Kick-off: Wednesday, 9 September 2009, 20:30 CET. Qemal Stafa, Tirana.
Only Pride To Play For
Albania are already out of the running for the World Cup 2010 and that will be a surprise to very few, as they have had to deal with talented sides like Sweden, Portugal, and of course Denmark in Group 1 of the UEFA qualifying zone.
They did muster some decent results along the way, such as a 3-0 win over Malta and scoreless draws with Portugal and Sweden, but losses to Hungary and Portugal at home (in their second fixture) ensured they would not keep up with the heavyweights of the group.
One of their worst losses was to the Danes, as they were easily beaten 3-0 in Copenhagen last April, they will be eager to avenge that defeat and damage Denmark’s chances of finishing top of the group.
Coach Josip Kuze should have a full squad at his disposal and will be looking to build on the 6-1 win his team achieved over Cyprus last month in a friendly, even if it is too late this time around.
Denmark Can Qualify
Despite giving up a late goal to Portugal on Saturday in a 1-1 draw, Denmark are still in pole position in their group on 17 points, four ahead of their closest rivals Hungary.
A victory can, depending on other results, allow the Danes to qualify for the main event in South Africa this summer. Should they gather three points against Albania, which they will be expected to do, and Hungary lose and Sweden do not win, then they can book their flight to the African continent.
If one of those results happens to Hungary or Sweden, and Denmark win, they will at least be assured of a spot in the play-offs.
Long-time coach Morten Olsen knows his team have been impressive in qualifying and may returning to the World Cup after disappointingly missing out in 2006 and also Euro 2008, but they must keep up the same concentration and performances they have shown thus far.
With key matches against Sweden and Hungary remaining, three points in Tirana could go a long way.
12 August: Albania 6-1 Cyprus (Friendly)
07 June: Albania 1-2 Portugal (WCQ)
01 April: Denmark 3-0 Albania (WCQ)
28 March: Albania 0-1 Hungary (WCQ)
11 February: Albania 0-0 Malta (WCQ)
5 September: Denmark 1-1 Portugal (WCQ)
12 August: Denmark 1-2 Chile (Friendly)
06 June: Sweden 0-1 Denmark (WCQ)
01 April: Denmark 3-0 Albania (WCQ)
28 March: Malta 0-3 Denmark (WCQ)
Kuze will employ star man Lorik Cana at the back, while Erjon Bogdani and Ervin Skela, who both scored in the team’s drubbing of Cyprus last month will be expected to lead the line on their own, as the Albanians are likely to defend in numbers.
Probable Starting XI (4-4-1-1): Hidi; Vangjeli, Cana, Curri, Vrapi; Duro, Beqiri, Bulku, Agolli; Skela; Bogdani.
Goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen returns from suspension and should start between the sticks, while their top scorer Soren Larsen could also re-enter the fray in place of veteran Martin Jorgensen, but the team should otherwise remain unchanged from the one that face Portugal just days ago.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Sorensen; Jocobsen, Kjaer, Christensen, Silberbauer; C. Poulsen, J. Poulsen; Rommedahl, Tomasson, Larsen; Bendtner.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Sunderland star Lorik Cana is far and away the one that is capable of leading his side to glory. The versatile player, who can feature in defence or midfield, will be tested on many occasions against the Danes.
There are a number of high-profile stars in the Denmark squad, but Simon Kjaer, who represents Palermo in Serie A, is on his way to becoming a very accomplished centre-back. The 20-year-old has attracted all kinds of attention from clubs across Europe.
While Albania will be eager to salvage some pride in the group, the Danes boast superior quality every department and will be motivated to get a win, knowing they could qualify for the World Cup if other results go their way - a slim win in Tirana for the visitors.
Albania 0-1 Denmark
Adam Scime, Goal.com
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