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Skenderbeu to make Europa League debut against Turkey’s Besiktas

Skenderbeu to make Europa League debut against Turkey’s Besiktas

TIRANA, Sept. 15 – Albania’s Skenderbeu will make its UEFA Europa League debut against Turkey’s Besiktas on Thursday as the first Albanian team to have qualified in a major European football competition for clubs. Skenderbeu, who failed to qualify in

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Lezha MP gives up seat over criminal record

Lezha MP gives up seat over criminal record

TIRANA, Sept. 8 – Arben Ndoka, a Socialist lawmaker, has given up his seat in parliament following weeks of pressure over his criminal conviction in Italy for facilitating prostitution. In a letter to the Socialist parliamentary group, Ndoka said he

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Portugal’s stoppage-time winner stuns Albania

Portugal’s stoppage-time winner stuns Albania

TIRANA, Sept. 8 – A stoppage-time winner stunned Albania on Monday night as Portugal’s Miguel Veloso scored a header to avenge their shock defeat in the opening Euro 2016 qualifiers last year. Portugal beat Albania 1-0 extending their lead in

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Socialist lawmaker faces charges following shootout

Socialist lawmaker faces charges following shootout

TIRANA, Sept. 7 – An Albanian lawmaker has been arrested and is facing charges for his alleged involvement in a shootout that left seven people wounded early Sunday. Parliament has given prosecutors the green light to charge Armando Prenga, a

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Albania play Portugal in key qualifier for group lead

Albania play Portugal in key qualifier for group lead

By Ervin Lisaku TIRANA, Sept. 7 – Albania will play at home to Portugal this evening in a key Euro 2016 qualifier after getting a priceless point from a goalless draw away to rivals Denmark last weekend in their bid

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Italian, British artists open memorandum exhibition in Shkodra

Italian, British artists open memorandum exhibition in Shkodra

TIRANA, Sept. 1 – Three Italian and British artists will be showcased in the northern Albanian city of Shkoder in a collective contemporary art exhibition. Italy’s Pierpaolo Campanini and Giovanni De Lazzari and Northern Ireland artist Willie Doherty will be

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Stay out of internal affairs, PM tells Athens in chapel demolition row

TIRANA, Sept. 1 – Albania’s prime minister, Edi Rama, has told Athens to stay out of the country’s internal affairs, following a row over the demolition of an illegally-built Orthodox Christian shrine in the southern Albanian coast village of Dhermi.

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Winning concessionaire to impose €5 tolls on Albania-Kosovo highway

Winning concessionaire to impose €5 tolls on Albania-Kosovo highway

TIRANA, Sept. 3 – The Albanian government has announced it will select the winning company that will operate a 114-km highway segment linking Albania to Kosovo on October 15, making it Albania’s first toll road probably by early next year.

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Western Balkans summit overshadowed by refugee crisis

Western Balkans summit overshadowed by refugee crisis

TIRANA, Aug. 31 – The Vienna Western Balkans Summit, a high-level meeting aiming to reassure the region of its European perspective, has been overshadowed by the refugee crisis hitting the region and the European Union. As the leaders of Germany,

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Albania to play Denmark, Portugal in key qualifiers for Euro 2016 bid

Albania to play Denmark, Portugal in key qualifiers for Euro 2016 bid

By Ervin Lisaku TIRANA, Aug. 31 – Albania will play away to Denmark and at home to Portugal in early September in two key Euro 2016 qualifiers in its bid to secure a historic qualification in a major international football

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                    [post_content] => shkembiTIRANA, Sept. 15 - Albania's Skenderbeu will make its UEFA Europa League debut against Turkey's Besiktas on Thursday as the first Albanian team to have qualified in a major European football competition for clubs.

Skenderbeu, who failed to qualify in the more prestigious UEFA Champions League after losing to Croatia's Dinamo Zagreb in the play-off stage, will be playing Besiktas for the first time and could become the first Albanian team to avoid defeat against Turkish opponents.

The five-time Albanian consecutive champions will be playing Besiktas in the opening game of Europa League's Group H which also features Portugal's Sporting and Russia's Lokomotiv Moscow.

Skenderbeu striker Hamdi Salihi who scored five goals in the club's Champions league qualifying stage has recovered for an injury in record time and will be ready for the home match in the Elbasan Arena stadium on Sept. 17 night.

