Saturday, 25 May, 2019

Last gasp Shaqiri seals Swiss win over Serbia in Group E

Xherdan Shaqiri Serbia Switzerland World Cup 06/22/18 Getty Images
Shannon Reynolds | 26 June, 2018, 03:50

Swiss footballers Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri have risked inflaming political tensions in the Balkans after they used an Albanian nationalist symbol to celebrate their goals against Serbia in a 2-1 Group E victory in Kaliningrad.

Switzerland's forward Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates winning their Russian Federation 2018 World Cup Group E football match between Serbia and Switzerland at the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad on June 22, 2018.

Having trailed to an Aleksandar Mitrovic goal at half-time, Switzerland were much improved after the break and deservedly pulled off a turnaround victory thanks to a Granit Xhaka wonder goal and Shaqiri's coolly taken late strike. The scoreline remained 1-0 through the first half: while the Swiss struggled to infuse rhythm into their attack, they worked their socks off in defence, so as to stop the Serbs from doubling their lead.

Both players put their open hands together with their thumbs locked and fingers outstretched to make what looks like the double-headed eagle displayed on Albania's flag.

A preliminary Federation Internationale de Football Association investigation had been opened against Serbian coach Mladen Krstajic for "alleged statements made in the aftermath of the match", added the governing body. "Then they could put him on trial, like they did to us", said Krstajic, referring to the war crimes tribunal for the ex-Yugoslavia. "It's not more. I think we don't have to speak about this now".

Stoke winger Shaqiri and Arsenal midfielder Xhaka were among the players in the Swiss side with links to Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia 10 years ago.

Switzerland cleared a Serbia assault and a through pass sent the little forward abandoning without end before he opened the ball conveniently into the far corner.

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The Serbian media called Shaqiri's goal gesture "shameful provocation". "You should never mix politics and football", he said. Brazil and Switzerland both have 4 points, with the latter playing against Costa Rica, who have collected no points thus far.

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Serbia's players did not react to the eagle gestures at Kaliningrad Stadium.

Shaqiri responded by saying "it's just emotion" when questioned about the controversial celebration.

"You should never mix politics and football".

In front of the trio will be rising star Aleksandar Mitrovic, who is now at Fulham on loan from Newcastle United, appears to be irreplaceable for his national team.

Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic hoped the gestures wouldn't detract from the team's performance.

The match against Brazil showed the Swiss can soak up a lot of pressure and keep their shape when they don't have the ball, which will be important too on Friday. They went 1-0 up and we found our balance in the second half.

The result made things interesting in Group E with both Brazil and Switzerland now on four points, Serbia has three and Costa Rica are out of contention for the last-16 with no wins in either of the two games.

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