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The full lowdown on England’s next opponents Kosovo

Gareth Southgate’s men face a side taking part in their first European Championship qualifying campaign.

Kosovo’s players celebrate their 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic in Pristina on Saturday (Visar Kryeziu/AP)
Kosovo’s players celebrate their 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic in Pristina on Saturday (Visar Kryeziu/AP)

By Jonathan Veal, PA

England are preparing to host Kosovo as they continue their qualification campaign for next summer’s European Championship.

Here, the PA news agency gives you the lowdown on their opponents for Tuesday’s game at St Mary’s.

The emergence of a nation

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Vedat Muriqi celebrates Kosovo’s opener in the win over the Czech Republic (Visar Kryeziu/AP)

Having played unofficial friendlies since 2010 after gaining its independence from Serbia two years earlier, Kosovo began playing FIFA members in friendlies in 2014, with their first official match a goalless draw with Haiti. They were accepted into FIFA and UEFA two years later and have since taken part in the 2018 World Cup qualification programme, the UEFA Nations League and now Euro 2020 qualification.

Head coach

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Bernard Challandes has been a huge success with Kosovo (Visar Kryeziu/AP)

Bernard Challandes may not be a household name, but he has the golden touch when it comes to managing Kosovo. The 68-year-old was handed the reins in 2018 and has turned results around. He had no real playing career to speak of, playing in the Swiss lower leagues, but has had a lengthy managerial career. He has been in charge of a host of Swiss teams, including Young Boys, has taken charge of Switzerland’s under-21s and has also managed Armenia.

Recent form

Challandes’ arrival as Albert Bunjaki’s successor in 2018 has turned Kosovo’s fortunes around. They are unbeaten in 15 games, winning 10 of them, and are in with a real shot of making next summer’s finals. Their fine form allowed them to top their Nations League group, which means they are guaranteed a play-off spot, and they are also dark horses in England’s Group A, having already beaten Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.

Star player

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Atdhe Nuhiu plays in the Championship for Sheffield Wednesday (Joe Giddens/PA)

One of the most recognisable names is that of Sheffield Wednesday striker Atdhe Nuhiu, who is a useful target man with his height and brute strength. Bersant Celina will also be a familiar face. He plays for Championship side Swansea having started out at Manchester City.

PA

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