Skenderbeu coach Mirel Josa has described the fixture with Besiktash as very difficult but said his team will do its best to get a positive result.

Skenderbeu became the first Albanian club to qualify for the Champions League play-offs after beating Moldova’s Milsami 4-0 on aggregate in the competition’s third qualifying round, automatically securing a place in the less prestigious Europa League group stage.
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_123409" align="alignright" width="300"]Arben Ndoka (Photo: TV grab) Arben Ndoka (Photo: TV grab)[/caption]

TIRANA, Sept. 8 – Arben Ndoka, a Socialist lawmaker, has given up his seat in parliament following weeks of pressure over his criminal conviction in Italy for facilitating prostitution.

In a letter to the Socialist parliamentary group, Ndoka said he was giving up his seat in Lezha County so he can work to clear his name.

He said he had been convicted by an Italian court for a crime he did not commit, and he would try to reopen the case and get an official pardon in Italy. Ndoka had served time in prison before being released in 2005.

The resignation comes more than a month after the U.S. Embassy in Tirana had called the presence in parliament of an MP convicted of human trafficking “disgraceful.”

Albania's ruling Socialist-led coalition has faced pressure over having several elected representatives with criminal ties in its ranks.

Four MPs from the ruling coalition have had to give up their seats or have been expelled from the Socialist Party so far over criminal offenses or records.

Earlier this week, another Socialist MP from Lezha County was arrested for his involvement in a shootout and brawl that left seven people wounded.

The opposition Democratic Party had previously published a conviction sheet for Ndoka, showing he had been convicted for facilitation of prostitution in Italy.

Ndoka reacted by punching the opposition MP who made the conviction public. Ndoka faced criminal charges for the assault in a parliament hallway in full view of the CCTV cameras, the footage of which is now available on YouTube. A Tirana court dropped the charges, saying it was out of its jurisdiction to deal with violence inside parliament.

Prime Minister Edi Rama has responded to criticism over selecting Ndoka and the other problematic MPs to run by saying all candidates had produced a clean penal history when he had allowed them to join the list.

Under Albanian legislation, the party leader has final say on MP lists. Ndoka's vacant seat goes to the next name in the list the Socialist Party ran in the June 21, 2013 elections.

 

 
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                    [post_content] => Albania's Lenjani jumps for the ball with Portugal's Silva during their Euro 2016 qualifying soccer match at Elbasan arena stadium in ElbasanTIRANA, Sept. 8 - A stoppage-time winner stunned Albania on Monday night as Portugal's Miguel Veloso scored a header to avenge their shock defeat in the opening Euro 2016 qualifiers last year.

Portugal beat Albania 1-0 extending their lead in Group I to 15 points, three points ahead of Denmark and four against third-placed Albania.

With two games to go, Albania can still hope to qualify directly after Denmark's goalless draw away to Armenia.

Denmark have only one game left next October when they play away to leaders Portugal while Albania has two qualifiers left against Serbia and Armenia.

After a difficult first half, Albania considerably improved their performance in the second half when striker Cikalleshi hit the post after deflection to a long-range strike.

The Albanian defence also covered Real Madrid star and Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo pretty well, leaving him few opportunities to strike.

"We must draw lessons from this loss. We must give our best for the point we lost. Portugal will do us a favour if it wins against Denmark," said De Biasi.

"Our bid is a bit complicated now that Portugal has mathematically secured its qualification," he added.

Having already mathematically secured a place in the play-offs, Albania’s qualifying campaign will close with a delicate home match against bottom Serbia on October 8 before travelling to Armenia three days later.

The top two group teams and the best third-placed side in the nine groups qualify directly for the final tournament of the Euro 2016. The eight remaining third-placed teams will contest play-offs to determine the last four qualifiers.
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_123390" align="alignright" width="300"]prenga Socialist lawmaker Armando Prenga. (Photo: VoA TV grab)[/caption]

TIRANA, Sept. 7 – An Albanian lawmaker has been arrested and is facing charges for his alleged involvement in a shootout that left seven people wounded early Sunday.

Parliament has given prosecutors the green light to charge Armando Prenga, a Socialist member of parliament from Lezha County, who was arrested immediately after he and members of his family clashed with another group in the vicinity of the Laç police station.

Prenga faces charges of intentionally causing serious injury, illegal possession of weapons and uttering threats, said a statement by Nik Nikollaj, the police chief of Kurbin Municipality, where Laç is located. Several other people involved in the fight have also been arrested, police said.

