Albania coach Gianni De Biasi took a gamble on Sunday by dropping captain Lorik Cana from his starting line-up at Euro 2016 to preserve the team that nearly managed a draw with France, and it paid off in a tense 1-0 victory over Romania. (RESULTS | STANDINGS)
Cana had missed the France game after being sent off against Switzerland, and came on as a late substitute on Sunday as Albania scored their first victory in the finals of a major tournament and gave themselves a chance of making the last 16.
Asked about Cana, De Biasi said: “Yes, it was a difficult choice for me. I told him I didn’t want to change too much of the team that played against France. I asked Lorik for a sacrifice and he was very generous.
“He is a leader, he is a team man. I have to say hats off to him for his attitude and his behaviour.”
Albania survived a nervous start, growing in confidence throughout the game and scoring with a header from striker Armando Sadiku just before half time.
“We didn’t get many chances, we played with our head and our mental strength,” De Biasi said.
“We were expecting a strong start from them. We defended very well today in a tactical way. We were very solid, we closed the spaces and then we tried to counter attack.”
Albania now have a few days’ wait to find out whether their three points from Group A will be enough to take them through to the round of 16 as one of the four best third-placed teams.
“First we will have to prepare as if we have to play Friday or Saturday. In the meantime we’ll be watching other games,” the Italian said.
“If we stay in this tournament, we will give trouble to other teams, even very important teams.”
Romanian coach Anghel Iordanescu said his players had created many opportunities to score in a game he had described as “the chance of a generation” for the team.
“It’s very difficult for me to accuse the players that they didn’t want or didn’t try to win. We showed a good performance against France, against Switzerland we had many scoring opportunities. Today this is a painful loss for the Romanian team.”