The storied history of Kosovo as a nation has been well documented, from the war back in the 90s through to them gaining independence from Serbia. In the present day, one thing that seems to unite the landlocked territory more so than anything else is the intrigue behind the national football team. It seems odd to suggest that this could be the catalyst behind some kind of a resurgence for the nation, but sport is able to do some funny things for your morale.
Throughout the course of their UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying campaign so far, they’ve been able to pick up some really important results in their quest to qualify for a major tournament for the first time. Their win against the Czech Republic gave them some honest to god hope that this was going to be the moment for them, and despite their loss against England last night, there still seems to be some real optimism that they can do the unthinkable.
A thrilling clash
It certainly seemed as if they had a great chance of securing another unlikely three points when Valon Berisha gave them the advantage after just half a minute following a Michael Keane error. However, within the blink of an eye (or 45 minutes), England had been able to prove why they’re on such a roll right now by slotting five goals past Kosovo before the whistle had even blown for the half time interval.
Sterling & Kane scored with Jadon Sancho striking twice, with a Vojvoda own goal being thrown in there for good measure. When the second half began it seemed as if things could get even worse, but the visitors were able to summon a second wind with Berisha netting again and Muriqi scoring from the penalty spot to ensure a nervous 35 minutes or so for the Three Lions.
In the end, they held on, but manager Gareth Southgate was still more than happy to discuss both the pros and the cons of this exhilarating tie.
“A bizarre game really,” Southgate said.
“There were obvious poor errors for goals but I’m really pleased with the composure we showed. We used the ball well.
The future is bright
“The errors, we have to be better – the players don’t need me to tell them that. The outstanding parts of our play were obvious, the errors were obvious.”
“What I would say is generally as a team, they recovered from those errors, although there is nothing worse than a losing lead for making a team feel uncomfortable.
“I think that generally speaking, they took control back of the game, and even the likes of Mason [Mount] coming on at the end, that is not an easy position for a young player to go in but we know he’s got the maturity to play the role really intelligently and [he] took the ball under pressure, pressed intelligently.
“So, actually it was in many ways a better experience than strolling through the game at five, six or whatever, even though we probably all could have done without it.”
The bookmakers still have Kosovo down as potential Euro 2020 participants, and we can’t say that we blame them.