Switzerland stuns Serbia with game winning goal in the 90th minute
23 June, 2018, 04:27 | Author: Ellis Copeland
The defensive midfielder picked up a yellow card for a foul on Lichtsteiner during the first-half of Serbia's 2-1 World Cup defeat to Switzerland, but that left no lasting mark on the right-back's opinion of the 29-year-old.
With the match heading for a 1-1 draw, Xherdan Shaqiri raced through on goal in the closing stages of the match and squeezed home a decisive victor, leaving the Swiss just one win away - against a fragile Costa Rica side - from the knock-out stages.
Serbia does not recognize Kosovo's independence and relations between the two countries remain tense, though Serbian players did not react to the eagle gestures. Lone striker Aleksandar Mitrovic fired a powerful header beyond the helpless Yann Sommer in the Switzerland net.
With Mitrovic proving a handful for the Swiss defence, Serbia threatened to over-run their opponents and missed another chance when a corner flew across the face of goal and Dusko Tosic just failed to make contact. The team didn't panic when Brazil had scored the goal and taken the lead. Xhaka's parents are originally from Kosovo and they are of Albanian heritage.
The Kosovo War that ended in 1999 remains a contentious territory in both Serbia and Albania with the region now residing within Serbia, but having it's own Fifa-recognised team.
During the game Shaqiri wore athletic shoes that depicted the Kosovo flag of Kosovo on the back of one heel and the Swiss flag on the other. "They're trying to provoke us but we won't get dragged down to their level".
"You should never mix politics and football, it's good to be a fan and important to show respect", he told reporters after the game.
The Arsenal star scored Switzerland's first goal with a thumping long-range effort before celebrating vigorously with a "double eagle" gesture - the symbol of Albania.
For 47 minutes, Serbia had one foot in the last 16, playing a muscular yet intelligent football that was immediately reminiscent of Croatia's 3-0 win over Argentina the night before.
All eyes will be on Juventus, Manchester United and Real Madrid target Sergej Milinkovic-Savic again after his dazzling display but it could be Aleksandar Mitrovic's time to shine. Mario Gavranovic, Josip Drmic and youngster Breel Embolo proved highly effective second-half substitutes who exposed a visibly tiring back line.
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. The Serbia and Switzerland clash promise to be an all European cracker.
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It was a free kick from Kolarov that put Serbia in solid position in the group, but Switzerland may be as tough a foe as Brazil. Meanwhile Nigeria will be looking for a win as they lost their opener against Croatia and need the three points.
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