Germany's forward Timo Werner fails to score past North Macedonia's goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification football match Germany v North Macedonia in Duisburg, western Germany on 31 March 2021
Germany's forward Timo Werner fails to score past North Macedonia's goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification football match Germany v North Macedonia in Duisburg, western Germany on 31 March 2021AFP

Germany suffered a stunning 2-1 home loss to North Macedonia in World Cup qualifying on Wednesday. Napoli midfielder Eljif Elmas secured a famous victory for North Macedonia in Duisburg, scoring five minutes from time to give his country a second win from three group J matches.

Veteran striker Goran Pandev, 37, put the visitors in front just before half-time but Ilkay Gundogan levelled from the spot after Leroy Sane was fouled in the area.

Timo Werner missed a glorious chance after coming off the bench, and Elmas condemned the four-time world champions to a first defeat in qualifying for the global showpiece since 2001 when he steered in a cut-back from Arijan Ademi.

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"I don’t know how to explain it. It's not easy to do. We knew that we couldn't underestimate the opponent and I don't think we did that. We just weren't good enough," said Gundogan.

"It's not quite sunk in yet. This is a victory for the whole nation," said North Macedonia coach Igor Angelovski, whose side will make their European Championship debut this summer.

Germany are level alongside North Macedonia in a section led surprisingly by Armenia, who won for the third time in as many games thanks to two late goals in a 3-2 victory over Romania.

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Germany's performance was dubbed "embarrassing" after they suffered their first World Cup qualifying defeat in 20 years in a humiliating 2-1 home loss to North Macedonia which heaped pressure on German coach Joachim Loew.

"The disappointment is huge. This is a set-back. There were a lot of mistakes and we didn't find a way to break down the deep-standing North Macedonians”, said a crest-fallen Loew after the final whistle in Duisburg on Wednesday.

"We also let them counter-attack and had no grip on the game."

The four-time world champions have never failed to qualify for football's biggest tournament, but did not enter the inaugural edition in 1930 and were banned in 1950.

Before kick-off, the Germans revealed a banner with the words "Wir sind 30" (We are 30), in black-red-gold lettering, referring to the United Nations' 30-point declaration of Human Rights.

It was the third straight match where the Germans have made a protest aimed at 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar.

Several other nations including Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway have also protested for human rights before their qualifiers over the last week.

Qatar has faced criticism for its treatment of migrant workers, many of whom are involved in preparations for next year's tournament, while Qatari authorities insist they have done more than any country in the region to improve worker welfare.

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