‘It is a game with a lot of emotion’: Granit Xhaka denies attempts to goad Serbian bench after grabbing HIS CROTCH during World Cup clash… as Switzerland team-mate Xherdan Shaqiri opts against ‘eagle-hand’ celebration that landed fine in 2018
- Tensions were high during Switzerland and Serbia’s group stage clash on Friday
- Swiss star Granit Xhaka riled up the opposition by making a gesture at the bench
- The midfielder grabbed his crotch after exchanging words with Serbian staff
- His team-mate, Xherdan Shaqiri, opted against an ‘eagle-hand’ celebration
- The gesture landed the winger a hefty fine from FIFA for the celebration in 2018
- Click here for the latest World Cup 2022 news, fixtures, live action and results
Switzerland’s Granit Xhaka has denied claims that he attempted to goad the Serbian team despite replays showing the midfielder making an offensive gesture towards the bench.
The two sides met for their final Group G match where Switzerland emerged victorious – beating their opponents 3-2 – and booked their place in the World Cup round of 16.
The match was filled with controversy as Xhaka and his national team-mate Xherdan Shaqiri, who have a history of antagonising the Serbian team, were both caught making gestures during the match.
Granit Xhaka has denied claims he attempted to goad the Serbia bench with a gesture
Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri opted against a celebration that landed him a fine in 2018
The Arsenal midfielder sparked an angry reaction from the Serbian dugout after exchanging words from afar before eventually grabbing his crotch in the direction of the bench.
Reflecting on the incident in his post-match interview, Xhaka insists that it was a moment of ’emotion’ and that he simply wanted ‘to focus on football’.
He said: ‘You can hear from my voice that I am hoarse. It is a game with a lot of emotion. That’s football. It was fair enough. We wanted to focus on football.’
His manager Murat Yakin agreed with the comments and claimed that it was ‘a normal exchange’.
‘I saw Granit focus on football. It was a fair game. It was a normal exchange with a bit of emotions. It cost us a lot of power and a lot of emotions. We started well, took the lead but then we lost possession twice and fell behind,’ said Yakin.
The Arsenal midfielder grabbed his crotch after exchanging words with the Serbian dugout
Switzerland manager Murat Yakin suggested that Xhaka had a ‘normal exchange’ with Serbs
Xhaka has a history of conflict with the Serbian national team after both he and Shaqiri performed the Albanian nationalist symbol of a double-headed eagle with their hands during Switzerland’s 2-1 win over Serbia in the 2018 World Cup.
Both players were fined 10,000 Swiss francs (£8,700) for the actions as FIFA cited it as ‘unsporting behaviour contrary to the principles of fair-play’.
Shaqiri – who now plies his trade for MLS side Chicago Fire FC – came back to haunt the Serbs after scoring the opener on Friday night but this time opted against the celebration and instead raised a finger to his lips in response to jeering fans.
The former Liverpool and Stoke winger joined an elite club – featuring only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – as players to have scored in the last three World Cups.
Shaqiri (pictured) and Xhaka were fined 10,000 Swiss franc for this celebration in 2018
The winger scored on Friday night but opted to put a finger to his lips instead of the eagle
Serbia manager Dragan Stojkovic refused to suggest that his players were provoked by a comment or action made by a Switzerland player.
He said: ‘Maybe, but I don’t know what’s happening exactly. I can’t give you the reason why. Sometimes the tensions come, and some maybe bad words can create some uncomfortable behaviour.
‘But it’s nothing special. It’s normal for these kinds of games.’
The two sets of players came to blows midway through the second-half when Xhaka got involved in a shoving match with Serbian defender
Tensions began to boil over with the two sides coming to blows in the second-half
Switzerland ensured their place in the World Cup round of 16 after beating Serbia 3-2 in a dramatic final day of group stage fixtures.
Shaqiri gave his side the lead before Serbia’s Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic scored a goal each to flip the game on it’s head.
Breel Embolo quickly restored parity before Remo Freuler scored the match-winner at the start of the second-half.
Yakin’s side will take on Portugal in their first knockout game of the tournament on Tuesday night.