The qualifying round for Euro 2020 is drawing to a close. Most of the favorites have already guaranteed their entry into the main European tournament. However, in some groups, the fate of the coveted permits is still unresolved. So, in Group A, the Kosovo team is creating a real sensation. Until recently, considered football dwarfs, the Kosovars have every chance of getting ahead of the Czech Republic and securing their way into the final part of the continental championship.
Extravaganza in Southampton
Few of the England cheerleaders at Southampton’s St Mary’s had expected such resistance from the clearly inferior Kosovo team. However, already in the first minute of the meeting, 32 thousand fans were stunned by the blunder of the defender of the “Three Lions” Michael Keane.
The dedication with which the Kosovars entered the field made Gareth Southgate’s team noticeably nervous at the beginning of the meeting. Nevertheless, even before the break, White secured the victory by scoring 5 goals. But even after such a knockdown, the players of Kosovo did not hesitate and after the break they managed to score twice more against Pickford’s goal.
Even the English fans applauded the courage of the “modest” team, and the small guest sector sometimes shouted over the fans. Yes, after the game in Southampton, the Kosovars dropped to the third line in Group A, having 8 points in their assets. But on the other hand, the second Czech Republic is just a stone’s throw away. But until recently everything was completely different …
This will brighten up your day!
Commentators in Kosovo celebrate their historic opening goal against England and show amazing passion!
A team from a small state bordering Serbia played their first official matches in qualifying for the Russian World Cup. Moreover, the first game with Finland (1: 1) inspired rather optimistic expectations from the upcoming group stage.
However, further for the Kosovars, everything went according to a completely different scenario. Inglorious nine consecutive defeats with a total goal difference of 3-24! As a result, the resignation of the head coach of the ethnic Albanian Muharem Sahiti.
The next official tournament was held by the Kosovar players under the guidance of their current mentor – the charismatic Swiss Bernard Schalland. The Kosovars dealt with their rivals at the group stage of the League of Nations without any problems.
Note that the Kosovo national team was not opposed by the weakest teams. Azerbaijan, Malta and the Faroe Islands were much more experienced than the newly formed team. As a result, a confident 15-2 goal difference allowed the Balkan national team to finish first.
With the players from Lazio (Valon Berisha) and even Manchester City (Bersant Celina), the head coach can rightfully be considered the leader of this team. His emotionality, sometimes even quick temper gave the necessary charge to the players on the field.
At the right time, Schalland can show entire theatrical performances. It is worth watching at least one of the press conferences of the 68-year-old specialist, and you imagine yourself somewhere in the box of Covent Garden.
A Swiss can transform the most banal phrase into a real show with an unknown ending. So, at one of the post-match meetings with journalists, Schalland explained in a rather original way what “crazy” pressure is. It is not the words themselves that are important here (and there were no more than a dozen of them), but the frenzied gestures of a specialist.
Bernard’s face had all the colors of rage and anger. And by swinging his fists, at times one got the impression that he would literally be torn apart. The very same principle of pressure on the opponent, according to the words of the coach, was reduced to a simple phrase “forward, forward, forward, backward.”
It is no secret that after the so-called Yugoslav massacre, complete chaos reigned in the Balkans. The once unified state split into many independent territories. Moreover, the boundaries of some of them are still sharply contested in the international community.
This is what happened with Serbia and bordering Kosovo. In 2008, the region declared its independence and asked FIFA to accept the newly-minted country into its ranks. The first attempt ended in failure, as did the following. Only 8 years later, the official status was fixed for the national team.
If you look at the composition of the team, then there are not so many Kosovars in it directly. There are much more emigrants from Northern Europe (Norway and Sweden). Which, however, is not at all surprising, because after the Balkan conflict, many families were forced to flee from the horrors of a bloody war in search of a better life.
A striking example here is the family of one of the leaders of the national team – Lazio midfielder Valon Berisha. The boy was born in Malmo, Sweden, but soon moved with his relatives to neighboring Norway. As a result, he even managed to play for the youth team, and only then was he played for Kosovo.
Another star of the team, the midfielder of the English champion Manchester City, has a similar story. Like Berisha, the 23-year-old midfielder has lived in Norway since childhood, but with the proclamation of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, he went to the Balkans. Due to injury, another Scandinavian native, Arber Zeneli, who grew up in Sweden, did not play with the England national team.
The Kosovo national team has not yet been recognized by dozens of countries around the world (including Russia). It was because of the prevailing disagreements that the team was hardly admitted to the qualifying round for the 2018 World Cup. An even more surprising case occurred in the match with Ukraine in the same qualification.
The Kosovars played in the same group with the team of Andriy Shevchenko. However, due to the lack of diplomatic ties between the countries, they simply could not come to Kiev for the next match. As a result, the meeting had to be held in neighboring Poland.
And the coach of the Montenegrin national team – Serb Lyubisha Tumbakovic – refused to take the players to the match with the players of the unrecognized state. The 67-year-old specialist was then fired. However, he was supported by two ethnic Serbs – Mirko Ivanic and Filip Stojkovic.
Despite all the difficulties, the Kosovars do not seem to care what others think of them. Under the leadership of Bernard Schalland, the team has transformed from a European dwarf into a solid middle peasant and can create one of the main sensations of the Euro 2020 qualification – in spite of everyone getting to the main continental tournament of the four years.
“I just hope this doesn’t turn out to be a nightmare. Our players may not be superstars, but everyone is ready to play for this team and fight for it. ” The words of the Swiss coach before the game against England may well become the motto of Kosovo in this qualification.