Football

First-timers Albania will add to Euro 2016's other-worldliness

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In a recent piece about the return of Europe's forgotten football countries, where I touched on the reappearances of Wales, Northern Ireland and Hungary in major international tournament territory due to the expansion of next year's European Championship from 16 countries to 24.

It was also discussed how Iceland will help make Euro 2016 an interesting watch in their first appearance on a world stage of this magnitude.

One nation who missed out on a mention was Albania, who will also be making their debut at a major tournament. Often a laughing stock for both their football and product making industries - hear the laughs when Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses' 'Jolly Boys' Outing' tries to big up the radio he's trying to sell by proudly adding that it was made in ''Al-BAN-IA'' - they were always seen as one of the many 'easy' games that the so-called 'big guns' would deal with.

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They were not quite the pushovers San Marino and Luxembourg usually turn out to be, but to us in England, Albania were merely the country who Ashley Cole made his debut against, as well as being the land that are famously obsessed with our very own, Norman Wisdom - look him up, kids.

But yes, another newcomer to next year's competition will stir up more interest and only add to the sense that it's different. Having said that, Albania, Iceland and Wales would have possibly still reached the finals if it were to host the usual 16 teams, as they all finished runners-up in their group.

When he was alive, Albania's adopted son Mr Wisdom seemed happy and hyperactive, one can only worry about the chaos that would have ensued had he heard about the country's qualification.

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