After the host nation opened their mark with a 2-1 win over a fighting Romania, it’s time to turn our heads to the first game of Day 2 of the Euro Cup 2016, Albania vs Switzerland , although on paper not seemingly very attractive, promises to be an entertaining and an interesting match.
Switzerland came runners-up in Group E behind England in the Euro Qualifiers. With a squad boasting the likes of Granit Xhaka, Xhadran Shaqiri and captain Stephen Lichtsteiner, Head coach Vladimir Petkovic has every reason to be optimist of his side’s chances in this year’s European Championship. It is commonly believed that (So do I as a matter of fact) Switzerland has what it takes to give the ‘Big’ teams a run for their money, and who knows, defy all odds and go all the way. And why shouldn’t they ?
They have been in decent form throughout the qualifiers, and confidence must be high after their last win, 7-0 against San Marino. On the other side of the paper, Albania , making their first ever appearance in the Euro Cup Finals. Albania , like their rivals for today, came runners-up in Group I behind Portugal in the qualifiers. Albania come into the match, and indeed, as underdogs of the tournament, but hey, so were Leicester City in this year’s Barclays Premier League. There are examples where the Dark Horses of the tournament have gone on to win the Euro Cup, Greece in 2004 and Denmark in 1992. While one won’t exactly refer the Albanian side ‘The Dark Horse’, they have the stability in their squad to bring surprises to the tournament.
Players to watch out for
Xhadran Shaqiri : Possibly the most popular Swiss player and one of the most creative players in European Football, Shaqiri will have to be at his best to guide his team through not just for this match, but also throughtout the tournament. The current Stoke City Midfielder, whom the fans call ‘The Alpine Messi’ had created 32 chances for his squad in the Qualifiers, scoring 4 and assisting 4. So the Albanian could do well to plan to take care of his threat.
Granit Xhaka : Granit Xhaka, with his brilliant technique and mindset , will be very important for the Swiss at the heart of the midfield. The new Arsenal Midfielder will look to create spaces and find passes that could rip the defence apart, and by supplying the likes of Shaqiri. If Albania needs to dominate proceedings, Xhaka is the key man to be neutralised.
Taulant Xhaka : Overshadowed by the fame of his younger brother Granit, Taulant Xhaka is yet to fully realise his potential . However, he has been in good form for his team during the qualifiers and also played a part in maintaining Albania’s excellent defensive record. The older of the Xhaka brothers will do well to bring his experience to neutralise his sibling in the midfield. Should be an interesting battle, isn’t it, watching the brothers lock horns?
Lorik Cana : The Albanian captain has been instrumental to his side’s excellent defensive record in the Qualifiers, and Manager De Biasi will hope that Cana touches good form and marshal his side forwards, from the heart of the defence.
It promises to be an interesting game. The pressure is on the Swiss to get the victory and move on in the tournament, while the Albanians come with no pressure and expectations and will look to enjoy their game and give a good fight to their opponents. The Swiss are expected to bag this game, but hey, this is football. Miracles do exist!