We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Alamy Stock Photo
euro 2024

No final-day magic for Albania as they are beaten by second-string Spain

Ferran Torres’ early goal settled the game in Duseldorf.

Albania 0

Spain 1

THE MUGGY AIR weighing down on Dusseldorf today did not hold any magic for Albania, as they exited Euro 2024 in defeat to Spain. 

A win for Albania would almost certainly have put them through, while a draw would mean a flicker of hope at least until Wednesday’s final accounting of the best third-placed sides across the group. But instead they lost to a second-string Spain side whose quality was simply overwhelming. 

Albania will reflect warmly on their frantic 2-2 draw with Croatia and with regret on their close-shave loss to Italy. Here they had to little to argue against a Spanish side that will go deep into the tournament. 

Albania were effectively trying to replicate what Ireland did at Euro 2016: win the final group game against an already-qualified heavyweight to squeeze into the last-16. Spain manager Luis de la Fuente then obligingly made like Antonio Conte and overhauled his team, with Aymeric Laporte the only survivor from the 1-0 win over Italy that secured Spain’s status as group winners. 

De la Fuente is an old-school Spaniard, and has previously expressed his pride in his Catholicism and his love of bullfighting. Football-wise, he’s a bit more La furia roja than tiki-taka. 

In keeping with this his Spain team is a bit more direct and vertical than predecessor’s Luis Enrique. While tonight’s captain Jesus Navas has played in better Spain teams, he has rarely been part of one so thrilling as this one. 

Where wingers Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams tore Italy asunder all alone last week, so in their absence this was a more collective effort. In spite of making 10 changes, everyone fitted smoothly into the national 4-3-3 and methodically ripped Albania apart at the seams. 

But while the system is familiar, Spain’s attitudes have shifted. This team has appointed more value to a quick forward ball, and it was their route to the opening goal. Aymeric Laporte skidded a delightful ball through midfield to Dani Olmo, cutting four Albanian players out of the game. Olmo then passed in behind to the overlapping Ferran Torres, who side-footed the ball in off the post, Thierry Henry-style. 

The only good news from the first half for Albania was that Spain didn’t score again. They colonised possession and took the game entirely at their own pace, with Torres, Mikel Merino, and Dani Olmo spurning opportunities to give the scoreboard a more just look. 

The game meant everything to Albania and comparatively little to Spain, which made this an altogether more dispiriting means of defeat. Quickly Spain drained Albania of optimism and then gradually took away their hope. The Albanian supporters’ wall of jeers during Spanish possession faded after a few minutes – it had to, there’s not enough oxygen in the atmosphere equipped for that scale of a job – but they erupted again midway through the half, in a kind of last spasm of frustration. 

When Kristjan Asllani let fly from long range before the break, forcing a decent if needlessly elaborate save from David Raya, it had the effect of re-animating the whole stadium. Spain then quickly took the ball back to once again anesthetise the whole occasion. Joselu came close to killing it with Spain’s second goal just after half-time, angling an acrobatic volley narrowly wide. 

Spain’s commitment to finding that second goal was dubious anyhow. Dani Olmo, scooting away on a counter-attack and with Ferran open to his right, opted to try and lob the goalkeeper from just across the halfway line. He miscued the effort and it skewed along the ground. 

Sylvinho turned to striker Armando Broja just shy of the hour mark, whose involvement in the competition thus far has been curtailed by a lack of match fitness following a half-season rusting on the Fulham bench. He instantly made an impact, though: an instinctive penalty-box hook towards goal was palmed away by Raya. That brought forth another enormous swell of noise around the ground. 

That moment seemed to finally rock the game off-kilter, and Broja almost pounced on a Spanish mistake to scarper clear on goal, only for Robin Le Normand – on as a half-time substitute – to intervene at the last moment. 

With Spain’s intent dwindling, de la Fuente introduced Morata and Yamal, just to remind Albania that his side were not in the business of rubber-stamping other people’s dreams. 


Arber Hoxha was introduced to Broja-level roars from the Albanian fans and his direct dribbling sustained the noise, flashing a shot from distance just wide of the far post. Albania’s lack of quality, though, meant they were restricted to these kinds of potshots. 

Albania clawed their way into the final quarter through sheer desire, where set pieces held some hope. They won a wide free-kick in the first of four additional minutes, but when Broja manage to pilfer the ball clear of a scramble of bodies when it was put into the box, his shot was too close to Raya. 

In the final minute Albania won the ball back on the edge of the Spanish box and then whipped a terrific cross across the box to…nobody at all. None of the Albanian players attacked the cross, instead all stood on their heels. It summed up their admirable effort: just not convincing enough when it mattered. 



Albania: Thomas Strakosha; Ivan Balliu, Berat Djimitsi, Arlind Ajeti, Mario Mitaj; Qazim Laci (Medon Bershia, 70′), Yiber Ramadani, Kristjan Asllani; Jasir Asani, Rey Manaj (Armando Broja, 59′), Nedim Bajrami (Arber Hoxha, 70′)

Spain: David Raya; Jesus Navas, Dani Vivian, Aymeric Laporte (Robin Le Normand, HT), Alex Grimaldo; Martin Zubimendi, Mikel Merino; Ferran Torres (Lamine Yamal, 71′), Dani Olmo (Alex Baena, 83′), Mikel Oyarzabal (Fermin Lopez 61′); Joselu (Alvaro Morata, 71′)

Referee: Glenn Nyberg (Sweden)


Written by Gavin Cooney and originally published on The 42 whose award-winning team produces original content that you won’t find anywhere else: on GAA, League of Ireland, women’s sport and boxing, as well as our game-changing rugby coverage, all with an Irish eye. Subscribe here.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel