Albania to play Ukraine in new key test for Euro 2016

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 22, 2016 10:30

kombTIRANA, April 20 - Albania will face another key test before they take on Switzerland in the first match of the Euro 2016 group stage. The national side will play Euro qualified Ukraine in its fourth scheduled friendly as part of the Euro 2016 warm-up games. The football association says the match with Ukraine will be played on June 3 in Italy's Bergamo in a friendly expected to attract huge numbers of fans considering hundreds of thousands of Albanian migrants in Italy and in neighbouring countries.

The June 3 friendly with a tough opponent such as Ukraine, having also previously participated in World Cup and European championships, will be played after another friendly with modest Qatar in Austria on May 29.

Ukraine ranked 22nd in the April FIFA ranking, 23 positions better than Albania although Albania qualified directly in the Euro 2016 while Ukraine needed a play-off stage. Albania lost 10 places in the April ranking after it losing a friendly with Austria.

Last March, Albania lost 2-1 to Austria and beat modest Luxembourg 2-0 in the first two Euro 2016 warm-up friendlies, in two matches which showed Albania still has a lot to improve ahead of its historic European championship debut next June especially when it comes to defense which was one of its strengths in the Euro qualifying campaign.

Albania's Italian born coach Gianni De Biasi who has been linked with a move to Italy after Albania's historic Euro 2016 participation says he is now focused on Albania's Euro championship debut.

“I am 100 percent focused on the Albanian national side and the European championship. You don't often come up with the opportunity of being the coach of a national team in the European championship and I don't want to simply participate there," said De Biasi.

Albania will face hosts 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.

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 April 22, 2016 10:30