Switzerland, Serbia coaches don't want to talk about Kosovo

Tyler Owen
June 23, 2018

Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri are likely to face action from Federation Internationale de Football Association for their celebrations in Switzerland's 2-1 win over Serbia on Friday evening.

The "double-headed eagle" celebration, adopted by Xhaka after his thunderous equaliser and Shaqiri following his decider - a double-headed eagle graces Albania's national flag - ensured that nobody could overlook the game's complex political dimension.

Several players on the Swiss team have roots in Albanian Kosovo, the former Serbian province that declared its independence in 2008.

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. Serbia doesn't recognize Kosovo's independence and relations between the two countries remain tense. "I am a man of sports, and this is what I'm going to stay being".

"You should never mix politics and football".

Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic didn't want to discuss the issue Thursday. "It's a wonderful atmosphere and a positive experience and that's what football should be about". Sprinting clear of the Serbian defence as injury time approached, Shaqiri planted the ball beneath the advancing Stojkovic to move his side into second place in the pool. Lone striker Aleksandar Mitrovic fired a powerful header beyond the helpless Yann Sommer in the Switzerland net.

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The result left Brazil, 2-0 winners over Costa Rica, top with four points, ahead of Switzerland on goal difference with Serbia on three. The Serbia forward amassed four shots against Costa Rica without scoring, having netted five goals in as many global appearances in 2018.

Matic said during the build-up the team were expecting a "hellish" encounter with the Swiss, who in their game with Brazil fouled star forward Neymar 10 times alone.

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. Mitrovic came close in the 19th minute when he controlled a cross from Branislav Ivanovic on his chest and sent a bicycle kick over the bar.

And Shaqiri would secure the points on the stroke of 90 minutes when he broke behind the defence and rolled his shot past a charging Stojkovic to make Switzerland the first team to score a come-from-behind victory in Russian Federation.

But it was Stoke City winger Shaqiri who struck the decisive blow, breaking through Serbia's offside trap to slot home calmly as the 90 minutes wound down.

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