Analysis: Albania's harsh lesson in big tournament realities
By Brian Homewood
(Reuters) - Euro 2016 debutants Albania were given a tough lesson in the realities of big tournaments in their opening match defeat to Switzerland on Saturday.
A silly goalkeeping mistake, a first-half sending off and failure to take simple chances cost them the chance to take at least a point from a match in which they more than held their own but eventually lost 1-0.
If only Giovanni De Biasi's team had got the basics right, they could have added to the problems for Switzerland, who came into the tournament on a run of poor results and performances, and given their own vociferous fans even more to shout about.
Albania scored just 10 goals -- three of which were awarded to them in a forfeit win over Serbia -- and conceded only five in eight games on their way to qualifying for Euro 2016, their first major tournament.
Keeping the Swiss out for as long as possible was clearly going to be key to their success but those plans were quickly buried when goalkeeper Etrit Berisha, who otherwise had an excellent match, misjudged a Swiss corner in the fifth minute and allowed Fabian Schaer to head home.
Albania then handed them another gift when captain Lorik Cana, who with years of experience in Serie A and Ligue 1 behind him should have known better, was booked twice in quick succession and sent off.
Having been given a yellow card for an unnecessary late challenge in midfield, Cana then got into an awful tangle on the edge of his own penalty area, slipping under pressure and putting his hand on the ball to stop a Haris Seferovic shot.
The dismissal came just as Albania had been forcing their way back into the match and minutes after they had missed a golden chance to equalise.
That fell to Armando Sadiku, who raced onto a through pass but was unable to beat Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer with his poor finish.
Even then, Albania refused to lie down and they had another chance to score late in the game when substitute Shkelzen Gashi, one of seven members of their squad who have played for Switzerland at youth level, was sent through.
In an incident which seemed to take an age, the flag stayed down, the Swiss defence froze, Gashi ran towards the goal -- but his shot lacked conviction and Sommer was able to make the save.
Albania's frustration was summed up by midfielder Taulant Xhaka, who threw his water bottle to the ground in disgust after being substituted just after the hour.
Similar mistakes against next opponents France will be punished even more severely.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ian Chadband)