Michal Biachonski: Albania has grown into the dark horse of Group A in the World Cup qualifiers. It seemed that Poland and Hungary would fight for second place, and at the same time, it was the coach who took second place and won in Budapest. What is the power of Edoard Reja?
one dobby, Albanian-Polish coach: It’s not a surprise to me. We have a very good generation. Who knows, if not stronger than the one who represented our country five years ago at the European Championships in France. We have players who are not only in strong clubs, but also play in them. Let’s take Kedi Barry, who plays for Espanyol Barcelona, which is not easy, or Erata Djamsiti from Atalanta Bergamo, who surprises everyone in terms of brilliance, elegance and regular reports in the Champions League. In addition to this, Armando Bruga who scored goal after goal at the age of 20.
It is also important that most of our players are under 25 years old. Broja gave Albania hope by scoring a goal for Hungary in the 87th minute.
Of course, coach Eduardo Riga plays a key role. Of course, any coach can take on such a team, but they are originally scattered molds and need to be settled. Riga did it perfectly. Sometimes too often, because in my opinion he played very boldly against Poland in September.
Didn’t you really like how we closed Riga and its players in their own half?
– Apparently, but Poland won 4-1. I was a more calculating team, and Riga’s tactic was very audacious. Of course, I know that sometimes you are luckier than you are smart. Poland was incredibly effective. Judging by the course of the match, no one expected Poland to lead 2-1 in the first half. Everyone was surprised by the result, seeing how good Albania was at handling the ball. I was also surprised, even though I know Albania well and know that it has great potential and is making amazing progress. Reji’s words were already confirmed at that time: it takes time to put everything in order, to make a thorough analysis.
Albania surprised me more than three days after the defeat to Poland, when they won in Tirana with Hungary. It was not an easy match after the defeat in Warsaw. And not only did they win, they presented themselves superbly.
Kumbulla and Djimsiti’s bats are worth more than 20 million euros. The latter is injured, but Ismagili also knows the squeak of grass. The Italian built the team from behind. It couldn’t be otherwise.
Albania has some problems with goalkeepers. Thomas Strakosha would like to extend his contract with Lazio, but the club is reluctant to do so. At the moment, he plays regularly for a strong club in the Italian Serie A for two years. There’s also Turin ace Etretat Berisha, who has played in SPAL far more than Torino, where he has a lot of competition for a place in Turin. Goal. Overall in defence, Albania has eight Serie A players and two Serie B players, so its solid defense does not come about by chance. Midfielder Kiddy Barry definitely supports them in their defense as well. He recently defeated Real Madrid 2-1 with Espanyol, and he excelled after the match. It deserves appreciation.
In general, Albania may not be the second Italy, which changed Roberto Mancini, who presented the world with an offensive version of Italy, and not just Catuccio. Reja has his own philosophy and system – he loves to play 1-3-5-2. The win against Hungary and the 1-4 loss in Warsaw was certainly Albania’s best match in the past five years and defeat to the Poles doesn’t change it.
Edoardo Reja is not only Italian, he also has a Slovenian passport.
– That’s because his mother is Slovenian and he was born in this country. I had the opportunity to talk to him. He is a very open and honest coach, despite his Italian temperament. In addition, he is very knowledgeable and incredibly brave. Show it at PGE Narodowy. In any case, the whole team played boldly. Of course the result is the most important – you play to win, but also develop the team so that the result is not temporary, but long-term. I was very pleasantly surprised by the reaction of the Albanian team after the defeat in Poland. She showed that she is mentally strong. Riga made the team mentally mature as well.
I already mentioned it, but the age of the players is also important. With the exception of Berisha and Djinjani, 32, Sikaleshi, who is one year younger than him, and Balaj and Roshi, who are 30, the rest of Albania are much younger and can pull a wagon for another five years, some even a decade.
– That is why Albania has all hope in this new generation. My country has never had so many players at such a high level. Play Serie A or Espanyol regularly, which is not easy. In addition, as many as eight Albanians play in the Turkish Super League, and this is not the worst league. Salmani’s third guard is in it, as well as Sikaleichi and Çekichi – both from Konyaspor.
Is the golden generation the result of improved training or the insistence of your youth to seek prosperity at a foreign club?
– The last factor has always been there, and the training has greatly improved in Albania. The president of the federation, Armand Duca, who has been managing him since 2002, has a lot of merit, he has placed great emphasis on infrastructure and improving the base of the stadium. As for the financial capacity of Albania, it has improved a lot.
Another pillar is the training of trainers. Doca brought in professionals from Italy to improve it. Nobody else knows the coaches in Albania, only the Italians. Not only does Edoardo Reja help us in the process, along with his team, Renzo Uliveri, Technical Director of the Italian coaching academy Coverciano, helps us a lot. We get a lot of benefits from our close cooperation with Italy.
Another problem – we’ve always had good players, but whether or not we were a good team was an open question. Not only did this problem bother us, but also Serbia, Croatia, and sometimes other Balkan countries. The Serbs have always had players much better than us, but they have never been a strong team. Meanwhile, Reja has created a team of good players who have been mentally prepared for a long time to work in the group.
The Croats also managed to do this, and they are the runners-up in the world.
– They succeeded twice – in 1998 and 2018. Besides, they failed to put together an effective team. This band has Ray. We were able to do one big thing five years ago – go to the European Championships. Now we’re counting on another, bigger flight – the first for the World Championships. If he fails now, this team will be even stronger in two and four years!
Interviewed by Michał Białoński, Interia
“The uncomfortably humble TV fan. Twitter generalist. Extreme music enthusiast. Internet connoisseur. Social media lover.”