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EURO 2016: SPOTLIGHT ON ALBANIA

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Albania made waves in the qualifiers by claiming an unexpected place for this summer's finals in France. This is their first appearance in a major tournament. The 14 points they amassed in the qualifiers turned out to be enough for a direct spot in the finals by two points, thus meaning the small Eastern European country can write a new chapter in their footballing history.

Albania are preparing for Euro 2016 with a group of 27 players. Their biggest star is without a doubt 32-year old defender Lorik Cana of Nantes. Albania's captain has had a long career at the top of European football, performing in the Premier League and Serie A in addition to Ligue 1.

PREVIEW AND ASSESMENT

With Italian coach Gianni De Bias at the helm, Albania impressively reached the finals of a major tournament for the first time in the countries history. Albania were defensively one of the best teams in the qualifiers and only five goals conceded in eight matches was an impressive feat from such a small footballing nation.

Albania will continue to rely on their defence in France, as material-wise they simply don't have the men for a more attacking style. If they are to get anything from the tournament their defence needs to perform perfectly. A good example of this was when they beat group favourites Portugal 1-0, one of the biggest upsets in the qualifiers. 

Albania's first spot at a major tournament is a great put-down to all the doubters, but it's hard to believe that they'll wrestle themselves to the knockout stages. Albania's squad is full of young and promising players, and the Euros will be a fantastic opportunity for them to improve. These Euros will most likely only be good experience for the squad, as Group A looks too tough to hope for anything better.

Assessment: 4th in Group A

Betting Tip: No goods as of yet

It promises to be yet another epic battle for the title of European Champions! Check out the favourites and best odds from this link!

ALBANIA'S MOST LIKELY STARTING ELEVEN

Goalkeeper: Berisha

Defenders: Hysaj, Cana, Mavral, Agolli

Midfielders: Roshi, Basha, Xhaka, Lenjani, Gashi

Forward: Cikalleshi

Key Player: Elseid Hysaj, Napoli

At just 22 years of age Hysaj has cemented his place in Napoli's starting lineup, starting 37 times for the Serie A giants. Hysaj isn't like most modern full-backs, instead focusing on keeping a clean sheet. 2nd-placed in the Serie A this season, Napoli also conceded the second-least goals in the division with Hysaj playing a big part in this. Albania need to keep opposition forwards at bay in all their games, and a player like Hysaj is one of the best at doing just that.

Who'll win the Golden Boot at Euro 2016? Check out the best odds from this link!

ALBANIA'S SQUAD FOR EURO 2016

Goalkeepers:

Etrit Berisha (Lazio)

Orges Shehi (Skënderbeu Korçë)

Alban Hoxha (Partizani Tirana)

Defenders:

Lorik Cana (Nantes)

Ansi Agolli (Qarabağ)

Andi Lila (PAS Giannina)

Mërgim Mavraj (FC Köln)

Elseid Hysaj (Napoli)

Arlind Ajeti (Frosinone)

Naser Aliji (Basel)

Frederic Veseli (Lugano)

Midfielders:

Odise Roshi (Rijeka)

Migjen Basha (Como)

Amir Abrashi (SC Freiburg)

Ermir Lenjani (Nantes)

Burim Kukeli (Zürich)

Ergys Kaçe (PAOK)

Ledian Memushaj (Italy Pescara)

Shkëlzen Gashi (Colorado Rapids)

Taulant Xhaka (Basel)

 

Forwards:

Armando (Sadiku Vaduz)

Sokol (Cikalleshi İstanbul Başakşehir)

Bekim (Balaj Rijeka)

Manager: Gianni De Biasi

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