The conflict related to fishing rights in the Patok Lagune, according to lawyers for both sides.

Prime Minister Edi Rama said there would be zero tolerance for MPs breaking the law and urged prosecutors to do their job.

"No one is above the law, lawmakers included," Rama said on Twitter.

In a statement issued through his lawyer, Prenga said he had acted in self defense and expressed anger over the treatment he had received from his party and for the way the opposition was using the situation for political gain.

Opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha said the events were the latest example of Prime Minister Rama's affair with people with criminal ties.

“Above the law, and against the law, crime and criminals have become one with power,” Basha said in a statement.

Prenga is the third member of parliament from the ruling Socialist-led coalition to be arrested since Rama's government came to power in 2013.

The prime minister has increasingly come under fire from critics and the opposition for allowing people with dubious pasts and reputations to become members of parliament and take other public offices.

Under controversial constitutional and legislative changes done in 2008, the party leaders have final say on all candidates for parliament. Several analysts have said the composition of parliament has suffered as a result.
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                    [post_content] => By Ervin Lisaku

[caption id="attachment_123385" align="alignright" width="300"]FBL-EURO-2016-POR-ALB Albanian striker Bekim Balaj celebrates after scoring a winning volley in the September 2014 opening qualifier away to Portugal[/caption]

TIRANA, Sept. 7 - Albania will play at home to Portugal this evening in a key Euro 2016 qualifier after getting a priceless point from a goalless draw away to rivals Denmark last weekend in their bid for a first-ever qualification in a major football competition.

Albania play Group I leaders Portugal at Elbasan Arena in an effort to repeat the historic 1-0 away victory last year in the opening qualifier which is the only 'shock' defeat the Portuguese have suffered in their first five qualifiers.

With three matches to go, Albania currently rank third in Group I with 11 points, level with Denmark which hold an advantage only thanks to an away goal to Albania in last October's qualifier despite Albania having one game at hand.

See Group I Standings

Having already mathematically secured a place in the play-offs, a home victory against group leaders Portugal will be decisive for Albania's dream to achieve a direct qualification.

However, Monday evening's match will be more difficult for the national side as Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo will be starting for Portugal after missing in the home match.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of the match, Albania's coach Italian Gianni De Biasi jokingly threatened to vote for Ronaldo's rival, Argentinean Lionel Messi, in the next FIFA Golden Ball if the Portuguese scores in Albania.

“I hope he has a change of heart because I voted him for the Ballon D'or. Otherwise... I will vote for Messi," said De Biasi.

Portugal play Albania after losing 1-0 in a friendly against Euro 2016 hosts France and four consecutive victories in the qualifiers.

"This match is important to us for three reasons. Firstly, because we confirm our shape and results we have achieved, secondly because we are in a decisive stage of the qualifiers and thirdly because we play against a big opponent which leads our qualifying group," said De Biasi.

Portugal's coach Fernando Santos described the qualifier with Albania as tough, but not decisive for a mathematical qualification.

"Albania is an equal opponent. They have a motivated team and are very close to a historic achievement of qualifying for the European championship. They are an aggressive team but we will try playing our game," Santos said in a press conference in Tirana.

Albania suffered a lot in the qualifier against Denmark, but defended well until the end of the match and could have even won the game at stoppage time when substitute winger Roshi squandered a good scoring opportunity.

Albania has only one victory and a draw from six international meetings with Portugal.

Remaining unbeaten in five qualifiers, including two friendlies with France, Albania will look to prove that their shock victory to Portugal in their opening qualifiers was no coincidence.

Second-placed Denmark will play away to Armenia who were beaten 2-0 by Serbia last weekend in a match behind closed doors.

Albania’s qualifying campaign will close with a delicate home match against bottom Serbia on October 8 before travelling to Armenia three days later.

For the very first time, Albania’s national football team has made it to the world’s top 30 following a surprise positive performance in its Euro 2016 qualifiers.

Albania climbed 14 places to a historic high of 22nd in the August FIFA Men’s ranking after Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport gave Albania a 3-0 victory in last October’s abandoned match away to Serbia in a final decision ending a legal battle which reversed a previous ruling by Europe’s football governing body. Albania had previously beaten Euro 2016 hosts France 1-0 in a home friendly. In the September ranking Albania, lost three places ranking 25th.

