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EURO 2024 TEAM GUIDE: Unranked Albania hope their defensive stubbornness can spring a surprise in toughest group stage draw


Underestimate Albania at your peril, as the Group B underdogs are not coming to Germany just to add to their numbers, even if they are in the fabled ‘Group of Death’.

Only Georgia are lower in the FIFA rankings than the Albanians, and they enter the tournament as outsiders in terms of who they face in the group stage.

However, as they proved in the qualifiers, Albania are a tough nut to crack and have been built on an extremely solid defensive foundation – led by a combination of some familiar Premier League faces in their coaching staff.

Although the power of Spain, Italy and Croatia is a daunting task, the Albanians will relish it as they embark on just their second major tournament.

The Eastern Europeans are more than capable of shutting out the group’s big guns and have enough to conjure up a killer blow – including Chelsea star Armando Broj – and cause an upset.

Mail Sport takes you through the Albanian team, including how they qualified for the tournament, their history in it and who to watch out for.

Albania may arrive in Germany as regular outsiders, but they are capable of upsetting the odds

Young Chelsea striker Armando Broja gives Albania an attacking threat in their front line

Young Chelsea striker Armando Broja gives Albania an attacking threat in their front line

Who is their manager?

There is a familiar face to Premier League fans leading Albania’s Euro 2024 in the guise of former Arsenal and Manchester City defender Sylvinho.

The left-back, who won a host of honors with Barcelona later in his career – including two Champions Leagues – was appointed in January 2023 with only unsuccessful spells in charge of Lyon and Corinthians, but has worked wonders with Albania.

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With the help of somewhat coincidental Premier League winner Pablo Zabaleta and former Middlesbrough midfielder Doriva, the Brazilian was awarded the Golden Eagle decoration and Albanian citizenship for his services during his one year in charge.

His greatest accolade, however, could be Albania’s trip out of their Euro group.

Former Arsenal and Man City defender Sylvinho has been a huge success for Albania

Former Arsenal and Man City defender Sylvinho has been a huge success for Albania

Who is their star man?

The Albanian-style ethos is their stronghold in defense and the back four is managed by Atalanta’s Berat Djimsiti.

The centre-back was born in Switzerland and played for the Swiss under-21 team before moving to Albania in 2015 and becoming the heart of their defence.

He will enter the tournament in full force after captaining Atalanta to their Europa League triumph over Bayer Leverkusen last month.

Berat Djimsiti has become a key defender in Albania's back four since his debut in 2015.

Berat Djimsiti has become a key defender in Albania’s back four since his debut in 2015.

The defender captained Atalanta to victory in the Europa League over Bayer Leverkusen

The defender captained Atalanta to victory in the Europa League over Bayer Leverkusen

How did they qualify?

To the surprise of some, Albania did not have to rely on any return trip via the Nations League or the play-offs to travel to Germany, as they topped their qualifying group ahead of the Czech Republic and Poland.

They comfortably beat the Czech Republic (3:0) and the Poles (2:0) at home and kept four clean sheets out of four at home and were in the group on goal difference.

Luminaires (All UK Time)

June 15th – Italy vs. Albania (Dortmund, 20:00)

June 19 – Croatia vs. Albania (Hamburg, 14:00)

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June 24th – Albania vs. Spain (Dusseldorf, 20:00)

Tournament history

As for Albania, their grand finals debut at Euro 2016 is only one major tournament to speak of.

They were drawn in Group A alongside hosts France, Switzerland and Romania. Led by Italian Gianni De Biasi, they narrowly lost their opening game to Switzerland before losing to France to exit the tournament.

However, they managed their first win of the tournament when they beat Romania in their final group game thanks to a goal from Armand Sadika.

Armando Sadiku celebrates scoring his country's first ever tournament goal at Euro 2016

Armando Sadiku celebrates scoring his country’s first ever tournament goal at Euro 2016

A chance to win a trophy

500-1 (Sky Bet)

Provisional squad (27 players)

Goalkeepers: Etrit Berisha (Empoli), Elhan Castrati (Cittadella), Simon Simoni (Eintracht), Tomáš Strakosha (Brentford)

Defenders: Nasser Alii (Voluntari), Arlind Aeti (CFR Kduz), Ivan Baliu (Rayo Vallecano), Berat Djimsiti (Atalanta), Elseid Gusay (Lazio), Ardian Ismayli (Empoli), Maras Kumbula (Sassuolo), Enea Mihai (Famali) , Mario Mitai (Locomotive)

Reserves: Amir Abrachi (Grasshopper), Cristian Aslani (Inter), Nedim Bayrami (Sassuolo), Medon Berisha (Lecce), Klaus Gyasula (Darmstadt), Kyazim Ljaci (Sparta Prague), Ernest Muci (Besiktas), Ulber Ramadani (Lecce)

Attackers: Yasir Asani (Gwangju), Armando Broja (Chelsea), Mirlind Daku (Rubin), Arber Hoxha (Dinamo Zagreb), Rey Manay (Sivasspor), Taulant Seferi (Bani Yas)



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