World Cup match report Serbia v Switzerland 22 June 2018

Dean Simpson
June 23, 2018

Xhaka's goal means he becomes the first player with a surname that starts with X to score at a FIFA World Cup.

But it was Serbia, who beat Costa Rica 1-0 in their Group E opener, who almost went in two up.

"That's not enough - we have to play better against". Lone striker Aleksandar Mitrovic fired a powerful header beyond the helpless Yann Sommer in the Switzerland net.

Brazil need only to avoid defeat against Serbia next week to qualify for the round of 16, while their opponents know that a win would see them leapfrog the five-time winners to guarantee qualification. The team didn't panic when Brazil had scored the goal and taken the lead.

Granit Xhaka had been "one of the few disappointments" in the 1-1 draw against Brazil, Swiss broadsheet Tagesanzeiger had felt. Relations between Serbia and Kosovo have remained fraught, as Serbia refuses to recognize its former province as an independent nation. The Swiss have dozens of ethnic Albanians in their national football program.

Xhaka silenced the Serbian contingent in the 52nd minute, however, when he rifled home a loose ball in spectacular style from 25 metres before Shaqiri ran onto a through ball and finished with aplomb to win the game at the death. At training Thursday, he wore football boots with Kosovo's flag on his right heel and the Swiss flag on his left.

And Serbia head coach Mladen Krstajic is braced for a hard encounter, telling Swiss newspaper Blick: "They are very strong!"

The game really came to life as Switzerland's Mario Gavranovic was played clean through, but he could only find the side-netting - his blushes spared thanks to the assistant's upraised offside flag - ramping up the atmosphere up a few notches in the Kaliningrad Stadium.

Both Xhaka and Shaqiri celebrated their goals by referencing Albania's symbolic double-headed eagle with their hands.

Head coach Vladimir Petkovic could name the same side that drew 1-1 with Brazil, with Haris Seferovic continuing as a lone forward.

It was a game of two halves as Switzerland came out as a completely different team at half time to claw back a one goal deficit to get the win in a thriller of a game.

Serbia could have gone in two goals to the good at the break but Matic missed a glorious chance when Tadic's in-swinging corner found him unmarked at the back post but he couldn't sort his feet out. Switzerland's greater energy, combined with Serbia's inability to keep their shape in the latter stages, won the day.

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