Balkan surprise package blocks Denmark’s road to France
September 4. Mark that date in your calendar.
It’s the day Denmark could take a definitive step towards Euro 2016 qualification when they take on their closest Group I rivals in a six-pointer in Copenhagen.
It won’t be against usual suspects Portugal, or the hapless Serbs, beaten 2-0 in Parken on Saturday. Denmark’s opponents will be the surprise outfit Albania.
The Balkan nation has taken qualification by storm, beating Portugal away, Armenia at home and could have been undefeated if it weren’t for the scandalous ‘drone game’ against Serbia last October. The Court of Arbitration for sport (CAS) has yet to decide on Albania’s appeal against losing the match 3-0 after the match was abandoned following crowd trouble.
The Albanians also just beat France in a friendly on Saturday and are better than their FIFA ranking of 51st suggests. The Danes barely managed a 1-1 draw in Albania last year and will need another solid showing to see them off at home.
Denmark have 10 points while the Albanians are on 7 points, but the Balkan nation has an extra game in hand and a pending CAS ruling that could further boost their points tally.
With Portugal in command of the group with 12 points and the top two in the group qualifying – the third placed team will enter a playoff – a win against Albania will give the Danes a huge boost towards finishing in the top two of Group I.
And while the Danes haven’t beaten the Albanians in their last two fixtures (both draws in Albania) the Danes have won all four games played against the Balkan side at home – most recently a 3-0 win during 2010 World Cup qualification.
With just one point each, Armenia and Serbia already need miracles to qualify.