Albania to play friendly with Austria in Euro 2016 warm-up

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 11, 2016 17:11

TIRANA, Feb. 11 - Albania will play away to Austria next March in a friendly which is seen as a key test for the national side's warm-up for its historic Euro 2016 participation.

Albania's football association has confirmed the friendly will be played on March 26 in Vienna in a comeback encounter 28 years after the two teams, both qualified for Euro 2016, last faced each other.

Albania has yet to beat Austria who they played six times in the 1980s both in the World Cup and Euro qualifiers, losing all fixtures.

Albania's Italian coach Gianni De Biasi, who has turned into a hero following Albania's historic first-ever qualification in a major football competition, says the friendly with Austria will be a key test.

“We will play Austria which is tough team, ranks well in the FIFA World Ranking and has players who are part of important European championships," De Biasi has said in TV interview.

“We have to prepare well for this match if we want to get positive feedback from the players that are called up," he said.

Austria who led Group G in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign ranked 10th in the latest February FIFA World Ranking compared to Albania's 36th out of 204 nations.

While the 23 players De Biasi will call up for Euro 2016 group stage have not been announced yet, several Albanian internationals have recently shined in the Italian, Swiss and Turkish championships scoring decisive goals for their teams.

Elseid Hysaj has been the Albanian international with the best performance this season. The 21-year-old defender has been a regular starter for Napoli who lead Italy’s Serie A.

Albania will face France, Switzerland and Romania in Group A of the Euro 2016 in a bid to make another surprise campaign after a historic qualification as an outsider.

Last October, Albania beat Armenia 3-0 to claim direct qualification in the 2016 UEFA European Championship in a decisive last qualifier for the second place in Group I of the Euro qualifiers to avoid play-offs in case of a possible third place.

Group I also featured leaders Portugal, third-placed Denmark and Serbia and Armenia.

Albania will make its first-ever appearance in a major football competition on June 11, 2016 against Switzerland in what is considered a derby as the Albanian side features as many as seven Swiss-born players while five of the Swiss internationals have Albanian roots.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 11, 2016 17:11