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The Independent: How Albania left a unique mark on Euro 2024

The Independent: How Albania left a unique mark on Euro 2024

Albania bid farewell to the 2024 European Football Championship in Germany, after being defeated 1:0 by Spain in the last challenge of Group B. 

But even though they failed to qualify for the next stage, our national team played decently and the red and black fans said spectacle in Dusseldorf.

The British media "The  Independent ", in an article dedicated to the Spain-Albania duel, writes that Albania finished at the bottom of Group B after losing to La Roja, but the team and their fans made this an occasion to remember.

Full article:

It's a straight walk from Dusseldorf Hauptbahnhof to the Merkur Spiel-Arena for the Albanians would be the final stop at Euro 2024. Not that they saw this as an inevitability before the start.

On this particular road, they convincingly outplayed the Spanish supporters and were in cheering voices and seemingly confident spirits. Near the start of the route, at a crossing from the Oberkasseler Bridge, fans who had chosen to drive were hanging from the cars cheering, and those who had chosen to walk chanted and waved flags.

Those who chose the slower vehicles poured along the river and past the parks in their thousands. Some invaded the parks, making the most of this unique occasion, with a real chance of qualification after a competitive draw with Croatia and despite losing to Italy. Other Albanians picked their spots to place scarves, shirts and flags on the scorching concrete or grass, eager to supply their countrymen with red and black souvenirs. There are few who have chosen scarves. A wise choice on a day like this.

Others sang and danced—excited families, loving couples, jumbles of friends. Young men flirted with young women. Some shared a laugh with their Spanish counterparts, who could take their place in the knockout rounds in Germany for granted.

A segment of Albanian fans had been lost in violent encounters with Serbian fans earlier in the tournament, but the only hostility on Monday arose when Albanians in the stadium whistled Spain's national anthem. But it felt like pantomime antagonism, as so many have on this tour

A heartfelt rendition of the "Flag Hymn" followed, then came the drums, the rhythm non-stop. It drew supporters out of their seats and into the air as they joyfully swayed in a mesmerizing wave. Their spirits were buoyed by the early application of Albania's players; or perhaps the opposite was true, with the team buoyed by spirits in the stands.

The Red and Blacks were naturally weakened by Spain's goal in the 13th minute. Dani Olmo slotted a ball through the defense while Ferran Torres made an elusive arcing run around left-back Mario Mitaj. The winger's finish was a picture of precision, the ball slipping from his boot, across the slick ground, against the inside of the post and into the net.

However, the Albanian fans quickly revived. And when Kristjan Asllani scored on the stroke of half-time, drawing a fine save from David Raya, the effort was greeted by a huge roar - part hope, part celebration. Another big bang was unleashed just after the hour when Chelsea striker Armando Broja tested Raya with a deft half-volley.

And when the subsequent phase of the game brought a deflected shot and a corner for Albania, the sound was something else again. The same was the case when Asllani tried his luck once again, with 15 minutes remaining, although the midfielder shot wide.

Albanian fans felt the equalizer and what followed was the most positive spell of their team in the match. The needed goal was not to come though, although Broja appeared to grab it with a smart touch and stab in the dying seconds. The moment, in which Raya waded through the sticky air to get the ball away from him, came after a young Albania fan briefly evaded the stewards to the sound of increasingly loud cheers.

Then came the final whistle, signaling the end of this game and the end of Albania's campaign.

It was a commendable performance from Sylvinho's side, who took the lead against Italy inside 23 seconds - one of the moments of the tournament - and were denied a last-gasp equalizer against Croatia. And frankly, they were always likely to struggle here, even against a second-string Spanish outfit, as Luis de la Fuente made 10 changes from Spain's impressive win over Italy. But Albania also left its mark on the field and in the stands.

 

 

 

 

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