DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Xherdan Shaqiri was ejected as soon as the ball hit the back of the net.
It was no surprise after he scored the opener in Switzerland’s 3-2 win over Serbia on Friday, a result that sent his side into the last 16 of the World Cup. For the third consecutive tournament
Shaqiri, born in Kosovo, who declared independence from Serbia in 2008, ran straight to the opposing fans to celebrate – putting a finger to his lips after being jeered by that section of the crowd earlier.
The game was only 20 minutes long and the tension was palpable.
“You can hear by listening to my voice, it’s rough, that it was a game with a lot of emotion,” Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka said. This is part of football. The game was fair enough. We wanted to focus on football. We did it and we took the first step and now we are in the round of 16. We are proud.
Most importantly for Switzerland, they qualified for the knockout stage after finishing second in Group G and will face Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo at the Lusail Stadium on Tuesday.
But the tensions surrounding this particular match always threatened to explode.
The countries met in the group stage at the last World Cup in 2018, which saw Switzerland win, but Shaqiri and Xhaka were fined for celebrating with hand gestures representing Albania’s national eagle symbol.
Xhaka and Shaqiri have Albanian heritage with links to Kosovo.
Serbia was also fined and warned by FIFA for “displaying discriminatory banners and messages” by fans.
An announcement was made at the 974 Stadium during Friday’s game that appeared to be related to chants by Serbian fans. FIFA did not say what happened after the game.
“I didn’t hear it. I honestly didn’t.” “I focused on the game,” Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic said of the chants.
Plenty happened on the pitch, including Remo Freuler’s winning goal just after half-time and several flare-ups between the players.
“First of all, I want to enjoy the moment,” Switzerland coach Murat Yakin said after being asked about his players’ behavior in a scrappy game. It had a lot of energy and emotion for us. We went through a lot.”
A number of Serbian substitutes came on in the second half when Aleksandar Mitrovic had a penalty appeal turned down. Xhaka was at the heart of a frenzy late in the game.
“Sometimes, you know, tensions come up and maybe bad words lead to bad behavior,” Stojkovic said. “But it’s nothing special. It’s normal for this type of game.”
Shaqiri scored the opening goal and then played a key role in the game winner. He chipped a ball into the box for Ruben Vargas, who back-heeled Frieler into the net.
Despite those goals, Shaqiri was not satisfied with being substituted in the 69th minute. He elbowed the side of the dugout before sitting down on the bench.
“No one likes to be replaced,” Yakin said. Part of my responsibility is to protect the players. He scored a goal and recorded an assist. “He was very present and supported his teammates and made changes.”
Goals from Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlavic gave Serbia the lead at half-time, but Briel Embolo equalized just before half-time.
Needing a win to secure a place in the knockout stages after defeating Cameroon and losing to Brazil in their opening two games, Switzerland reached the round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and again in Russia four years later. They lost both games 1-0 against Argentina and Sweden respectively.
Against Portugal, Switzerland will look to advance to the quarter-finals for the first time since hosting the tournament in 1954.
Argentine referee Fernando Rapalini officiated Friday’s match at the 974 Stadium. He also refereed Switzerland’s penalty shoot-out victory over World Cup champion France in last year’s European Championship Round of 16.
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Switzerland goalkeepers Jan Sommer and Philipp Cohen, as well as defender Nico Elodi, were all unavailable due to illness.
Mitrovic scored his 52nd international goal to extend his record as Serbia’s top scorer.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
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