Albania will host Switzerland on Friday in Tirana in a pivotal 2014 World Cup qualifying match.
The Swiss currently lead UEFA qualification's Group E by five points.
They are the favorites to win the group and earn a World Cup berth this fall. Albania are eight points back, in fifth place, ahead of only Cyprus with two matches left to play.
A draw for Ottmar Hitzfeld's squad would all but ensure they advance, as it would give them 19 points and a massive goal differential to fall back on.
Albania's only chance is to string together back-to-back positive results over the next few days and hope that Iceland, Slovenia and Norway falter. It's still possible for Gianni De Biasi's men to snag the No. 2 spot in the group, which could potentially earn them a play-off match in November for the right to go to Brazil.
With the stage set, let's get you ready with everything you need to know for Friday's matchup in the Albanian capital.
Date: Friday, October 11, 2013
Time: 2:30 p.m. EDT, 7:30 p.m. BST
Where: Qemal Stafa Stadium, Tirana, Albania
Watch: RTS Sport (Switzerland)*
Live Stream: ESPN3
*Match will not be broadcast on television in U.S. or U.K.
Top Storyline: Albania Aim to Keep World Cup Hopes Alive at Home
Albania's chances of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil were slim before UEFA qualifying began, but they have shrunken even more with just two matches left to play in Group E this October.
It doesn't help that Albania suffered a 2-0 loss to Switzerland last year in Lucerne. Possession was even throughout that match, and Albania even out-shot the Swiss, only to get shut out. The Southeastern Europeans will need to discover confidence quickly and improve in all facets on Friday in order to avoid a similar result, which would all but end their World Cup hopes.
Look for Albania to play with tremendous energy in this match as their home crowd will provide them with a much-needed boost.
Don't expect a ton of goals, though. They've been tough to come by for both nations in Group E, but especially for Albania, scoring just eight in eight matches.
Plus, Switzerland have only conceded five in eight matches.
In the end, this match has draw written all over it.
Underdog Albania have a high mountain to climb over the next week in order to fulfill their dream of qualifying for Brazil. While Switzerland will want to pick up three points in order to extend their lead in the group, they'll be more than content to come away with a point from this match.
Switzerland 1, Albania 1
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