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Albania prepare at Brunel ahead of crunch game with England

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The stars of the Albanian national football team have been training at Brunel University London this week ahead of their vital crunch game with England at Wembley.

Having lost to Poland last time out, Albania need to beat group-leaders England to be in with any chance of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, which kicks-off next November in Qatar. A win for England would all but guarantee their place in the finals.

Led by Head Coach Edoardo Reja and striker Sokol Cikalleshi, the team prepared on the first XI’s pitch at the Brunel Sports Park, briefly training in front of the Albanian and UK press before continuing behind closed doors away from the media glare.

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Sokol Cikalleshi (L) and Edoardo Reja face the press in the Brunel Sports Pavillion

Speaking to the media ahead of their training, Cikalleshi promised a rough and tumble encounter for the English: “We know that England came and won in Albania, but this is football and results don’t just depend on quality, but also on whether you have the spirit to give everything on the field. If you have aggression on the field, quality cannot win every time.

“This is what I want from myself and the team, but tomorrow we must be tactically disciplined and show our Albanian blood on the field."

Head Coach Reja meanwhile said that his team had come to win and weren’t put off by their underdog status: “Of course the English are the favourites, but we need personality on our part – on the part of the players and the whole team.

“The field is the same for everyone and we have to play without fear.”

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Brunel's grounds staff recieved praise for the quality of the facilities

Brunel has a long history of hosting international sporting teams at their facilities, with the university used as a base for the French rugby team ahead of the 2015 World Cup, the Japanese athletics team ahead of the 2017 World Athletics Championships, and the Korean Olympic team ahead of London 2012. Legendary sprinter Usain Bolt also regularly trained at Brunel’s Indoor Athletics Centre during his glittering career.

“We were delighted to welcome the Albanian national team to Brunel ahead of their vital match at Wembley,” said Mark Burgess, Head of Sport at Brunel, who noted that the university’s grounds staff and Sport Park Manager Paul Goosey received glowing praise from the FA for their help.

“It really does speak to the quality of our sports facilities that major international teams across a wide range of sports want to come to Brunel to train. Whilst my loyalties might lay elsewhere, I’m glad we were able to help the team prepare and I wish them the very best of luck tonight.”

Other international sporting teams hosted by Brunel include:

  • Japan: World Athletics Championships 2017
  • Malaysia: World Para-Athletics championships 2017
  • Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa Netball teams
  • France: Rugby World Cup 2015
  • UK: Invictus Games 2020
  • South Korea:  Olympics 2012
  • Canada: Paralympics 2012

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Journalists from ITV Sport, BBC 5Live and a host of Albanian outlets attended the training

Reported by:

Tim Pilgrim, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268965