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Euro 2016: Albania pin high hopes on Cana's return against Romania

Football Soccer - Euro 2016 - Albania Training - Plaine de jeux de Gerland, Lyon, France - 18/6/16 - Albania's Lorik Cana during training. REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff
Football Soccer - Euro 2016 - Albania Training - Plaine de jeux de Gerland, Lyon, France - 18/6/16 - Albania's Lorik Cana during training. REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

By Mark Trevelyan

LYON, France (Reuters) - Albania hope the return of captain Lorik Cana, sent off in their opening game at Euro 2016, will boost their chances in Sunday's must-win game against Romania, in which they still have a chance of squeezing into the last 16.

Defender Cana missed Wednesday's 2-0 defeat against France, having been sent off in the first half against Switzerland after being booked for a late challenge and then a handball on the edge of his own penalty area.

"I think Lorik Cana is a very important player for the Albanian team because he's got more experience, he's also very emotionally committed when he plays for Albania. For every fan he's an idol," coach Gianni De Biasi told a news conference on Saturday. "Lorik will be very important again tomorrow."

Goalkeeper Etrit Berisha described Cana as "the pillar of our national team".

Despite his absence, Albania almost shut out host nation France, succumbing only to a 90th-minute header by substitute striker Antoine Griezmann and a stoppage-time goal by Dimitri Payet. They had nearly taken the lead when French fullback Bacary Sagna bundled the ball against his own post.

"Everyone so far has praised our football, praised our performance, the fact we're not scared, the fact we played head-to-head against some top teams," De Biasi said.

He said the team, in their first major tournament finals, had paid dearly for mistakes and had failed to take advantage of their scoring opportunities, perhaps from lack of experience.

A win against Romania would give Albania three points and third place in Group A, with a chance of going through to the knockout stage."I spoke to the guys and I said to them: if you want to carry on in this competition, we must take advantage of all the chances," Di Biasi said. "Unfortunately tomorrow is a do-or-die situation."

(Editing by Julien Pretot)

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