Shaqiri & Xhaka celebrations spark scandal as politics overshadows Swiss win against Serbia

Arnold Nichols
June 23, 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.

Both Xhaka and Shaqiri performed matching celebrations following their goals, interlocking their fingers in a gesture celebrating Albania.

Xhaka was born to Kosovan-Albanian parents and his father Ragip spent three-and-a-half years in prison for demonstrating against the Communist Yogoslavia rule in Kosovo.

Granit Xhaka gave Switzerland an equalizer against Serbia in the 52nd minute Friday with a brilliant strike from long range - but the replays showed that the attempt at goal likely should have been blocked by Serbia's Branislav Ivanovic. Serbia does not 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". "It's a wonderful atmosphere and a positive experience and that's what football should be about".

Brazil and Serbia meet in their final game while the Swiss face Costa Rica, already eliminated after losing their first two games. Shaqiri added the other in injury time after running past the Serbian defense.

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. Switzerland held Brazil to a 1-1 draw in their opening match, while Serbia beat Costa Rica 1-0 to top the group after one round.

Unlike Croatia, who had erected a "cage" for Lionel Messi on the inside-right area of midfield, Serbia's central players had to deal with a much more varied threat.

Lazio's highly rated Sergej Milinkovic-Savic fizzed a right-footed shot narrowly wide of Sommer's right post on 15 minutes, and Mitrovic nearly scored with a spectacular bicycle kick that went the same way minutes later.

Another interesting consideration is that Group E's opponents in the last 16 - the F section made up of Germany, Mexico, Sweden and South Korea - will play their last games before Brazil et al. line up on Wednesday night.

Mitrovic was a handful for Switzerland with his strong physical presence close to the goal.

Shaqiri scored a late game-winner and Swiss fans lost their minds.

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