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Category: Kosovo

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International men’s football: talking points from the week’s action

Nations League positives for Portugal and even England, dismay for David de Gea and Kosovo’s Euro 2020 qualifying joyThe numbed anticlimax of Sunday’s third-place play-off ensured the lingering impression of England’s Nations League campaign was one of…

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Shane Duffy’s late header snatches point for Ireland in Denmark

• Mick McCarthy’s side stay on top of their group• Jesus Navas on target for Spain in Faroe IslandsShane Duffy left Denmark cursing the Republic of Ireland once again as he headed home a late equaliser to snatch a 1-1 Euro 2020 qualifier draw in Copenh…

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Nations League and internationals: 10 talking points from this week’s games

Virgil van Dijk is leader of the flying Dutchmen, Kosovo are on the verge of something special and a fed up Britt abroadWhen Gareth Southgate needed to turn the tide against Croatia at the World Cup, his options were limited by a lack of forward player…

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Nations League and internationals: 10 talking points from this week’s games

Virgil van Dijk is leader of the flying Dutchmen, Kosovo are on the verge of something special and a fed up Britt abroadWhen Gareth Southgate needed to turn the tide against Croatia at the World Cup, his options were limited by a lack of forward player…

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Kylian Mbappé rescues France against Iceland while Portugal see off Poland

• France score twice in last four minutes to draw 2-2 at home• Aleksandar Mitrovic double helps Serbia win in MontenegroFrance avoided an embarrassing defeat by Iceland with two goals in the last five minutes, including a last-gasp penalty from the sub…

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Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri escape ban over Swiss celebration

• Duo made eagle symbol of Kosovo in win against Serbia• Each fined £7,600 and Stephan Lichtsteiner fined £3,800Switzerland’s Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri have escaped a ban following their controversial celebrations in the 2-1 World Cup win over S…

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Serbia to protest about use of Albanian symbol by Switzerland players

Players of Kosovan heritage accused of inflaming political tensions when celebrating goalThe Serbian Football Association has said it will make a formal complaint to Fifa after Switzerland’s Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri celebrated their goals durin…

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Xhaka and Shaqiri goal celebrations bring Balkan politics to World Cup

Switzerland pair, who have Albanian heritage, inflame tensions with Serbia by making nationalist symbolsXherdan Shaqiri completes comeback win against SerbiaSwiss footballers Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri have risked inflaming political tensions in …

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Shadow of Kosovo hangs over Switzerland’s crunch tie with Serbia

The Kosovan heritage of Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka and Valon Behrami means there is extra needle for the pivotal meeting in KaliningradWhen a footballer’s boots are among the pre-match talking points it should normally be a sign that subplots are sc…

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Iceland become smallest nation ever to qualify for World Cup finals

• Win over Kosovo secures place at World Cup 2018 in Russia
• Serbia seal qualification, Croatia confirm play-off place

Iceland sealed a place in Russia with a 2-0 victory against Kosovo in Reykjavik, becoming the smallest nation ever to qualify for a World Cup finals.

Heimir Hallgrimsson’s team knew a win against Group I’s bottom side would guarantee top spot and an automatic qualifying place, and Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson settled their nerves with a superbly taken goal five minutes before half-time.

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International football: 10 things to look out for in World Cup 2018 qualifying

Gareth Southgate should have taken radical action over England captaincy, Hal Robson-Kanu may be needed by Wales and how long can Didier Deschamps do without Karim Benzema?

Captaincy is among the biggest red herrings in football: all players are supposed to set examples with their performances and leaders lead with or without an armband. And yet the England captaincy matters simply because a lot of people think it matters. Steven Gerrard was upset when it was taken off him by a caretaker manager, Stuart Pearce, and David Beckham was uplifted when it was given to him by a caretaker manager, Peter Taylor. The country’s latest caretaker manager, Gareth Southgate, should have de-fetishised the armband by announcing England do not need a captain other than for administrative purposes – to do the coin toss, basically – and, therefore, that the identity of the skipper for the matches against Malta, Slovenia and all opponents during his reign would be decided two seconds before each match by a dressing-room raffle. Paul Doyle

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Valon Berisha earns draw with Finland in Kosovo’s first competitive match

• Berisha was cleared to play hours before World Cup qualifier
• Victories for Spain and Italy as Croatia draw with Turkey

Valon Berisha, given permission to play only a few hours before kick-off, scored Kosovo’s first goal in a competitive international to earn them a 1-1 draw against Finland a World Cup qualifier on Monday.

Berisha, who was allowed to switch to Kosovo by Fifa despite having previously played competitive matches for Norway, scored a penalty on the hour after a foul by Thomas Lam on Bernard Berisha to spark delirious celebrations among his team mates and officials.

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Kosovo get Fifa clearance for players in Finland World Cup qualifier

• Five footballers who previously lined up for Albania will be in team
• Team celebrate news before first campaign in global competition

Kosovo’s first-ever World Cup qualifying campaign has been given a lift by the news that five key players have been ruled eligible to face Finland on Monday evening by Fifa.

Related: Kosovo ready to rock the boat in Finland despite eligibility confusion

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Kosovo ready to rock the boat in Finland despite eligibility confusion

The buildup to Kosovo’s first 2018 World Cup qualifier has been marred by a lack of clarity from Fifa about which players are allowed to play for them

Taking to the lake is a natural enough pursuit in Finland so it made perfect sense for Albert Bunjaki, the Kosovo manager, to organise a rowing trip for his players in the waters beside their base in Eerikkila. It was not quite the relaxing Saturday-afternoon activity some may have envisaged; the squad were put into two boats and the chagrin when Bunjaki ordered three in each vessel to put down their oars is not hard to picture. The six redundant players would have to content themselves with offering moral support; everyone else would just have to work that little bit harder.

The exercise had been carefully calculated. Kosovo’s first World Cup qualifier takes place in Turku on Monday evening and Bunjaki is still awaiting confirmation from Fifa that half a dozen of his best players will be eligible. That was hindrance enough on Saturday; imagine, then, the inconvenience when Kosovo were informed the final decision would not be given until 3pm on matchday, fewer than seven hours before kick-off.

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Ten rising stars to watch across Europe’s World Cup qualifying campaign | Alan Smith

From Italy’s 17-year-old keeper to Poland’s Premier League winger we choose the most exciting youngsters to watch out for in the forthcoming games

Elevated into Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid team during the opening two weeks of the La Liga season, the attacking midfielder was included in Julen Lopetegui’s first squad for a friendly with Belgium and Monday’s visit of Liechtenstein, though he did not make it off the bench for the win in Brussels on Thursday. Capable of operating centrally and out wide, the 20-year‑old will need to bide his time for opportunities but such has been his rapid rise it would not be a massive surprise if he became a regular later in the campaign. In the meantime it would be good to see him get some game time in noncompetitive fixtures. His only cap so far came against Bosnia‑Herzegovina at the end of last season.

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Kosovan Olympic judo gold medallist refused drugs test before Games

• Majlinda Kelmendi could face ban in France where incident took place in June
• Kosovan team insists the new women’s 52kg champion is clean

The Kosovan gold medallist judoka, Majlinda Kelmendi, could face a ban on competition in France after refusing an unscheduled drugs test, the International Judo Federation (IJF) has confirmed.

Kelmendi, 25, became the first Kosovan to win Olympic gold when she triumphed in the -52kg category in the Carioca arena on Sunday. But her victory could be tarnished amid claims that she had committed an anti-doping violation in France in June during her preparations for Rio.

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The Xhaka brothers braced to lock horns – for Albania and Switzerland | Nick Ames

Granit and Taulant have taken different paths after their parents migrated to Switzerland but when they come face to face in Lens at Euro 2016 on Saturday they will be united by pride if not by shirt colour

It was approaching half-time in Albania’s decisive Euro 2016 qualifer against Armenia and the Eagles, needing a win to confirm their debut at a major tournament, were comfortably ahead. The online clamour among the worldwide Albanian diaspora was deafening but one intervention on Instagram stood out from the rest: “2-0 Albania” were the words appended to a photograph showing a man in his early 20s, fist clenched and more than a suggestion of tears in his eyes. Granit Xhaka was the subject and just over an hour later Albania, with his brother Taulant anchoring the midfield, would confirm a 3-0 win and their place in France.

Nothing about the post would seem unusual were it not for the fact that Granit was watching from Estonia where, the following day, he would help Switzerland round off their own campaign. A day shy of eight months later, the pair face a scenario neither could have seriously expected when cheering one another on in the qualifiers. Albania and Switzerland face one another in Lens on Saturday and, while that is not unusual in itself, the prospect of two brothers facing one another on separate sides – in the midfield engine room, no less – is unprecedented at a European Championship. (The Boatengs, Germany’s Jérôme and Ghana’s Kevin-Prince, have twice faced each other in World Cups, though they are only half-brothers.)

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Kosovo’s Champions League dream emerged from war and tragedy

• Feronikeli set to be first club from region to play on Europe’s biggest stage
• Kosovan champions’ former captain was shot 20 times by Serbian police

Fidan Rexhepi adored his uncle. During the week, he would borrow Rexhep’s boots to play football outside the family home in Koretice, hoping they might in some way transmit the hypnotic dribbling ability and sweet left foot whose reputation had spread far into the valleys and villages of Drenica. At the weekend he would see how it was done as Rexhep – Rexha to everybody – wore the captain’s armband and No11 shirt of Feronikeli, motivating his team-mates in action and word. One afternoon, Fidan was present to see Rexha carried aloft by the crowd, his name ringing in his ears, after inspiring a 3-2 comeback win. Football was often a dangerous pursuit in 90s’ Kosovo and the celebrations were, as always, laced with a hint of defiance.

The memories flow freely as Fidan, now 28, drinks coffee at the family’s cafe along the main road into Drenas. A couple of minutes’ drive to the east is the pitch where he would stand in thrall to Rexha’s gifts. That is significant enough almost two decades later, but there is something else, too. Rexhep Rexhepi Stadium can call itself home to Kosovo’s first Champions League club after Feronikeli’s runaway title win was confirmed this month and also stands as a monument to the man in whose image the club was rebuilt.

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Kosovo accepted as member of Uefa after Congress vote

• Members vote 28-24 in favour of admittance
• Kosovo now likely to apply for Fifa membership

Kosovo was accepted as a member of Uefa on Tuesday, becoming the 55th member of European football’s governing body despite strong opposition from neighbouring Serbia, from which it declared independence in 2008.

Uefa’s annual Congress voted by 28 votes to 24 to accept Kosovo’s application. Two votes were declared invalid.

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Manchester City’s Bersant Celina ‘demanded’ place in Norway starting XI

• Teenager chose to represent Kosovo instead of Norway after talks
• Norwegian FA claim Celina wanted assurances over playing time

The Manchester City teenager Bersant Celina committed his international future to Kosovo after Norway were not prepared to guarantee him first-team football, according to the Norwegian FA.

Celina, 19, who made his Premier League debut against Leicester City on Saturday, last month pledged his future to Kosovo, where he was born, over Norway, where he moved with his family at the age of two.

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