On your viewing calendar, you might not have circled Switzerland-Serbia as a game to watch, but Friday's third game was one of the best of the tournament.
The Swiss came back after
conceding a goal in the fifth minute to Aleksandar Mitrovic
and won, 2-1, thanks to brilliant second-half goals by Arsenal's Granit Xhaka
and Stoke City's Xherdan Shaqiri
Switzerland held Brazil to a 1-1 tie in their opening game and dominated long stretches of Friday's match with its quick passing
They were rewarded with the first comeback win in 26 matches in Russia when Xhaka fired a curving shot from outside the area in the 52nd minute and Shaqiri, who had hit the woodwork
earlier, won the game in the 90th minute when he scored on a breakaway.
Xhaka and Shaqiri celebrated their goals by putting their arms in the symbol of the "Albanian Eagle," in reference
to their Kosovo-Albanian roots.
Xhaka’s Kosovo-Albanian father was jailed for three and a half years for demonstrating against Yugoslavia rule. He later moved to Switzerland, where
Granit was born. Shaqiri was born in Kosovo when it was part of Yugoslavia and moved to Switzerland in 1992. Two other starters in the Nati's midfield -- Valon Behrami
-- have Albanian roots.
The Albanian-backed Kosovo Liberation Army fought Serbian forces in the Kosovo War of 1998 and 1999 -- the eagle was the symbol of Albanian
resistance. Serbia still does not recognize the independence of Kosovo.
Before the game, Switzerland's Bosnia-born Vladimir Petkovic
tried to downplay the political significance of
“It’s clear that emotions show up and that’s how things happen," he said. "We, all together, need to stay away from politics in football and we should focus
on this sport as a beautiful game and something that brings people together.”
That was easier said than done, as Shaquiri admitted afterwards.
“In football," he
said, "you have always emotions and at least you can see what I did and I think it’s just emotion and I’m very happy to score this goal."