Kosovo manager Bernard Challandes has his team sitting a surprising second in Group A of Euro 2020 qualifying. On Saturday, they completed their most surprising result yet, a 2-1 comeback win over the Czech Republic which followed a win over Bulgaria back in June.
Ranked 120th in the world by FIFA and only gaining recognition by the governing body three years ago, Kosovo is now unbeaten in a shocking 15 matches, a run of matches that dates all the way back to October 2017. They are known as “The Brazil of the Balkans” in reference to the attacking style of football Challandes has brought, and the youthful squad averaged just 23 years old in the win over the Czech Republic.
That mentality was described – passionately – by Challandes in his pre-match press conference ahead of the match against England at St. Mary’s. He went into detail about how he will not adjust his relentless press while playing a more superior opponent.
“It’s tactical pressing. In a crazy game, it’s ‘Go! Return! Go! Go! Go!” Challandes said while yelling and gesturing wildly. “Perhaps it’s not the right run. But it’s in here,” Challandes said, pointing to his head. “I will, I want to win the ball.”
He then describes that pressing is not just a defensive tactic, but also one that can lead to chances down the other end. “It’s not only defense, it’s preparation for a goal for us.”
Challandes was hired by Kosovo last year after spending the previous three years as a scout for Swiss club Basel. He had led Armenia during qualification for Euro 2016, falling just four points short of a place in the playoff round. A win for Kosovo in the match at St. Mary’s would put them alone atop Group A, currently sitting a single point behind England, although Gareth Southgate‘s squad does have a game in hand.