Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri, Admir Mehmedi… there’s a long list of quality players who could have Kosovo starring in its UEFA World Cup qualifying group with Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine, Turkey, and Finland.
But the nascent FIFA member will roll out an underdog side on Sunday in Finland, because some Kosovars have been allowed to make the switch despite senior debuts for another nations, while other have not.
[ MORE: Sunday World Cup qualifying preview ]
This piece from The Independent’s Jack Pitt-Brooke lays out the whys better than we can, and not all players would leap to change sides. Arsenal’s Xhaka, however, is among a class of players who cannot switch to Kosovo because he played for the Swiss at EURO 2016 (and has 44 times in total).
Here’s who this driven Kosovo squad will bring proudly to qualifying:
- St. Gallen striker Albert Bunjaku, and Man City’s Sinan Bytyqi, who has represented Austria at the U-21 level.
- A quintet of 2.Bundesliga players including former Hertha Berlin defender Fanol Perdedaj.
- Pisa goalkeeper Samir Ujkani, who captains the national team and is on loan from Genoa. He was previously capped 20 times by Albania.
Again, there’s a rub: Ujkani still technically has not fully been cleared to appear for Kosovo, which brings the biggest question of why the players weren’t given more time to choose (or why they can’t simply select their national teams now).
Making players rush decisions before EURO endangered the chances of Switzerland and Albania at the tournament, one of the world’s biggest. FIFA would have a headache on its hands regardless of how it handled it, but surely there’s a better way for players and nations hoping to see a team that fits its standard and history (which extends beyond FIFA calendars and rulings).