'Soul and sacrifice' the keys to success for Albania at Euro 2024

football05 June 2024 03:29| © AFP
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Players of Albania © Gallo Images

Outsiders Albania could hardly have asked for a tougher group at Euro 2024, but they plan to rely on "soul" and "sacrifice" when they go head to head with Italy, Spain and Croatia at the tournament in Germany.

"They are very strong teams, used to being favourites, prepared to go to the final and win" said Albania's coach Sylvinho, the Brazilian former Arsenal and Barcelona full-back.

Sylvinho, who previously had spells at Lyon and Corinthians, takes huge credit for leading the Balkan country into their second appearance at the European Championship after being appointed as coach at the beginning of last year.

His squad lacks superstars but there are players who ply their trade in major European leagues, led by Berat Djimsiti, the defender who has just helped Atalanta win the Europa League.

There is also the striker Armando Broja, who has just been on loan at Fulham from Chelsea, the Lazio full-back Elseid Hysaj and Inter Milan midfielder Kristjan Asllani.

"Our strength is not one footballer or two. Our strength is the team," Sylvinho, now aged 50, told AFP.

"Albania is a young country which is participating for the second time in such an important tournament," he added, saying the team possessed a lot of "heart, soul, and a sense of sacrifice".

"We have worked hard to achieve this state of mind on the pitch," added Sylvinho as he leads the country back to a competition they first graced in 2016.

"We have done a good job together but a big challenge awaits us," said the coach, who obtained Albanian nationality after helping secure the country's place at Euro 2024.


Sylvinho's dedication to the squad has led him and his staff – including ex-Argentina defender Pablo Zabaleta – to relocate fulltime to the Albanian capital Tirana.

"We are the first technical team to do so, and it makes a big difference," he explained.

"The players look at you and say 'you have a family, a wife, a child, but you don't live with them, you live in Tirana'. People call me and ask me 'where are you?', I answer: 'in Tirana'," added the man who replaced the Italian Edoardo Reja as coach.

"When we do a job, we do it well, that's the message that gets across. That's how I see it, I have to be here, work from here. Someone says 'he's a foreigner but he lives here, he's already Albanian'. I am an Albanian citizen."

Time spent in the country has allowed him greater insights into its values, which he says are "loyalty, respect for people... going on the field and representing the country without saving your strength".

Heading into the tournament, the coach remains confident of the team's chances, despite the tough tests that await them in Group B – they play reigning champions Italy first on June 15.

"I always tell them: If I don't sleep because there is a problem, that we have to make the team work, then you won't sleep either, you will have to work more," he told AFP.

"Anything can happen in football," Sylvinho added.

"The important thing is to show people, the public, that we fight hard. I don't do things by halves. Either I get completely involved or I don't do it."