Albania's Underdog Spirit: A Dark Horse in Euro 2024

Albania's second participation in a major tournament sees them facing tough opponents like Italy, Spain, and Croatia. Despite a challenging group, their lack of expectation could be an asset. Under manager Sylvinho, Albania has shown improved form, making them a potential dark horse in Euro 2024.

Reuters | Updated: 03-06-2024 07:35 IST | Created: 03-06-2024 07:35 IST
Albania's Underdog Spirit: A Dark Horse in Euro 2024
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Albania's participation at Euro 2024 is only their second appearance in a major tournament and, while they face a tough task to progress from an extremely difficult group, a lack of expectation could prove valuable.

Their only previous appearance at the Euros came in 2016 where they failed to advance to the knockout phase and this time around they come up against defending champions Italy along with Spain and Croatia in Group B. That is a lot of tournament experience to take on but Albania will be buoyed up by their form in qualifying as group winners, ahead of the Czech Republic and Poland, after going seven games unbeaten following their opening loss to the Poles.

Since their historic debut in 2016, Albania have missed out on qualifying for the last Euros along with two World Cups but, under new manager Sylvinho, they have turned a corner. In 2022 they recorded just one win in 11 games. Sylvinho took over as Albania's manager at the beginning of 2023 and last year they won five of their nine matches, losing just once.

Sylvinho brought in fellow Brazilian Doriva and Argentine Pablo Zabaleta to work alongside him and together they set about finding players to suit their style of play. Jasir Asani is one of those players, a left-footed right winger who plays his club football with Gwangju in South Korea, and has featured in every match since Sylvinho came in, and scored three goals in the qualifiers.

Albania will hope to catch Italy off guard when they play them in their opening game in Germany and they have plenty of players in their squad who will be very familiar with their opponents. Kristjan Asllani, Nedim Bajrami, Berat Djimsiti, Elseid Hysaj, Ylber Ramadani, Etrit Berisha and Ardian Ismajli all play their club football in Serie A, and Sylvinho previously worked under Roberto Mancini at Inter Milan.

Albania have lost all four previous meetings with Italy and against Spain they have suffered defeat in each of their eight matches, while this will be their first game with Croatia. When the draw was made for their qualifying group, Poland were expected to stroll it, with maybe Czech Republic giving them a battle. Instead, Albania proved the strongest, so being the underdogs seems to suit them.

Nobody will expect them to come through their group in Germany and the lack of pressure could make them a dangerous prospect for anyone who takes them for granted.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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