Tue, Jun 21, 2016 - Page 18 News List

Albania keep their hopes alive

WAITING GAME:The small Balkan nation will have to wait until the group stage finishes tomorrow before they find out whether they will be in the round-of-16

AP, LYON, France

Albania’s Armando Sadiku, left, scores past Romania goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu, center, and Romania defender Vlad Chiriches in their Euro 2016 Group A match at Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon, France, on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

It is going to be a long three days for Albania as the small Balkan nation waits to find out if they are to qualify for the knockout stages of Euro 2016.

Albania kept their hopes of qualifying for the round-of-16 alive with a 1-0 victory over Romania on Sunday, a result that eliminated their opponents.

The result means Albania, playing in their first major tournament, went above Romania in the group rankings into third place with three points and still in with a chance to make the knockout stages.

“It was historical for us to reach the European Championship’s final stages and finally we have won the three points,” Albania centerback Arlind Ajeti said via a translator. “We have made history.”

Ajeti and the Albania team will have to wait until the group stage of Euro 2016 finishes tomorrow before they find out whether they will be one of the four third-placed teams to make it through to the next round.

Albania’s future in the competition depends on what happens over the coming days, but coach Giovanni de Biasi said his team will be preparing as though they have another match to play.

“If we stay in the tournament we will be trouble to other teams, to important teams, because today we got some more confidence, we needed the first two games to settle in,” De Biasi said via a translator.

Albania’s defense has impressed in Euro 2016 and the team stuck to the same type of game plan they used in their two hard-fought losses to Switzerland and France.

Armando Sadiku scored the sole goal in the match and Albania’s first in an international competition in the 43rd minute with a header.

Midfielder Ledian Memushaj picked out Sadiku drifting in at the far post with a well-placed cross that the striker coolly nodded back over goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu, who had left his line.

“Tonight we won with heart and with quality,” De Biasi said. “We didn’t get many chances, we played with our head, with mental strength.”

Romania strived to get back on equal terms, but failed to produce many chances, their best effort coming in the 76th minute when substitute Florin Andone hit the crossbar with a fierce drive.

Otherwise, Albania contained Romania, while Sadiku continued to trouble Romania’s defense.

Romania were eliminated after only earning one point in their three matches.

“I can’t find the words to express what I’m feeling right now and the fact that we’ve disappointed millions of people who believed in us,” Romania defender Nicolae Stanciu said. “I think we controlled the game, but we didn’t manage to create clear chances — we weren’t decisive enough in front of goal.”

Albania’s players celebrated the historic victory with their Italian coach after the final whistle, while the team’s large contingent of fans cheered wildly at the Stade de Lyon.

“A very happy moment to see all the Albanians, to make them happy and see them rejoicing,” goalscorer Sadiku said.

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