The second match of Group A will see Albania and Switzerland go head to head in Lens on Saturday.
The second match of the much anticipated Euro 2016 will see Albania and Switzerland battle it out. The Eagles may be one of the least glamorous teams in the competition, but their impressive fighting spirit could just give them a fighting chance against the Swiss, who are looking to advance past the group stage of the European Championship for the first time in their history.
Albania v Switzerland | Stade Bollaert – Delelis, Lens | Saturday 11 June | 14:00
To Win Match
Albania 17/4 | Draw 9/4 | Switzerland 8/10
Not only have Albania never qualified for a major international competition, but they also have only made it to two minor ones. The 1982 Under-18 and the 1994 U-16 European Championships constitute the full extent of the Black Eagles' tournament experience.
But the senior side has bucked that trend under Italian manager Gianni de Biasi. He is known as a shrewd tactician and has been instrumental in the development of young players such as goalkeeper Erit Berisha and defender Elseid Hysaj, both of whom play in the Italian Serie A. Upon qualification, the entire team was awarded Albania's highest civilian award, the Honour of National Order.
The most unfashionable side to qualify, and rank outsiders with Northern Ireland; the influence of their Italian coach is clear - they are organised, sit deep and frustrate the opposition, hoping to snatch a goal from set-pieces or long shots.
They stifled Portugal in qualifying, winning 1-0 away and only losing the return game in stoppage time. They only scored seven goals - five of them against bottom side Armenia. That does not include their 3-0 win in Serbia, awarded by the Court of Arbitration for Sport after a riot. That decision, and the shock win in Portugal, saw them finish second in Group I, two points ahead of Demark.
Switzerland’s credit rating is fairly high despite the national team having never reached the knockout stage at a European Championship. Although Switzerland missed out on the Euro 2012, they qualified for both the 2008 and 2004 championships.
They progressed to the last 16 at the 2014 World Cup and their regular starting line-up all play for top-flight clubs in Germany, England or Italy. The Euro 2008 co-hosts benefit from a youth development program that has produced a steady stream of promising players, many of them from immigrant backgrounds, such as Stoke's Xherdan Shaqiri.
England made rather short work of them in qualifying in beating them home and away, and it required a rescue job from coach Vladimir Petkovic to haul the Swiss through to the finals. They reached the last 16 at the last World Cup and should be capable of reaching that stage this time around, but few will fear them as a knockout opponent.
Beaten in their first two games, the Swiss recovered to comfortably finish as Group E runners-up behind England. Four straight home wins yielded 17 goals. Underwhelming as it is, they've finished bottom of their group in all three previous appearances.
Verdict: Switzerland 8/10
Albania may not have one of the strongest teams in the tournament, but their hard-work and determination could give them a chance. However, Switzerland might just posses too much quality for their opponents to deal with, and that has been the outcome in recent meetings, as they have won five of the last six meetings against Albania. Back the Swiss to come out on top with the all important three points.
Written by Aaron Crowie for @Hollywoodbets.