Sylvinho Aims to Lead Albania to Euro 2024 Success
|Sylvinho, head coach of Corinthians celebrate with his players after winning the match between Corinthians and Athletico Paranaense as part of Brasileirao Series A 2021 at Neo Quimica Arena on November 28, 2021 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.(Image-Getty)
Sylvinho, the former Arsenal and Barcelona defender, has taken on the role of Albania's national team manager, causing quite a stir since his surprising appointment in January. His task now is to lead Albania closer to a place at Euro 2024 as they prepare to host the Czech Republic on Thursday.
Albania has been one of the standout surprises in the Euro 2024 qualifiers. With 10 points from five games, they lead Group E, ahead of the Czech Republic with eight points from four matches. A pivotal 2-0 victory over Poland in September, led by Sylvinho, added to their achievements. As Poland struggles in fourth place with six points, two points behind both Moldova and the Czech Republic, Albania is aiming for a top-two finish that secures automatic qualification for the finals in Germany.
The victory over Poland, which halted a streak of eight consecutive losses against them, has turned Sylvinho into a celebrated figure in Albania. The country has caught football fever ahead of the crucial match against the Czech Republic, with all 21,000 tickets for the game at the Air Albania stadium in Tirana sold out within hours.
Sylvinho remains focused and composed, emphasizing that the team has three important games ahead. Following the match with the Czech Republic, Albania will play away against Moldova and finish their group games at home against the Faroe Islands, who currently sit at the bottom of the table with just one point from five matches.
Despite the enthusiastic support from fans, Sylvinho ensures that his players remain calm and focused on their mission. The team has impressed with their attacking style and has earned praise from fans and pundits alike, despite initial skepticism following Sylvinho's appointment. The 49-year-old, with an illustrious playing career that included winning multiple titles, is eager to maintain Albania's fighting spirit.
Sylvinho's arrival marked a significant change in philosophy, as Albania's previous four managers were all Italian. However, doubts about his appointment have waned, particularly after a well-fought debut match in March against Poland, which established a strong connection between him and the players.
Living in Tirana since January has allowed Sylvinho to understand Albania's identity and build a close connection with the country. He emphasized the importance of staying close to the players, even though many of them play abroad. The decision to live in Albania has yielded valuable results, such as discovering players like Jasir Asani, a North Macedonia-born winger who has become a key part of Albania's forward line.
Asani's impressive performance, including a spectacular long-range goal against Poland, epitomizes Sylvinho's philosophy of attracting players through their work and building a project and structure that resonates with Albanian players abroad, encouraging them to represent their homeland.