Shaqiri sees Switzerland past Serbia


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Switzerland 2- Serbia 1

Sometimes all one needs is a change in venue. After struggling last season with Stoke City there were questions as to what type of mindset Swiss midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri would be in at the 2018 World Cup. The answer? A good one. On Friday night he netted the game-winner for his home nation in their 2-1 win over Serbia.

It was not an easy three points by any stretch of the imagination for the Swiss. Serbia came out of the box swinging, using their advantage in speed in the midfield to press the Swiss defense out wide. Those tactics paid off in just the fifth minute when Dusan Tadic broke free of his defender and laced in a cross for Serbian forward Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Newcastle forward headed home the chance, giving Serbia the 1-0 advantage.

Serbia continued to press Switzerland all through the first half and appeared to be destined for more goals. A Tadic header midway through the half created an enticing opportunity for Nemanja Matic, who was all alone inside the Swiss box with just the goalkeeper to beat. However, his service was just in front of him and he was unable to connect on the attacking chance.

In the second half the Swiss attack came alive thanks to the play of their two talismanic midfielders, Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka. Despite both being in their mid-20s (Xhaka is 25, while Shaqiri is 26) they have extensive experience playing with one another and form the spine of the Swiss midfield. After Shaqiri’s shot was blocked in the 52nd minute by a Serbian defender, Xhaka scooped up the rebound and fired a howler past Serbian goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic to level the score.

The Swiss kept the pressure up all through the half, coming close on several occasions on taking the lead. But it was Shaqiri in the 90th minute that delievered the final blow to Serbia, breaking past the Serbian defense and hitting a low effort past Stojkovic to wrap up the three points.

With the win, Switzerland (1-0-1, 4 points) moves into second place in Group E. They will face Costa Rica, who has already been eliminated, in their final match of group play. A win would see them through to the knockout stage.

As for Serbia (1-1-0, 3 points) their job gets even harder as they face group leaders Brazil (1-0-1, 4 points) in their possible final fixture at the 2018 World Cup. A win would also see them through to the next round but a draw might not be enough. Keep an eye on Goal Differential as well as it may play a pivotal role in the final order of the group. Brazil currently has the highest at +2, followed by Switzerland at +1, and Serbia at 0.


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