Euro 2016 Group A

Albania

11 June - Switzerland (2pm GMT Stade Bollaert-Delelis, Lens)
15 June - France (8pm GMT Stade Velodrome, Marseille)
19 June - Romania (8pm GMT Parc OL, Lyon)

Albania prepare for their first major tournament under the stewardship of Gianni De Biasi But can they advance beyond the group stages? Chloe Beresford writes.

Albania’s maiden tournament

Reaching the finals of a major tournament for the first time in history, Albania face a tough group that includes host nation France along with Switzerland and Romania. Despite impressive results in qualifying, this side must improve their scoring record and eradicate defensive frailties that have plagued them of late if they are to stand any hope of advancing beyond the group stages. 

Coach: Gianni De Biasi. The Italian Coach has worked with the Albanian national side since 2011. This is his first role as a national team manager, having previously only ever coached domestically on the peninsula.

Preferred XI: Berisha; Hysaj, Cana, Mavraj, Agolli; Xhaka, Kukeli; Roshi, Abrashi, Lenjani; Cikalleshi.

This team can be error-prone defensively and look vulnerable when the opposition play a high-pressure game. Their completed pass rate of 1,886 in qualifying was the lowest of any other finalist.

Look out for: Elseid Hysaj. After arriving from Empoli in the summer, Hysaj has made 36 appearances for Napoli this term. Under careful guidance of Coach Maurizio Sarri he has improved his all-round game, his passing success rate increasing from 80.4% to 85.5% in the current campaign.

Did you know?

  • A 3-0 victory was awarded to Albania in the qualifiers as opponents Serbia were forced to forfeit the match when a political banner was flown into the stadium by drone.
  •  Albania beat their group A rivals France 1-0 in a friendly in June 2015
  •  Euro 2016 is their first major tournament

Albania versus…

… Romania P 18 W 2 D 3 L 13 F 11 A 45
… France P 6 W 1 D 1 L 4 F 3 A 12
… Switzerland P 6 W 0 D 1 L 5 F 4 A 11

Stats

Population: 2.89m
Nickname: Kuq e Zinjte (The Red & Blacks) Shqiponjat (The Eagles)
Calcio fans might remember: Igli Tare - Brescia (2001-2003) Bologna (2003-2006) Lazio (2006-2008)
Top Division: Kategoria Superiore
FIFA World Ranking: 45
International honours: None
Most capped player: Lorik Cana (90)
Leading international scorer: Erjon Bogadoni (18)
Albania at the European Championships:

1960 - Did not enter
1964 - Did not qualify
1968 - Did not qualify
1972 - Did not qualify
1976 - Did enter
1980 - Did enter
1984 - Did not qualify
1988 - Did not qualify
1992 - Did not qualify
1996 - Did not qualify
2000 - Did not qualify
2004 - Did not qualify
2008 - Did not qualify
2012 - Did not qualify

How they got to Euro 2016: Albania qualified with an impressive win over Portugal, plus victories over Armenia and Serbia and a draw with Denmark.