On Tuesday night, England host Kosovo at St Marys in Group A of qualifying for Euro 2020. The Three Lions are expected to record another qualifying victory, as they close in on a decade of unbeaten qualifiers.
The Kosovan head coach, Frenchman Bernard Challandes caused quite a stir in his news conference on Monday, talking about how his team will press Gareth Southgate’s team.
He spoke with real passion about his team and with a real belief that his team would be more than just another team that would leave St Marys empty-handed. They may well not take anything from the trip to the English capital, but they have made impressive progress in just three years of FIFA membership.
For a country that only declared its independence in 2008 and has just a population of just 1.8million people to progress so rapidly is relatively unheard of in football.
Kosovo made incredible progress
In fact, not only has Kosovo’s progress as a national team been impressive, it has been incredible. Since their admittance into FIFA in May 2016, they have gone from just another minnow nation to a team that can actually qualify for a major tournament.
They are currently second place in Group A, which England were always realistically going to top. However, they have a very real chance of finishing second in the group, with the likes of the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Montenegro not exactly in stellar form.
Finishing in the top-two is not Kosovo’s only avenue for qualification for Euro 2020 either. They topped their group in the Nations League
Qualifying for Euro 2020 would be an outstanding achievement for everybody involved with the national team and a great lift to a country that has suffered so much political unrest in its history.
Trip to England their biggest game yet
The game has been described by some as Kosovo’s biggest ever official game. However, the visitors will head into the clash in good spirits. In fact, Kosovo are unbeaten in 15 matches, a run than spans two years. It is the longest unbeaten run in the European international game.
Of course, a trip to St Marys will place that run in grave danger. England are now masters of winning games and qualifying groups. The Three Lions usually win home qualifiers comfortably on home soil and rack up big scores too on occasion.
However, England head coach Gareth Southgate has stated that he believes this game will be the hardest that his team will have to face in Group A. That is not false praise from the England boss either.
England have hammered all their opposition so far, Montenegro, Czech Republic and Bulgaria all dispatched by big score lines. The England fans will be expectant of another big victory against Challandes’ team.
Kosovo’s odds of 25/1 to win Tuesday nights game illustrate their status as major underdogs for victory in the English capital. I suspect the visitors will not be the easy opponents that the bookies believe them to be.
The match is one of those David vs Goliath games you see so often in qualifiers these days. Most David’s are beaten fairly easily, so we will have to wait to see how Kosovo fair in London.
They may well fall to defeat against England, who after all are the group favourites and leaders. However, even if they suffer defeat, the future looks bright for the Kosovan national team. It would also take a brave man to write-off their chances of qualifying for Euro 2020.
Can Kosovo cause a massive shock by beating England at St Mary’s?
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