Panucci under fire again as Scotland loss reopens old wounds for Albania

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 11, 2018 16:41

Panucci under fire again as Scotland loss reopens old wounds for Albania

TIRANA, Sept. 11 – Albania lost 2-0 to Scotland on Monday in an away Nations League qualifier that reopened old wounds for the national side and coach Christian Panucci whose losing streak as Albania coach since taking over in mid-2017 extended to six out of ten games.

Albania headed to Scotland full of optimism for a positive result following a hard-earned home win over Israel in the opening Nations League campaign after three embarrassing consecutive losses in warm-ups ahead of Nations League debut. However, the second qualifier against the Scots, a team that had lost five out of their past six friendlies, showed the national side has a lot to improve, especially when it comes to defence whose blunders are costing Albania dearly.

The national side mostly defended all the time, lacked clarity and squandered even the few scoring opportunities they created against the Scots, in similar style to the losses in the friendlies against Norway, Kosovo and Ukraine this year.

The loss against Scotland also gave a severe blow to the country’s hopes for a possible qualification to the Euro 2020 through the inaugural Nations League, a UEFA competition that largely replaces friendlies but also plays a major part for the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign by deciding the final four places via play-offs.

With two other second-leg games remaining, Albania now rank second in Group 1 of League C with three points, trailing Scotland who lead on goal difference and have a game in hand.

With some of the key players of the former De Biasi era who managed to qualify Albania for a first ever European championship in 2016 either having retired, missing because of injuries or having been sidelined by their clubs, coach Panucci has been trying to test new players, but the new entries have so far failed to prove decent replacements.

A former Italian international with little coaching experience, Panucci now finds himself under fire again and the upcoming Nations League qualifiers away to Israel in October and at home to Scotland next November could prove decisive for his stay with Albania ahead of the Euro 2020 qualifiers in March 2019.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 11, 2018 16:41