Somehow, some way, Albania believes the ball will finally go in.
With no goals so far at the European Championship, other coaches might flinch when facing elimination. But Giovanni De Biasi plans to stick to his defensive approach in a must-win match against Romania on Sunday, sure that the desperately needed goal will come.
With zero points after two losses in Group A, a win over Romania would give Albania the chance to finish as one of the top third-place teams and reach the round of 16. A draw or loss means elimination.
“Tomorrow is a live-or-die situation,” De Biasi said on Saturday. “We must be extremely focused on the defensive side.”
So far, the closest his team has been to celebrating a goal was in a 2-0 loss to France, when a dangerous cross by Elseid Hysaj hit France defender Bacary Sagna and bounced off the post with the game still scoreless.
But for De Biasi, that shows his team is on the right track.
“There is a very thin line between scoring goals and hitting posts,” the Italian coach said. “I spoke to the guys and told them that if we want to carry on, we must take advantage of all the chances we have.”
De Biasi wants more of the all-out effort on Sunday at Stade de Lyon that his team showed in their two hard-fought losses.
Already down a goal, Albania held its own after captain Lorik Cana was sent off with two bookings in the first half of its 1-0 opening loss to Switzerland. They surpassed that morale victory by hustling to keep host France in check until a slip in marking let Antoine Griezmann score a 90th-minute goal. Dimitri Payet then added another.
“In terms of tactics, we played Switzerland well and had three really good chances,” De Biasi said. “I think we honoured this tournament. We played with determination against France and until 50 seconds to the end we gave difficulties to a great team.”
De Biasi, who turned 60 this week, took over Albania in 2011 and slowly forged a team that achieved the milestone of its nation’s first appearance in a European Championship. His players embraced the style of play he imported from Italy, and they now share his belief that one more display of staunch defence will have its rewards.
“The key to our success is that we haven’t been used to conceding goals,” Albania goalkeeper Etrit Berisha said. “This is maybe the biggest game of our careers. We will give everything to win the game. We are more motivated than ever.”