Albania have never participated in a FIFA World Cup™ or UEFA European Championships finals and will not be expecting to have it any easier in the qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
And yet the Albanians certainly gave a good account of themselves during the qualifying campaign for Germany 2006. They got off to a flying start with a 2-1 win over then European champions Greece, and although they found themselves in a decidedly tough group, Hans-Peter Briegel's men managed four wins in 12 matches.
A 2-2 draw in Ukraine proved that the little country from the Balkans could make life difficult for the big names. They also recorded a shock 3-1 victory over Russia in the UEFA EURO 2004 qualifiers and managed two wins overall in the campaign - a measure of the progress they had made after only managing one win in the preliminary competition for Korea/Japan 2002.
Every step seems to be taking Albania in the right direction, and with Dutchman Arie Haan at the helm, they are now looking to make a name for themselves on the European scene.