Albania play France in friendly as CAS postpones Serbia decision for July

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 12, 2015 09:44

Albania play France in friendly as CAS postpones Serbia decision for July

Story Highlights

  • “We are very dependent on the CAS decision on the match against Serbia. A decision in favour of Albania will increase Albania's chances of a direct qualification," Albania's coach De Biasi has said ahead of the friendly with France.

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Albanian players celebrate after scoring the opening goal in last November 1-1 friendly away to France

Albanian players celebrate after scoring the opening goal in last November’s 1-1 friendly away to France

By Ervin Lisaku

TIRANA, June 11 – Albania will play Euro 2016 hosts France in a friendly this weekend which is seen as a test before next September’s key qualifier away to Denmark as the country is closer than ever to make its first qualification in a major football tournament.

All attention this week had focused on the Court of Arbitration for Sport which was scheduled to make its final decision on the abandoned Serbia-Albania qualifier on June 12, just one day ahead of the friendly. However, in a surprise announcement published on Thursday, Albania’s Football Association said Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport had officially informed it has postponed its decision on the Serbia-Albania abandoned match for July 10.

Albania’s coach, Italian Gianni De Biasi, has described the CAS decision as key to securing a spot in the top two in Group I which means a direct qualification and no need for a play-off in case of a third place.

Albanian players run to the dressing rooms after being hit with objects in last October's suspended qualifier away to Serbia

Albanian players run to the dressing rooms after being hit with objects in last October’s suspended qualifier away to Serbia

“We are very dependent on the CAS decision on the match against Serbia. A decision in favour of Albania will increase Albania’s chances of a direct qualification,” De Biasi has said ahead of the friendly with France.

Albania has appealed UEFA decision which handed the national team a 3-0 loss and a €100,000 fine over the abandonment of the match last October after a fight in the match’s first half when a drone with Albanian nationalist symbols was flown into the pitch, sparking a violent brawl which saw Albanian players running for the dressing room and hit with objects thrown from the stadium where Albanian fans had been banned to attend.

UEFA punished Albania for refusing to play on and Serbia for their part in the incident fuelled by the “Greater Albania” map which also featured Kosovo, an ethnic Albanian country which declared independence from Serbia in 2008 after an armed conflict in the late 1990s. Some of Albania’s best players are of Kosovo origin and play top clubs in Europe.

Serbia also oppose the UEFA decision which despite handing them 3-0 victory, deducted them three points, were ordered to play the next two matches behind closed doors and fined €100,000.

 A test for next key qualifier against Denmark

“The match with France is very important to see the condition of the players at the end of this season,” said coach De Biasi.

Some key Albanian players such as Basel forward Shkelzen Gashi, Switzerland’s best player of 2014, and his teammate Taulant Xhaka, have not been called up for this match scheduled for Saturday, June 13 at the newly reconstructed Elbasan Arena stadium at 18:00.

Elseid Hysaj, who plays Empoli in Italy’s Serie A says the match with France is more than a friendly.

“We will consider it not as a friendly but a qualifier. There is no problem with the absences. Whoever plays will give his maximum and try to convince the coach of their values,” said Hysaj.

Ermir Lenjani, who has joined France’s Rennes and scored an amazing goal in the 1-1 qualifier with Denmark, said this match is key to further motivate the national side in its bid to qualify for France 2016.

France coach Didier Deschamps said “We will prepare as well as possible for Saturday’s game against Albania.” His comments came after France lost 4-3 in a friendly at home to Belgium last weekend.

Albania managed a historic 1-1 draw away to France in a friendly last November, the first positive result in five matches the two national sides have played.

Last March, Albania kept alive their Euro 2016 qualifying hopes after a spectacular win home to Armenia as they came from behind an early goal to claim a 2-1 victory.

The victory strengthened Albania’s position in Group I with the Red and Blacks now ranking third with seven points in four matches level on points with second-placed Denmark which holds an advantage on goal difference.

Portugal lead the group with nine points, having lost only home to Albania in their first four qualifying matches.

Serbia and Armenia rank bottom in the five-team Group I having collected only one point each in their first round of matches.

Albania’s next qualifier will be away to Denmark in September 4 before hosting Portugal three days later. Meanwhile, group leaders Portugal travel to bottom Armenia this weekend while second-placed Denmark host Serbia.

Football experts say Albania, whose players play in prestigious leagues including Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, stands a real chance to qualify for the France Euro 2016 after historically finishing bottom and second from bottom in previous Euro and World Cup qualifying stages.

The top two group teams and the best third-placed side 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.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 12, 2015 09:44