Albania's Nedim Bajrami, back, scores his side's opening goal during...

Albania's Nedim Bajrami, back, scores his side's opening goal during a Group B match between Italy and Albania at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Dortmund, Germany, Saturday, June 15, 2024. Credit: AP/Frank Augstein

DORTMUND, Germany — It took 23 seconds for Albania to leave a record-breaking mark on the European Championship.

Nedim Bajrami scored the fastest goal in the tournament's 64-year history when he pounced on an errant throw-in by Italy left back Federico Dimarco, took a touch, then smashed a rising shot inside the near post in Dortmund on Saturday.

It usurped the previous quickest goal at the Euros, scored by Dmitri Kirichenko of Russia after 67 seconds against Greece in 2004.

Albania wound up losing 2-1 in its opening match in Group B but fans of this tiny Western Balkan nation will always remember that moment they briefly shocked the defending champions.

Even if, as it transpired, it jolted Italy into action.

“We took it as a positive shock to the system,” Italy winger Federico Chiesa said. “It gave us flashbacks of the final in Euro 2020 when we immediately fell behind.”

On that occasion, the Italians bounced back to draw 1-1 with England and win the penalty shootout, and they showed similar character against Albania in a match that felt like it was being staged in Tirana.

Albania team pose for a group photo prior to a...

Albania team pose for a group photo prior to a Group B match between Italy and Albania at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Dortmund, Germany, Saturday, June 15, 2024. Credit: AP/Frank Augstein

The sight of the sea of Albanian red that filled Westfalenstadion blew away Sylvinho, the team's Brazil-born coach.

“We knew the entire stadium would be red,” he said, “but outside I saw so many Albanians proud to be here at the European Championship.”

Indeed, the former Barcelona and Arsenal defender said his players might have struggled to cope with the intensity of the occasion, given Albania has only ever played in one major tournament previously, Euro 2016.

“Once you are used to playing in this kind of competition, it gets easy,” Sylvinho said. "Take my case, I was used to playing in the Champions League when I was a player. I knew what to expect in nights when we played Real Madrid, Milan, Juventus.

Albania's Nedim Bajrami, left, scores his side's opening goal in...

Albania's Nedim Bajrami, left, scores his side's opening goal in front of Italy's Alessandro Bastoni during a Group B match between Italy and Albania at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Dortmund, Germany, Saturday, June 15, 2024. Credit: AP/Alessandra Tarantino

“When you are not used to playing in this kind of competition, you have no idea what you are expected to play. The first one was going to be difficult. Now there will be no problems with the emotions involved.”

Bajrami became just the second Albanian to score at a European Championship, after Armando Sadiku in 2016.

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