Sometimes you will hear people saying there are those big, must see, matches and then you have the rest. I really don’t think that is a valid point, although I do understand “smaller” teams aren’t as attractive to wide football masses as are powerhouses who always play to win the tournaments. Match between Albania and Romania is surely seen as a “small” match not really worth the “proper” attention but it is a finest example of a match that will go into football history books in Albania. So that can’t really be a small match, can it? Besides, this game gave us perfect opportunity how, normally neglected, throw in routines can be decisive for a football match. Before the game both teams needed a win to have a chance of reaching the knock-out stage and both set up as expected. Romania was a favourite to win the game so they went out with an idea to hold the ball and control the match. Not surprisingly,
outplay the opposition on the left in 23rd minute.
Quick passes caught their opposition completely out of shape and Sadiku finds himself with plenty of space and time to passes into for Lila. It all ends with far post cross that Lenjani who isn’t able to convert on open goal.
Even if Albania was really good on counter, what really changed the game were swiftly executed throw-ins. It is such a neglected aspect of play that most statistics don’t even include number of throw-ins. Yet, Albania managed to execute four of those on right flank. Three of them caught the opposition unprepared and finished with the shot on goal. One of this came in 43rd minute and decided the game.
By the end of the first half Albania had better idea what to do on the pitch, they defended really well waiting to rob the ball and quickly transition to attack with direct passing. If they were technically more gifted bunch they would be even more dangerous as a lot of those balls ended out of play since the pass or the first touch were inaccurate. Then again, if they were indeed technically better, they would probably seek more possession and had a different game plan.
Slowness and ineffectiveness in offensive phase was dully noted by Romanian manager Angehel Iordanescu who decided to act immediately at half time. Prepelita was substituted with Sanmartean who looked more decisive on the ball. He was keen to take on the opposition surging forward like Ivan Rakitic does in Croatian national team, and he looked for more short, precise passes forward. However, despite higher work rate, more movement in the final third Romania never seemed to believe they can change anything.
From Albanian point of view nothing really changed in the second half. They continued business as usual and secured the historic first victory in EURO. In the end, two things decided the game.
A magic force field around the Albanian box is one. A true monument to their defesive work as not a single pass penetrates inside, as you can see above. The second was general idea of direct counter attacking game but particularly a small neglected part that De Biasi won’t be commended for, despite it is precisely his brilliance that brought victory, by instructing the players (Hysaj above everyone) to take quick throw-ins when needed.
On other hand, Iordanescu failed to risk by pushing forward the full back losing the opportunity to potentially unbalance the opposition defence. More aggressive movement and forward play in second half wasn’t enough against well organized Eagles defence.