World Cup match report Serbia v Switzerland 22 June 2018

World Cup match report Serbia v Switzerland 22 June 2018

World Cup match report Serbia v Switzerland 22 June 2018

When Swiss midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri scored a 90th-minute victor against Serbia in their group E match at the World Cup on Saturday morning there was a hidden, or not-so-hidden, message behind his celebration.

Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri celebrated their goals by making a nationalist symbol of their ethnic Albanian heritage.

The Swiss looked in danger of being over-run when Serbia went ahead with an Aleksandar Mitrovic header after five minutes to the delight of their fervent supporters at the Kaliningrad stadium.

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

Switzerland had a golden chance to equalise in the 30th minute when Dzemaili found Haris Seferovic inside the Serbia box, but Vladimir Stojkovic was on hand to make an excellent save. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 and is not recognized as a sovereign nation by Serbia. "In football, you have always emotions". Xhaka and Shaqiri both have Albanian-Kosovan roots and there are bitter feelings that remain in the region between Serbs and Kosovans following the bloody Kosovo war that ended in 1999.

A rousing team talk from coach Vladimir Petkovic may have kicked his players into life, and it only took his men seven minutes to get the equaliser. I understand them. I think it's normal, it's part of their life.

The Stoke City player - who has been linked with a move to Liverpool - paid tribute to his teammates for turning the match around, a feat he suggested the Switzerland squad of years gone by would not have achieved.

"I'm not into politics", Serbia's coach, Mladen Krstajic, told reporters before the game.

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.

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. "It's a wonderful atmosphere and a positive experience and that's what football should be about".

Serbia lead at the break and deservedly so.

Xhaka and Shaqiri's goals against Serbia, along with their manner of celebrating them, obviously resonated with people in Kosovo.

Serbia are the lowest ranked team in Group E but come into this game in pole position after their 1-0 win over Costa Rica, while the Swiss earned a creditable 1-1 draw with joint-favourites Brazil in their opening game.

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