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Cana: I wanted Granit Xhaka for Albania

Albania captain Lorik Cana admits he was desperate to have Granit Xhaka choose to play for his side, rather than Switzerland.

The new Arsenal signing can make history on Saturday should he and Basel’s Taulant Xhaka become the first brothers to face each other at the European Championships.

Switzerland boast a number of players, including Xherdan Shaqiri, who could have lined up for Albania against the Swiss in their Group A opener in Lens, given their dual nationalities.

And Cana concedes he had been keen to bring both Xhakas into the side some years ago, rather than see them face one another.

“Clearly, we can’t deny that it’s rather a symbolic game,” he said. “For the majority of us, we’re still very attached to Switzerland because we have family or friends there. But that’s where it ends.

“I’ve known the Xhaka family for more than 20 years, I have a lot of respect for them. I was really behind bringing them both in a few years ago.

“We’re lucky to have Taulant, who has performed very well for us. Of course we’d have liked to have Granit but we still have a good side.

“We’ve met them several times in the recent past and this is a European Championship, so I think we can leave that all to one side.”

Euro 2016 represents Albania’s first major tournament in their history, but Cana is well aware that the travelling supporters expect them to do much more than simply make up the numbers in France.

“If I said we didn’t want to win the tournament, the coach would give me daggers!

“But any team that’s qualified deserves to. There are certain sides who are favourites, like the French, Spain, Germany, Italy and Belgium.

“We’ll just try to play the best football possible with the same heart, same organisation. Our first aim is to bring joy to the thousands of Albanians here, and then see what we can do on the pitch.

“There’s always been a fervour behind the national team, and that’s grown in recent years with the results.  But they won’t understand if they just turn up and that’s it.”

Fri 10 Jun, 2016
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