Etrit Berisha has described Lorik Cana as “a pillar of the national team” as Albania prepare to welcome their captain back for a crucial match against Romania at Euro 2016.
Albania, playing in their first major tournament, have performed valiantly without reward in France, losing narrowly to Switzerland and the hosts in Group A.
They may still be able to progress to the round of 16 as one of the best four third-placed teams, but must beat Romania and hope other results go their way to squeeze through.
And the return of skipper Cana, suspended for the loss to Les Bleus in Marseille after being sent off in the opening game, will come as a major boost.
“Lorik Cana is the pillar of the national team,” Berisha said.
“And it’s great that Lorik will be in the team and we’ll have a full side, [although] the coach is going to make the final decision on who will be in the line-up.”
Echoing the tone set by his goalkeeper, Albania coach Gianni De Biasi did little to disguise the likelihood of Nantes player Cana going straight back into the starting XI.
“I think Lorik is a very important player for the Albanian team because he’s got more experience and is emotionally committed,” he said.
“For every fan he’s an idol. He will be very important again tomorrow.”
While the coach and goalkeeper could not praise the commitment of Cana highly enough, the same could not be said of a player conspicuous through his absence from the national team in their first appearance on one of football’s biggest stages.
Melbourne Victory striker Besart Berisha, a deadly finisher and one of the biggest stars in Australia’s A-League, has not played for Albania since 2009, largely due to his reluctance to make the draining journey across the world on a regular basis.
But the 30-year-old could perhaps have been vital to his goal-shy country’s chances in France, where they have as yet failed to find the back of the net.
“I never considered Berisha in the Albanian team [for the tournament],” De Biasi said.
“Two years ago I asked him to be part of this team. He said he was too far away and wasn’t ready. It was the right thing for him not to be selected. I wanted players who want to play for this national team.”