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Albania Euro 2024 squad, predicted line-up versus Italy, latest odds and star players

ONE of the Euros’ minnows who will be competing at a major tournament for only the second time in their history.

But for anyone expecting the Balkan state to just roll over in what is looking like a group of death, then consider how they got to Germany in the first place.

EPA
Albania will be determined to do their country proud[/caption]

The Red and Blacks, who are managed by former Arsenal left-back Sylvinho, topped a qualifying group that involved Czech Republic and Robert Lewandowski’s Poland, losing only once.

Premier League interest centres around West London, with Brentford goalie Thomas Strakosha likely to start between the sticks.

And they have Chelsea striker Armando Broja up top desperate to prove his credentials to potential buyers.

Manager: Sylvinho

Just the mere mention of his name evokes memories of that thunderbolt for Arsenal at Chelsea in 2000.

The first Brazilian to play for the Gunners, where he made 55 appearances, he went on to win a stack of trophies at Barcelona from his left-back position – and six caps for Brazil.

He retired in 2010 after a brief spell at Manchester City, before coaching at Lyon and Corinthians back in his homeland

Sylvinho, 50, took over at Albania last year, and has already achieved his No1 goal by qualifying for Euro 2024.

AFP
Sylvinho has been working wonders at Albania[/caption]

Key man: Elseid Hysaj

A Serie A stalwart married to a former Miss Albania, Lazio full-back Hysaj became the youngest player to wear his nation’s armband when captaining the team against Qatar in 2016.

The 30-year-old could be on his way out of Rome this summer as he has one year left on his contract.

Likely line-up

Albania set up in a solid formation that allows them to get plenty of men behind the ball.

Hysaj is a superb outfit on the left and Strakoshka has plenty of experience between the sticks.

Broja’s movement will be absolutely vital in stretching opposition defences and creating space for team-mates.

How they attack

Albania caught everyone by surprise by winning their group in qualification for this tournament ahead of the likes of Poland and the Czech Republic but despite this strong performance they are still likely to struggle this summer.

This is especially true given that they have been drawn in group B with Spain, Croatia and Italy.

In the attacking phase we can expect to see Albania build from deeper positions.

When they are in possession of the ball in deeper areas one of the central midfielders will drop to form a three with the central defenders.

This helps Albania to play through pressure.

One of the deeper midfielders drops in while the two full-backs push on to play in higher positions against the ball

As they move into the middle and final thirds they are not a team who tend to rely on attacking through crosses from wide positions.

Instead, they will look to make runs ahead of the ball to open spaces that will allow passes to be played centrally to the striker or the wide players as they come inside.

The full-back starts in possession but comes inside and then passes to the left-sided attacker. It opens up a passing lane that allows the pass to be played through for the striker to run on to

As they enter the final third and threaten the penalty area a midfielder and two wide players will join the striker.

They look to attack into the penalty area at angles to provide options and threat.

The through ball releases the attacking player in the channel on the far side. Immediately the near side wide player will look to make a run off the ball to attack the space in the penalty area

How they defend

Albania are more effective and much more solid and strong when they drop into a medium or deep defensive block to cut off space.

They have players who are aggressive and strong against the ball but when they try to press higher they can lose structure and be played through or around.

When they press in a higher structure their wide attackers can be caught too high, as opposed to forming a more effective block with the three midfield players.

As Sweden have the ball with their goalkeeper we see the wide attackers have pushed to almost the same line as the striker.

When they defend in a medium defensive block they will block spaces and passing lanes in central spaces.

Ylber Ramadani brings a sense of solidity to the Albanian structure given his willingness to work and fill gaps consistently.

As Sweden play out wide to the near side here we see Albania are well positioned centrally

As the opposition move into the final third we then see Albania crash back to defend in a deep block with little space in or around the area.

The Albanians will then look to win first contact on any crosses before then attacking in transition.

Albania defend the area in a deep and effective block. They win the ball back and end up scoring from this position

Prediction

Albania will face one of the best third-place teams if they somehow manage to top the group.

By finishing second, they would probably face Hungary or Switzerland in the last 16 which would offer them a chance to make a shock run to the quarter-finals.

With favourites England likely to be lying in wait, that may be as far as the Balkan outfit go.

Latest odds

Albania are rank outsiders to go all the way.

William Hill have priced them at a whopping 500/1.

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