Albania make the trip to France for their first ever major tournament, but with not many are expecting Gianni De Biasi’s side to cause any problems at Euro 2016, can Albania pull off a massive shock?
This is the first time Albania have qualified for a major tournament.
They finished second in their qualifying group behind Portugal and ahead of 1992 European champions Denmark, who failed to qualify after defeat by Sweden in the play-off’s.
Albania will be looking to captain Lorik Cana to lead their Euro 2016 campaign and give their group A rivals something to think about. The former Sunderland player hopes to steady the Albanian defence and cause frustration to their rivals.
The Nantes centre-back is Albania’s most experienced player heading to France and fans will be hoping he can continue his fine qualifying form into the tournament, with Albania having not conceded a single away from home goal in qualifying.
It will be tough for Cana and co. to keep up that fine defensive record against the likes of France and Switzerland and having been the lowest scoring finalists in qualifying, Albania will be looking to a strong defence to do their talking.
One to Watch
This brother Granit completed a big money move to Arsenal last month but this is the chance for Taulant Xhaka to show what he’s got as he looks to step out of his brother’s shadow.
The older of the Xhaka brother’s has been a key part in defence for both Albania and Basel, having helped his club clinch a seventh Swiss Super League title in a row, with the 25-year-old part of four of those winning squads.
It will be an interesting day when he comes face to face with his brother Granit in their opening match against Switzerland and Taulant will be hoping he will be the one to come out on top with the bragging rights.
Goalkeepers: Etrit Berisha (Lazio), Alban Hoxha (Partizani), Orges Shehi (Skenderbeu).
Defenders: Elseid Hysaj (Napoli), Lorik Cana (Nantes), Arlind Ajeti (Frosinone), Mergim Mavraj (Cologne), Naser Aliji (Basel), Ansi Agolli (Karabag), Frederik Veseli (Lugano).
Midfielders: Ermir Lenjani (Nantes), Andi Lila (Giannina), Migjen Basha (Como), Ledian Memushaj (Pescara), Burim Kukeli (Zurich), Taulant Xhaka (Basel), Ergys Kace (PAOK), Amir Abrashi (Freiburg), Odise Roshi (Rijeka).
Strikers: Bekim Balaj (Rijeka), Sokol Cikalleshi (Medipol Basaksehir), Armando Sadiku (Vaduz), Shkelzen Gashi (Colorado Rapids).
Prediction: Group Stages
This is Albania’s first ever European Championships and I expect it to be a short-lived one for the Balkan country. No one is expecting them to make it out of Group A and I feel exactly the same.
They kick-off their campaign against Switzerland and while they could put up a brave fight, I expect Switzerland to edge past them. They have no chance against hosts France but they could snatch a point off Romania.
There could be some shock results in France but I don’t think Albania will be the surprise team. Gianni De Biasi’s side will do well to pick up a single point in France but there is no way Albania will make it out of the group.
11 June v Switzerland (1400)
15 June v France (2000)
19 June v Romania (2000)