Switzerland star Granit Xhaka sparked an angry reaction from the Serbia bench after directing a penis gesture towards them during their clash on Friday evening. The Swiss eventually had the last laugh after a hard-fought showdown, coming away with a 3-2 win and a ticket to the knockout stages.
It was another dramatic group-stage conclusion in Qatar as Switzerland and Serbia played out an entertaining contest at Stadium 974. Trouble has broken out in previous meetings between the sides, with several Swiss stars, including Xhaka, of Albanian or Kosovan heritage.
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Friday’s match stayed clean up until the closing stages, but with Serbia growing frustrated, their bench became animated when Aleksandar Mitrovic was denied a penalty claim in the second half.
The camera then caught Xhaka grabbing his genitalia while looking towards the despairing players, prompting several of them to move onto the pitch and vent their anger. As coaches struggled to control the group of aggitated players, the referee was forced to reach for his yellow card.
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Granit Xhaka aggravated Serbia’s bench during their World Cup encounter
Xhaka’s antics weren’t finished there as his tackle from behind on Nikola Milenkovic sparked a physical altercation between players from both sides. After briefly coming head to head, Milenkovic pushed Xhaka with several stars, including 6ft 7in goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic, needed to keep the pair apart.
Chelsea star Denis Zakaria was also caught up in a head-to-head duel during the melee, with some feeling as though he was fortunate to escape further punishment. Elsewhere in Group G, Cameroon’s late and unlikely win over Brazil would have thrown a spanner in the works regarding second place, but Switzerland’s victory guaranteed them passage to the Round of 16.
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The Swiss will face high-flying Portugal for a place in the quarter-finals and they may fancy their chances of an upset, the like of which have been commonplace in Qatar after South Korea edged a narrow win over Fernando Santos’ men on Thursday. Despite losing to Cameroon, Brazil manager Tite will likely revert to his trusted starting XI as the Selecao take on South Korea for a spot in the last eight.
Naturally, Xhaka will look to go far in the tournament with the 30-year-old in the form of his life at club and international level. The midfielder fell out with Arsenal fans back in 2019 but a string of stellar performances have made him a firm favourite, and he remains one of their driving forces on the pitch.
Switzerland players had cause for celebration after their win over Serbia
After the final whistle, Serbia manager Dragan Stojkovic evaded the drama that characterised the match and commented on a World Cup that, so far, has been fraught with shocks. “I was surprised Cameroon won against Brazil,” he admitted.
“But if you look at who else who has won – Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Uruguay not through – it is a World Cup that is not easily predicted. It would’ve been harder for us if we had won and not gone through.”