Albania have never qualified for the finals of any FIFA tournament. In finishing one place off the bottom in their group in the South Africa 2010 preliminaries, they held Portugal, Sweden and Denmark to notable draws. Though they finished in the same position in the qualifiers for Brazil 2014, the Albanians showed further signs of improvement by picking up three wins.
Midfielder Lorik Cana is the captain and leader of a side featuring a number of players plying their trade in foreign leagues, among them the striker Shkelzen Gashi and the defender Mergim Mavraj. Albania’s Italian coach Giovanni De Biasi embarked on an overhaul of the team in the last FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers, a process of renewal he will seek to continue in the Russia 2018 preliminaries with the likes of Bekim Balaj, the scorer of the goal that gave the Albanians a historic 1-0 win against Portugal in their UEFA EURO 2016 qualification group.
In the post since December 2011, De Biasi has been one of the catalysts for the recent progress made by Albania. With stints at Spanish club Levante and Serie A side Udinese on his CV, he was identified by the Albanian FA as the man who could take the national team into the European and global footballing elite.
14 - The number of wins the Kuqezijte recorded in 94 World Cup qualifying matches prior to the Russia 2018 campaign.
The former stars
Panajot Pano, Alban Bushi, Altin Lala