Anyone for an underdog story?
How about the one where a certified minnow on the international stage established the longest current unbeaten run in Europe?
Not just that… they weren’t even recognised by UEFA and FIFA until 2016.
Yes Kosovo haven’t tasted defeat since late 2017, embarking on a 14-game blitz that has featured eight wins – including their first ever European qualifying victory at Bulgaria on Monday night.
Swiss manager Bernard Challandes is still invincible since taking the helm and it’s pretty safe to say they’re fulfilling their wildest dreams against all odds.
It’s been a bumpy ride.
Since Kosovo were officially declared independent from Serbia in 2008 they’ve slowly crept onto the international footballing scene.
After years of playing friendlies – and nothing more than that – they were granted UEFA and FIFA membership in 2016 which granted them access to official qualifying campaigns for major tournaments.
Yet political unrest in the region is still rife, and their clash with Montenegro recently was marred as the Montenegrin manager and two players refused to play as they fail to recognise Kosovo as a state.
But they topped a Nations League group containing Azerbaijan, the Faroe Islands and Malta, scoring 15 goals and conceding just two in six games.
And their momentum has continued to gather pace.
After impressive draws against Denmark, Bulgaria and Montenegro, the side ranked 127th in the world clinched a seismic 3-2 victory at Bulgaria in injury time.
It means they have the longest current unbeaten streak of any European nation, four ahead of Portugal’s ten-game run.
So who are their stars?
Will besides enigmatic manager Challandes, Werder Bremen striker Milot Rashica has been red hot in front of goal and got the ball rolling in Sofia.
Rashica, in fact, has 13 goals and six assists in 22 games for club and country in 2019 so far.
Behind him is Bersant Celina, who scored a phenomenal goal for Swansea against Man City in the FA Cup earlier this season.
Kosovo are proving the Nations League’s worth, building on their performances in that competition to mount a genuine attempt to reach Euro 2020.
They currently sit third in Group A – a point behind leaders England – and guess who should be in their firing line soon? Gareth Southgate’s motley crew themselves.
It might not be the Wembley walkover many are anticipating…
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