Meanwhile, Albania will face a tough race in the 2018 Russia World Cup qualifiers after being drawn against four-time World Cup winners Italy and 2010 winners Spain in Group G.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 1 - Three Italian and British artists will be showcased in the northern Albanian city of Shkoder in a collective contemporary art exhibition.

Italy's Pierpaolo Campanini and Giovanni De Lazzari and Northern Ireland artist Willie Doherty will be featuring video, painting and etchings.

“What all of them have in common is an attentive and sensitive view in exploring the every-day and the natural in the search for secret areas, unclear spaces and hidden memories," says the Italian Institute of Culture which is organizing the event.

The exhibition called Memorandum is a project by Adrian Paci, an internationally renowned contemporary artist who represented Albania in the 2014 Venice Biennale. It will also inaugurate the Art House gallery in Shkodra, where Paci grew up as an artist, remaining open to the public from September 13 to 19.

“Viewing the works of these three artists, it seems like nature is permeated by a story which has left its marks and we do not assist in it, but later when everything seems quiet and full of memories. Sometimes the marks seem like wounds, sometimes like strange constructions,” organizers say.

Northern Ireland’s Willie Doherty, 56, has been a pioneering figure in contemporary art film and photography since the 1980s.

Giovanni De Lazzari, 38, and Pierpaolo Campanini, 51, both live and work in Italy and have participated in dozens of international exhibitions.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 1 – Albania's prime minister, Edi Rama, has told Athens to stay out of the country's internal affairs, following a row over the demolition of an illegally-built Orthodox Christian shrine in the southern Albanian coast village of Dhermi.

Rama said Albania's Orthodox Christians had their own state to protect them and Greece's interference would not be accepted.

"Orthodox Albanians are not Greeks,” Rama said, adding everyone in Albania has equal religious rights.

Rama, a Catholic who has Orthodox family roots in the area of the shrine, said a proper church would be built on the spot of the shrine's demolition.

He said there had been “a misunderstanding” on the role the government played in the action and it was “misused by others."

The Greek Foreign Ministry demanded explanation from Albania, comparing the actions of the local Himara Municipality in demolishing the small chapel, built without a permit in the early 1990s, to the actions of jihadis in Syria.

Greek nationalists have for more than a century wanted to annex parts of southern Albania, identifying all Orthodox Albanians as Greeks, a view that deeply angers Albanians.

Only a small fraction of the country's Orthodox population is ethnically Greek, census figures and independent studies show.

The area in where the chapel was located is seen by the Albanian government as ethically Albanian. However, many of its residents speak Greek at home, which makes them ethnically Greek as far as the Greek government is concerned.

The chapel's demolition became even more complicated, because a Catholic missionary is buried on the sight, marking accusations that the Catholic Church was also involved.

More than half of Albania's population is made up of secular Muslims. Christians, mostly Orthodox and Catholic, are a sizable minority.

Following the end of the atheist communist regime, Albania has had an excellent track record of religious tolerance and freedoms.  
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                    [post_content] => kukTIRANA, Sept. 3 - The Albanian government has announced it will select the winning company that will operate a 114-km highway segment linking Albania to Kosovo on October 15, making it Albania's first toll road probably by early next year.

Transport Minister Edmond Haxhinasto says drivers are expected to pay Euro 5 tolls during the 35-year concession to upgrade, operate and maintain the 114 Milot-Morine segment, part of the so-called Highway of Nation.

“There are four foreign companies in the race and on October 15 we will have the winner on the management and the completion of the Highway of Nation. Calculations have been made on a Euro 5 toll including VAT which is lower than average regional fees," Haxhanisto said in a TV interview.

The Albanian government says it will favour the company that will request the lowest amount of subsidies considering that the winning bidder will have to invest 38 to 43 million dollars to complete the highway which still lacks proper maintenance.

“The main objective of this works and services concession/public-private partnership project is upgrading the highway and its effective operation and maintenance. The concessionaire will be subject to a set of predefined performance standards over a 30-year concession term,” says the tender announcement.

“The concessionaire will collect and keep toll revenue and in exchange it will be responsible to implement and finance motorway improvement measures, construct a new bridge on Drini River in Kukes, northeastern Albania and carry out emergency geotechnical and stabilization works, says the transport and infrastructure ministry.

