Kosovo earns historic draw on competitive debut

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and had been campaigning for several years to join FIFA.

Valon Berisha of Kosovo celebrates after equalising against Finland during the 2018 World Cup Group I qualifier.   -  AP

Kosovo's Valon Berisha, given permission to play only a few hours before kickoff, scored for his country in its first-ever competitive international to give it a 1-1 draw away to Finland in a World Cup qualifier on Wednesday.

Berisha, who was allowed to switch to Kosovo by FIFA despite having played competitive matches for Norway, converted a penalty on the hour after a foul by Thomas Lam on Bernard Berisha to spark delirious celebrations among his team mates and officials.

Finland, which has never qualified for the World Cup, had taken an 18th minute lead in the Group I clash when Kosovo failed to clear a corner, allowing defender Paulus Arajuuri to lash the ball into the roof of the net.

Kosovo grew in confidence after its goal but could not find a winner.

Kosovo goalkeeper Samir Ujkani had also only been authorised to play on the afternoon of the match, having previously played competitively for Albania, as had midfielder Alban Meha. Ujkani played from the start and Meha came on as a late substitute.

FIFA does not usually allow players to change national teams once they have played a competitive international but has made an exception for Kosovo, which was only accepted as a member of world soccer's governing body in May in the face of fierce opposition from Serbia.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and had been campaigning for several years to join FIFA.

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