Wrong anthem heralds poor night for Albania

PARIS • In an embarrassing mix-up, the wrong national anthem was played for Albania before the visitors faced France in their Euro 2020 qualifier on Saturday, and that distraction probably played a part in their 4-1 thumping by the world champions.

The Albanian players looked bemused as Andorra's anthem blared over the loudspeakers at the Stade de France, with TV footage showing irate away fans making offensive gestures in protest of the error.

France coach Didier Deschamps spoke with Albania coach Edoardo Reja, as referee Jesus Gil Manzano waited several minutes for the right anthem to be played before starting the game - which was delayed by nearly 10 minutes.

Then, when the correct anthem was about to be played, there was another embarrassing incident as the stadium announcer apologised to "Armenia's fans" and called on the crowd to respect the "Armenia national anthem" before realising his glaring mistake.

Reja later told reporters it was "a big thing", adding: "The players said they wouldn't start without the right anthem."

And it looked like the blunder was on their minds as Kingsley Coman's first international goals in more than three years, Olivier Giroud's 36th strike for Les Bleus and substitute Jonathan Ikone making it a debut to remember ensured a comfortable night for the hosts, with Sokol Cikalleshi converting a late penalty for Albania's consolation goal.

After staying top of Group H on goal difference ahead of Turkey, who beat Andorra 1-0, and Iceland, who romped to a 3-0 victory over Moldova, Deschamps toasted a job well done, saying: "The balance sheet is very positive.

"We could have won by more. We did what we had to do, even if we relaxed a bit at the end."

Coman also called the resounding win "a logical result", adding: "It was a good game, personally and collectively, I'm happy for the team. We worked hard, we were focused from start to finish."

Deschamps' men will next face Andorra at home tomorrow, while Iceland travel to Albania and Turkey will visit Moldova.

ASSOCIATED PRESS, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2019, with the headline 'Wrong anthem heralds poor night for Albania'. Print Edition | Subscribe