Albania boss Gianni De Biasi has urged his players to be on high alert to stop Switzerland star Xherdan Shaqiri.
The Stoke City forward admitted on Friday that he expects the Euro 2016 opener to be an “emotional” encounter, given that he is one of a number of players who holds dual nationality between the two countries.
Shaqiri enjoyed a mixed campaign with Stoke in 2015-16, with some superb performances undermined by inconsistent form and some niggling fitness problems.
De Biasi, however, says he has seen enough of the former Bayern Munich man to understand the threat that he poses.
“I think great players can settle matches. Games are pretty tight but it comes down to fine margins,” he said on Friday.
“Shaqiri’s a player with great ability, he can come up with a brilliant piece of play at any moment in time. We’ve watched him all season with Stoke City, we know what he brings.
“There are a number of players we’ll need to keep a maximum alert towards.”
Indeed, far from considering the match to be any kind of derby, De Biasi is relishing the prospect of pitting Albania’s more relaxed attitude against the supreme discipline of the Swiss.
“No, it’s not a derby – we’re so far away from one another,” he said. “We have different mentalities – the Swiss are the Swiss, the Albanians are the Albanians. We’ll come together with a lot of respect.
“For me, the Swiss are lovely, nice, there at eight o’clock sharp! They are on top of all the details. The Albanians are there for 90 minutes, having a coffee.”
Euro 2016 is Albania’s first major tournament in their history, and De Biasi concedes that qualifying for the finals was beyond their own expectations.
“I’m very proud of having a group of players who have allowed us to make it to Euro 2016, when even the most optimistic among us thought we were going for fourth place in qualification,” he added. “But we really did believe in it, especially when we won the first match in Portugal.
“There isn’t any pressure from my perspective. I hope the players can show the best of themselves but it doesn’t only come down to us.”
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