eljif Elmas’ late goal.
Veteran forward Goran Pandev had earlier given North Macedonia a half-time lead, which Ilkay Gundogan cancelled out with a contentious penalty for Ezgjan Alioski’s challenge on Leroy Sane.
But Germany, ranked 52 places above their opponents in the FIFA rankings, saw substitute Timo Werner miss a glorious chance shortly before Elmas converted Arijan Ademi’s cutback to snatch a famous win for the visitors.
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) March 31, 2021
Leon Goretzka thumped a shot against the crossbar from eight yards inside the first nine minutes and Serge Gnabry wasted two promising opportunities from a similar range, testing Stole Dimitrievski down low from one of them.
North Macedonia slowly started to get at their opponents and, having gone close to an opener through a whipped Alioski free-kick that required a reaction save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Pandev stunned the hosts in first-half stoppage time.
A poor clearance from Emre Can was pounced on and Alioski picked out Enis Bardhi, who played the ball inside the makeshift Germany centre-back for Pandev to calmly slot past stand-in keeper Ter Stegen.
Low turned to Werner and Amin Younes before the hour, switching to a back three in the process, and the change of tactics instantly paid off.
Sane cut inside Alioski and the wing-back was adjudged to have caught his opponent’s standing leg, giving Gundogan the chance to drive the ball down the middle from the penalty spot to level up.
Germany should have been in front late on, only for Werner to get his feet in a mix and drag wide of the target with just Dimitrievski to beat, and that proved a costly miss as Elmas made no mistake when teed up by Ademi five minutes later for the winner.