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Nov 14, 2021 at 5pm UK
N. MacedoniaNorth Macedonia
Alioski (7'), Elmas (65', 87')
Dimitrievski (29'), Kostadinov (45+1'), Elmas (73'), Miovski (83'), Ristovski (85')
FT(HT: 1-0)

Preview: North Macedonia vs. Iceland - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: North Macedonia vs. Iceland - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Sunday's World Cup Qualifying - Europe clash between North Macedonia and Iceland, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

North Macedonia will endeavour to assure themselves of a place in the World Cup 2022 playoffs when they face off against Iceland on the final day in Group J.

The hosts marched to an emphatic 5-0 win over Armenia last time out, while their eliminated opponents played out a goalless draw with Romania.

Match preview

Breaking a North Macedonian record that had stood for over 25 years, Enis Bardhi led his side's charge against Armenia, registering a hat-trick in a 5-0 thumping of their playoff rivals to become the first man to score a qualifying hat-trick for his country since 1996.

Aleksandar Trajkovski and Milan Ristovski also struck as North Macedonia boosted their hopes of a second-placed finish at the expense of Armenia's, and their destiny is firmly in their own hands ahead of Sunday's final fixtures.

Indeed, Blagoja Milevski's side find themselves one point clear of Romania and three better off than Armenia in second spot, so no matter what transpires around them, all three points on home soil will guarantee North Macedonia a spot in the playoffs.

The hosts' bid to qualify for their first-ever World Cup as an independent nation is therefore still very much alive, and a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Germany last month represents their only defeat from their last six games in Group J.

North Macedonia have otherwise kept four clean sheets and scored 11 goals in that impressive streak, but rather worryingly, they have failed to win any of their last three qualifying games at home and are also without a single goal on familiar territory in that time.

Iceland's three-game unbeaten run in World Cup qualifying has come too late for the Nordic nation to salvage anything other than a sense of pride, but they can take the positives from holding Romania to a goalless stalemate last time out.

However, Iceland's hopes of back-to-back appearances on the biggest stage of them all have already been dashed, as Arnar Vidarsson's side cannot finish any higher than fourth in the group after struggling for consistency throughout their Group J campaign.

Three years on from bowing out in the group stage of Russia 2018, Iceland have tried to hold their own but ultimately came up short in the tightly-fought section, posting just two wins over basement boys Liechtenstein and suffering four defeats - two of which have come away from home.

Vidarsson's men produced an impressive comeback in the final 15 minutes of their clash with North Macedonia in September - coming back from two goals down to draw 2-2 - but both of their visits to the landlocked country have seen them suffer two defeats without finding the back of the net.

North Macedonia World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • D
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • L
  • W

Iceland World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • L
  • D
  • L
  • D
  • W
  • D

Team News

North Macedonia captain Stefan Ristovski is back from a one-game ban this week and should slot straight back into the right-back position, with Stefan Ashkovski making way.

Milevski otherwise has no reason to alter a winning formula this weekend, with Levante hotshot Bardhi and Napoli's Eljif Elmas forming a strong engine room for the hosts.

Trajkovski's next goal for the national team will see him hit number 20, but North Macedonia's second-highest goalscorer is still some way off catching Goran Pandev and his 38 strikes.

Meanwhile, Iceland veteran Ari Freyr Skulason had to be withdrawn after just 15 minutes of his side's draw with Romania, and his spot at left-back should be filled by Gudmundur Thorarinsson.

The visitors have nothing to play for but will not want to bow out with a whimper, so Albert Gudmundsson and 104-cap Birkir Bjarnason could hold their spots in a strong XI.

North Macedonia possible starting lineup:
Dimitrievski; S. Ristovski, Velkovski, Musliu, Alioski; Kostadinov; Churlinov, Elmas, Bardhi, Trajkovski; M. Ristovski

Iceland possible starting lineup:
Olafsson; Sampsted, Brynjar Bjarnason, Gretarsson, Thorarinsson; Johannesson, Birkir Bjarnason, Thordarson; Gudmundsson, Gudjohnsen, Thorsteinsson

We say: North Macedonia 2-1 Iceland

Goals have been extremely hard to come by for North Macedonia on home turf, but they have appeared to rediscover their magic touch at just the right time, if the thrashing of Armenia is anything to go by.

Iceland will be determined to end their doomed campaign on a high note and have proven more resilient in recent games, but with a spot in the playoffs at stake, North Macedonia should make use of their home advantage to clinch second place.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data

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