The highway is part of the national roads network and constitutes the largest road engineering project in Albania’s history. Linking Milot, approximately 60 km northeast of the Adriatic Port of Durres, with Morine at the Kosovo border, the route forms the central section of the wider Albania-Kosovo highway, connecting Durres with the Kosovo capital Prishtina.

The Kosovo government is also planning to introduce tolls for its highway to Albania which is expected to make travel to the two neighboring countries much more expensive.

The Albanian government says it plans to extend the toll system in other road segments in order to guarantee maintenance and standards and cut its budget costs.

The concession which now seems on track had been delayed for a couple of years because of lack of legal framework for toll roads, which were approved only in mid-2014.

“We are examining to build some road segments under public private partnerships. The state budget cannot afford works such as the Durres-Kukes highway which needs another $200 million," said Economy Minister Arben Ahmetaj last July introducing the bill which targets public-private partnerships on the construction and maintenance of roads due to rising costs.

Operational since June 2009, the Durres-Kukes highway and its 5.5 km twin-bore Thirre tunnel is estimated to cost government around 4 million euros annually in maintenance.

“Road tolling offers the possibility of raising additional revenue for the road sector, and provides a dedicated source of finance for a particular road. Revenue from tolling is also independent from the annual budgetary process, and therefore increases the stability of road sector revenues, though toll revenues remain exposed to traffic risk,” says London-Based EBRD which is supporting the Albanian government in the reform of the road sector.

The Durres-Kukes highway, which is estimated to have cost Albania a staggering Euro 1 billion became fully open to traffic only in October 2010. Its major 60 km Rreshen-Kalimash segment was built by Bechtel-Enka, a US-Turkish consortium.
                    [post_title] => Winning concessionaire to impose €5 tolls on Albania-Kosovo highway
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 31 – The Vienna Western Balkans Summit, a high-level meeting aiming to reassure the region of its European perspective, has been overshadowed by the refugee crisis hitting the region and the European Union.

As the leaders of Germany, Austria and the Western Balkan countries met in Vienna, tens of thousands of refugees from war-torn Middle East and other migrants were making their way from Greece through the Balkans with the goal of reaching Western Europe.

Macedonia and Serbia have been overwhelmed by the surge of refugees, asking the EU for help. Originally blocking the migrants at the Greek border, authorities in Macedonia are now trying to shuttle the refugees through the country as fast as possible, adding extra trains and buses to speed the passage north to Serbia.

Albanian authorities have increased their presence at the border with Greece, which has seen for months a daily trickle of refugees trying to make their way through Albania toward Western Europe, but the numbers are much lower than those in Macedonia and Serbia. Albanian officials are worried, however, that if the flow gets rerouted through Albania, the country will not be able to cope.

Sebastian Kurz, Austria's foreign minister, said there was an urgent need for an overall European approach to the problem and the refugees arriving from Greece should not be routed through non-EU members in the Western Balkans.

However, EU members like Hungary are racing to finish a fence along their border aimed at deterring migration through Serbia. Bulgaria, another EU member, has also built a fence at its border with Turkey, driving much of the migration through Greece.

Amnesty International has condemned EU's approach.

“There is a real concern that refugees are getting trapped in a Balkans no-man’s land without protection or support, whilst EU countries turn their backs. This is leaving them vulnerable to further human rights abuses,” said Gauri van Gulik, the organization's deputy director for Europe and Central Asia.

However, with boats carrying refugees continuing to arrive on the Greek islands, and UNHCR’s announcement that up to 3,000 refugees and migrants are expected to cross into Macedonia on a daily basis throughout the next several months, the authorities in the Western Balkans countries must still live up to their international obligations towards asylum-seekers, including allowing those seeking asylum to do so in a prompt and effective manner, the human rights organization said in a statement.

“It is true that Europe’s borderlands are facing an unprecedented arrival of refugees. But it’s also true that this is only a fraction of the numbers of refugees being hosted by developing countries as the world faces the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. The increase in arrivals also doesn’t absolve countries along the Balkans route of their legal obligations,” Van Gulik added.

Amnesty International says what European asylum system is broken because having fled fear and desperation, refugees are confronted with an impossible choice – to stay and apply for asylum in the country of arrival with, in the case of Greece, appalling reception and detention conditions; or to travel further, and embark once more on a potentially clandestine and hazardous journey.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who attended the Vienna summit, called on European states to implement joint asylum agreements to remedy the current situation.

