The upcoming Nations League qualifier against Scotland and a friendly with Wales in the next few days could prove decisive for Christian Panucci and his fate as Albania’s coach, Albania’s football association president has warned.
“We have to win against Scotland, if we make it, it won’t be a failure. We have a lot of absences which is a great problem, but Panucci’s performance will be analyzed after the next two games. Panucci needs everybody’s support, the campaign will not be a failure if we win against Scotland,” Albania’s football president Armand Duka said this week in the first direct warning about Panucci who has been in charge of Albania since July 2017, succeeding compatriot Gianni De Biasi who led Albania to a first-ever appearance at a major competition such as Euro 2016.
The warning comes as Albania faces a key test in a final qualifier against Scotland on Saturday Nov. 17 that will prove decisive for the national side’s further progress at the inaugural Nations League, a UEFA tournament that largely replaces friendlies, but also plays a major part for the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign by deciding the final four places via play-offs.
It also comes at a time when pressure has been mounting on coach Panucci, a renowned former Italian international who played for top European clubs, but had little coaching experience when taking over as Albania coach. The 45-year-old Italian has lost seven out of 12 games since taking over in mid-2017 and Albania now almost find themselves out of the Nations League competition as they rank bottom of their League C Group 1 with only three points from their first three games. Albania need to beat Scotland by at least three goals in their final home qualifier and hope Scotland beat Israel in their final group encounter on Nov. 20 to possibly qualify through superior goal difference in case all three teams finish level on six points in what is a little likely scenario.
Albania will also play a tough home friendly against top-20 FIFA ranked Wales on Nov. 20 ahead of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, scheduled to begin in March 2019 after ten groups are drawn in December 2018.
However, in case of poor performance in the upcoming two home games Albania is likely to sack to Panucci and look for a new coach ahead of the Euro 2020 qualifiers.
Panucci, who was hired on a two-and-a-half year contract, has been set a Euro 2020 qualification target.