Bekim Balaj of Albania in action © Getty Images
Bekim Balaj of Albania in action © Getty Images

The Albania national football team has got a long history of football as it has represented the Albanian nation since 1946. Albania won their first major trophy in 1946, as they won the Balkan Cup, followed by the Malta Rothmans International Tournament in 2000. The 2016 edition of the UEFA Euro 2016 would be their first ever appearance in any major UEFA or FIFA competition, as they clearly have the debutante tag over themselves. Nevertheless, the tag doesn’t make them less dangerous as having qualified for Europe’s topmost international league makes them one of the best.

The Albania football team was created before the Albania Football Association in 1930, during which they joined the FIFA Congress. They lost their first ever international game to Yugoslavia by 2-3. In 1954, Albania was one of the founding members of UEFA. Albania also participated in the 1966 FIFA World Cup qualifiers for the first time, but only managed a point in the table. In 1968, they disallowed Germany from participating in the Euro, following a goalless draw. They were on a six year hiatus, following unknown political reason, and returned in 1982 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. Albania also registered some historic result, when they beat 2004 UEFA Euro champions Greece 2-1 in 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

According to Wikipedia, Albania started the qualifiers of the UEFA Euro 2016 with an emphatic 1–0 away win against Portugal, which was followed by a 1–1 draw against Denmark at the newly renovated stadium Elbasan Arena. After beating 3–0 Armenia in the last qualifying match, Albania made history by qualified in the UEFA Euro 2016, its first ever appearance at a major men’s football tournament, which proves, that their recent performance have indeed been way better and can be a possible threat to other teams in the competition.

Players to watch out for:

Ansi Agolli (LB): Ansi Agolli, currently plays for FK Qarabağ in the Azerbaijan Premier League and the Albanian national team. Although a left midfielder or fullback, he can also operate as a right fullback. Agolli made his debut against Kazakhstan in FIFA World Cup 2006 qualifiers on September 3, 2005, when he came in as a substitute. He also scored his opening goal in a friendly-match against Georgia in June 2009. On 16 November 2015, Agolli captained Albania for the first time in his 58th appearance, playing full-90 minutes in a 2–2 home draw against Georgia.

Lorik Cana (CDM): The skipper of the Albania national side, and also the most experienced player in the side, has played 91 matches for the side. He plays as a defender for French club and is primarily a defensive midfielder. Cana is eligible to play for Albania, Switzerland or France, as he holds all three passports. In early 2003, Cana chose Albania after receiving a call-up from the Albanian Football Association alongside coach Hans-Peter Briegel.

Armando Sadiku (ST): The most valid striker in Albania at present, having played 19 matches, and scored four goals. He plays as a Forward for Vaduz in the Swiss Super League as well. On October 11, 2015, Sadiku came on the field as a substitute in the 59th minute in the final qualifying game against Armenia, and scored in the 76th minute with a weak shoot inside the box, helping Albania qualified for the UEFA Euro 2016 in its first ever appearance at major football tournament.

Schedule:

June 11, 2016: vs Switzerland

June 15, 2016: vs France

June 19, 2016: vs Romania

Squads:

GK: Etrit Berisha, Orges Shehi, Alban Hoxha

DEF: Andi Lila, Elseid Hysaj, Frederik Veseli, Ansi Agolli, Mërgim Mavraj, Naser Aliji, Arlind Ajeti

MID: Ermir Lenjani, Lorik Cana (captain), Migjen Basha, Ledian Memushaj, Taulant Xhaka, Ergys Kaçe, Odise Roshi, Amir Abrashi

FW: Shkëlzen Gashi, Sokol Cikalleshi,Bekim Balaj

Manager: Gianni De Biasi

(Ayush Gupta is a reporter at CricketCountry. A passionate supporter of Manchester United, he idolises Roger Federer and is also a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) maniac. He can be followed on Twitter @Ayush24x7)