Berlin has announced it will no longer force Syrian refugees to return to the country where they first entered the EU – normally Greece or Italy – to apply for asylum as mandated by EU's regulations spelled out in the Dublin Agreement.

 

 
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_123271" align="alignright" width="300"]Albania's Ermir Lenjani scored the opening goal in last October's 1-1 qualifier home to Denmark Albania's Ermir Lenjani scored the opening goal in last October's 1-1 qualifier home to Denmark[/caption]

By Ervin Lisaku

TIRANA, Aug. 31 - Albania will play away to Denmark and at home to Portugal in early September in two key Euro 2016 qualifiers in its bid to secure a historic qualification in a major international football competition as the national side find themselves in a comfortable position in Group I.

With one game in hand, Albania currently rank third in Group I of France 2016 qualifiers on 10 points, level with second-placed Denmark and two points behind group leaders Portugal.

Armenia and Serbia have 1 point and -2 points respectively, meaning that with four game to go Albania has almost mathematically secured a spot in the play-offs in case of finishing third in the group and can also hope to qualify directly as the best third-placed side in the nine groups.

Albania will play away to Denmark on Friday, Sept. 4 for a second time in the Euro 2016 qualifiers after a 1-1 home draw last October which currently ranks Denmark second only thanks to an away goal although Albania have played one game less.

Albania remain unbeaten in their first four qualifiers including two friendlies with Euro 2016 hosts France, but the record with Denmark is negative with only one victory and two draws in nine senior international meetings.

Albania's coach, Italian Gianni De Biasi, who has led Albania to unprecedented success in the past four years, has described the match against Denmark as a key qualifier, but not decisive for Albania's qualification bid.

“This match is not decisive because fortunately we have ten points, level with Denmark but one game less. At the end of the qualifiers, when we play away to Armenia, Denmark will play against France [friendly] and can earn no points. If we collect enough points, we can achieve the qualification in the final match differently from Denmark which does not have that chance."

"Currently we are mathematically in the play-offs and are in the race to qualify as the third-best placed team the same to Hungary," said De Biasi in a video conference ahead of the qualifier.

Three days later, on September 7, Albania host group leaders Portugal whom they beat 1-0 in a surprise away victory in the opening qualifier in September 2014.

Albania's qualifying campaign will close with a delicate home match against bottom Serbia on October 8 before travelling to Armenia three days later.

For the very first time Albania’s national football team has made it to the world’s top 30 following a surprise positive performance in its Euro 2016 qualifiers.

Albania climbed 14 places to a historic high of 22nd in the August FIFA Men’s ranking after Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport gave Albania a 3-0 victory in last October’s abandoned match away to Serbia in a final decision ending a legal battle which reversed a previous ruling by Europe’s football governing body. Albania had previously beaten Euro 2016 hosts France 1-0 in a home friendly.

The FIFA monthly ranking includes 208 football associations from all over the world.

Meanwhile, Albania will face a tough race in the 2018 Russia World Cup qualifiers after being drawn against four-time World Cup winners Italy and 2010 winners Spain in Group G.
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            [post_date] => 2015-09-15 10:48:50
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            [post_content] => shkembiTIRANA, Sept. 15 - Albania's Skenderbeu will make its UEFA Europa League debut against Turkey's Besiktas on Thursday as the first Albanian team to have qualified in a major European football competition for clubs.

Skenderbeu, who failed to qualify in the more prestigious UEFA Champions League after losing to Croatia's Dinamo Zagreb in the play-off stage, will be playing Besiktas for the first time and could become the first Albanian team to avoid defeat against Turkish opponents.

The five-time Albanian consecutive champions will be playing Besiktas in the opening game of Europa League's Group H which also features Portugal's Sporting and Russia's Lokomotiv Moscow.

Skenderbeu striker Hamdi Salihi who scored five goals in the club's Champions league qualifying stage has recovered for an injury in record time and will be ready for the home match in the Elbasan Arena stadium on Sept. 17 night.

Skenderbeu coach Mirel Josa has described the fixture with Besiktash as very difficult but said his team will do its best to get a positive result.

Skenderbeu became the first Albanian club to qualify for the Champions League play-offs after beating Moldova’s Milsami 4-0 on aggregate in the competition’s third qualifying round, automatically securing a place in the less prestigious Europa League group stage.
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