DOHA: Xherdan Shaqiri took off as soon as the ball hit the back of the net.
It was no surprise where he was headed after scoring the first goal in Switzerland’s 3-2 win over Serbia on Friday, a result that put his team into the round of 16 at the World Cup for the third tournament in a row.
Born in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, Shaqiri ran straight to the opposing fans to celebrate — putting his finger to his lips after having been previously taunted by that section of the crowd.
The game was only 20 minutes old and the tension was palpable.
“You can hear by listening to my voice, it’s hoarse, that it was a game with a lot of emotions,” Switzerland midfielder Granit Xhaka said. “It is part of football. The game was fair enough. We wanted to focus on football. We did this and we took this first step and are now into the round of 16. We are proud.”
Most importantly for Switzerland, it went through to the knockout round after finishing second in Group G and will next face Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo on Tuesday at Lusail Stadium.
But the tensions surrounding this particular match-up always threatened to explode.
The countries met in the group stage at the last World Cup in 2018, resulting in a Swiss victory, but Shaqiri and Xhaka were fined for celebrating with hand gestures representing Albania’s national eagle symbol.
Xhaka and Shaqiri have Albanian heritage linked to Kosovo.
Serbia was also fined and warned by FIFA about the “display of discriminatory banners and messages” by supporters.
“I didn’t hear it. Honestly, I didn’t hear,” Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic said of the chants.
Result: Serbia 2 (Mitrovic 26, Vlahovic 35) lost to Switzerland 3 (Shaqiri 20, Embolo 44, Freuler 48)