Friday, 26 April, 2019

Swiss coach unimpressed with celebrations in win over Serbia

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Jennie Wade | 23 June, 2018, 05:36

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. The angle of post and bar then denied Xherdan Shaqiri, though the diminutive Swiss forward would have the last laugh.

Xhaka was born to Kosovo-Albanian parents who were forced to flee the fall of Yugoslavia in 1990.

Aleksandar Mitrovic opened the scoring for Serbia in the fifth minute but Xhaka's superb long-range effort in the second half pulled Switzerland level.

As he wheeled away in celebration, the Kosovo-born playmaker crossed his hands to imitate an eagle, which appears on Albania's flag, prompting reporters to ask whether the gesture was a statement in light of Serbia's failure to recognise his birthplace as an independent state.

Swiss coach Vladimir Petkovic said politics and football should "never mix" after his two players celebrated goals with the political gestures. "You should always show respect". I understand them. I think it's normal, it's part of their life.

Switzerland, who came to Russian Federation ranked ahead of the likes of France and Spain, felt their way into the game as the first-half progressed.

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Costa Rica, who lost to Brazil earlier on Friday, have been eliminated after back-to-back defeats but, with Brazil and Switzerland on four points and Serbia one further back, it means it's all to play for on matchday three. I think we all together need to steer away from politics in football and we should focus on this sport as a attractive game and something that brings people together.

Serbia almost had their second just before the half but Dusko Tosic's diving header from point-blank range skidded off his head to Nemanja Matic who couldn't react fast enough to finish the chance. I am a man of sports and this is what I am going to stay. It's a wonderful atmosphere and positive emotions and that's what football should be about. Albania and Serbia have a particularly tumultuous relationship, with their leaders meeting for the first time in over 60 years in 2014, which caused tempers to flare.

Serbia lead at the break and deservedly so.

Xhaka and Shaqiri are among several members of the Swiss squad who are of Kosovar heritage, which added an extra dimension to the match.

Xhaka silenced the Serbian contingent in the 52nd minute, however, when he rifled home a loose ball in spectacular style from 25 meters before Shaqiri ran onto a through ball and finished with aplomb to win the game at the death.

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