Italy dangerous when down, but Albania stronger than before, says De Biasi

Italy's opening European Championship game with Albania on Saturday is one with a special meaning for De Biasi

By Reuters

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Albania's forward Taulant Seferi (centre) and Azerbaijan's midfielder Josqun Diniyev vie for the ball during the Euro 2024 warm-up match on June 7. — AFP
Albania's forward Taulant Seferi (centre) and Azerbaijan's midfielder Josqun Diniyev vie for the ball during the Euro 2024 warm-up match on June 7. — AFP

Published: Thu 13 Jun 2024, 7:37 PM

Former Albania manager Gianni De Biasi believes Italy should not be written off so easily at Euro 2024 and Albania are an even better side than the one which he led to their first ever appearance at a major tournament.

Italy's opening European Championship game with Albania on Saturday is one with a special meaning for De Biasi, an Italian coach who became a hero in Albania when he took them to Euro 2016, and he has great memories of those days in France.


"It was a unique emotion. From the debut against Switzerland, to the match in Marseille against France lost in the 90th minute, after we had hit the post in the second half," De Biasi told Reuters in an interview.

"Then we had the historic first victory against Romania in Lyon."


De Biasi resigned in 2017, and believes his impact has had something to do with where Albania are today, and along with taking Albanian citizenship, his achievements brought him great recognition within the country.

"I think I have given a big hand to the growth of football in Albania, thanks to the trust given to me by (Albanian FA) President Armand Duka, now UEFA vice president," De Biasi said.

"I'm proud of what I have done and how much my work has been appreciated by Prime Minister Edi Rama, who awarded me the highest honour of the Republic of Albania, the Skanderbeg Cross."

Albania have now qualified for a second time and De Biasi is full of praise for the current manager Sylvinho and the squad the Brazilian has put together.

"Albania has grown a lot in recent years from a technical point of view. Sylvinho has managed to put together a lot of footballers who play in the best European leagues," he said.

"The team has a special feeling with its coach, and the federation has made incredible strides in the last 10 years.

"Today's team has more quality and talent than mine, but I think that from the point of view of character and determination, my Albania earned everyone's respect for the pride with which they faced their opponent."

Albania's squad has plenty of players with experience of playing in Italy, but De Biasi says there are many more in the squad who can make an impact in Germany.

"Certainly, the knowledge of the Serie A championship will help Albania, but the experience of the individual players will be decisive," he said.

"I believe Albania, who won their Euro 2024 qualifying group, have quite a number of very good players.

"Among those who could stand out are Armando Broja, Rey Manaj, Nedim Bajrami, Jasir Asani, Taulant Seferi and Kristjan Asllani."

Italy may be defending champions, but they are far from favourites coming into this tournament, something which De Biasi believes can work in their favour, while Albanian fans, many of whom live in Italy, will have a keen interest in Saturday's game.

"There is great closeness between Italians and Albanians, many arrived in Italy in 1991, with thousands fleeing political and social unrest after the fall of communism," De Biasi said.

"Albanians watch and follow Serie A with passion, many cheer for Italian teams.

"It's not an Italy with great players, but in difficulties or when they don't have the odds on their side, Italy becomes very dangerous."

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