Euro 2016

Albania get first win but face nervy wait


Albania 1
Romania 0

LYON • Amir Abrashi pumped his fists and screamed at the equally passionate Albanian support congregated behind Romania's goal.

He had only won a corner but also precious time in the country's wait for its maiden victory at a major tournament.

Seconds later, the final whistle was blown and Albania's live-wire midfielder dropped to his knees in tears. History had been made.

With their first win at the European Championship secured through their 1-0 success over Romania on Sunday, Albania must wait until the group phase is over to discover whether they will play any further part as one of the third-placed qualifiers.

England are possible opponents in the last 16 for a team with a goal difference of minus two.

"I hope we can stay," said coach Giovanni de Biasi. "I'm a positive person and I think we deserve it. We've shown we can play these games against top teams who have more quality than us."

More quality perhaps, but not more character, pride and, on the evidence of this victory, game intelligence.

Backed by fanatical, fantastic support, Albania eliminated Romania with flashes of creativity and impregnable defending, leaving an indelible mark both with the celebrations that followed Armando Sadiku's decisive first-half header and the final whistle.

De Biasi was awarded Albanian citizenship after the Italian coach delivered their first appearance at a major tournament. He could run for the presidency after this.

"We won with heart and with quality," de Biasi said. "We were able to contain a squad with strength and quality and that conceded only two goals in the qualifying phase.

"Technically we decided to wait for Romania and try to attack the spaces. We expected a strong start from them but were ready to counter-attack. We defended very well, very solid and we closed the spaces."

The contrast with Romania coach Anghel Iordanescu and his deflated players was stark.

Iordanescu was named Coach of the Century by the Romanian FA after leading the country to the quarter-finals of the 1994 World Cup and the last 16 in 1998.

His second stint in charge may end in bitter recrimination.

The 66-year-old was asked whether he was now responsible for the shame of the century.

"You have never done anything constructive in your life," Iordanescu told his accuser. "If this is the shame of the century, let the Romanian press judge me and put this question to the president of the FA."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2016, with the headline 'Albania get first win but face nervy wait'. Print Edition | Subscribe