Albania
© AFP

Qualification history
Albania’s record in FIFA World Cup™ qualifying is modest, with no finals appearances to speak of. But while the team eventually finished second-last during their recent South Africa 2010 campaign, they did register one win and four draws, which included creditable results against high-profile opponents such as Denmark, Portugal and Sweden.

The current crop
The Albanians are presently in the midst of a hotly-contested UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying process, and the excellent results obtained in the first few matches – a 1-0 win over Belarus and a 1-1 draw with Romania, for example – have the Kuq e Zinjtë (Red and Blacks) dreaming of being present in Poland and Ukraine next year. A positive knock-on effect of this improved form has been Albania’s rise in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking; their 50th place in May 2011’s table is the Balkan nation’s highest-ever position.

The key players
Rapid Vienna front man Hamdi Salihi, nicknamed ‘The Bomber’, notched up 18 goals in the Austrian league during the 2010/11 season and, by scoring eight times for his country as of June 2011, has developed into the figurehead of the current Albanian national team.

Coach: Josip Kuze
Best performance in a FIFA competition: None
Former stars: Panajot Pano, Alban Bushi