England officially secured the highest possible group-stage seeding at Euro 2024 despite having to come from behind to draw 1-1 away at North Macedonia.
Gareth Southgate’s side, who beat Monday’s opponents 7-0 in June, fell behind to a team with just four wins in 14 as Enis Bardhi scored a rebounded penalty after a controversial call to penalise debutant Rico Lewis for an upper-body foul in the box.
Declan Rice hit the post in the first half while Jack Grealish saw a goal early in the second half ruled out by VAR, but it was captain Harry Kane who had to come off the bench and force an immediate own goal by Jani Atanasov for the equaliser from Phil Foden’s corner.
England ended their 2023 season by labouring to a draw with another indifferent display, but they got the point they needed to wrap up a Pot 1 spot when the Euro 2024 draw takes place on December 2.
England showed some attacking intent in the opening exchanges through their new players in the opening four minutes.
Ollie Watkins, starting in Kane’s place up front, saw a near-post shot blocked behind for a corner, with Lewis blasting over after the resulting set-piece was cleared out to him.
Then came England’s closest chance of the first half as Rice powered a low strike through players from the edge of the area, only for the midfielder to see his effort bounce off the post.
Watkins missed a free header from close range moments later – and couldn’t get a goalscoring touch on a slick Phil Foden through ball later in the half, as England showed signs of wastefulness with Kane on the bench.
North Macedonia gave England a warning before their opener, as Harry Maguire’s poor pass while playing out from the back was then followed by the centre-back appearing to bundle Elif Elmas over in the box.
VAR took a look at the challenge but waved it away, it was not so forgiving to Lewis just moments before the first half.
A long ball forward saw the England debutant challenge Bojan Miovski in the area and head clear, but a trailing arm on the Macedonia forward was spotted by VAR, forcing the referee to point to the spot.
Bardhi saw his initial spot-kick saved by Pickford, but slammed in the rebound as England went in behind on the break.
The visitors thought they found an equaliser seconds into the second period when Grealish tapped home Bukayo Saka’s cross from close range, but VAR penalised the goalscorer for being in an offside position.
But England did get a leveller on the hour mark, which came just 40 seconds after Kane entered the field for the wasteful Watkins.