Both Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri celebrated their goals for Switzerland against Serbia on Friday by making a nationalist symbol of Albania in a gesture likely to inflame tensions among Serb nationalists and ethnic Albanians.
The celebration was a nod to his Kosovar Albanian heritage and a pointed gesture aimed at Serbia.
Xhaka was born to Kosovo-Albanian parents who were forced to flee the fall of Yugoslavia in 1990.
Boasting one of the oldest defences in the tournament, Serbia's rearguard and goalkeeper have collectively racked up almost 300 caps between them, as defensive tyro Nikola Milenkovic is the only player in the Serbian backline below the age of 30. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo's independence and relations between the two countries remain tense.
"In football you have always emotions and you can see what I did and it's just emotion", he said in reference to his controversial celebration.
A reporter asked Petkovic how he would discuss the issue with his players, and the coach sidestepped the question. "It's not more. I think we don't have to speak about this now".
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The Stoke City player - who has been linked with a move to Liverpool - paid tribute to his teammates for turning the match around, a feat he suggested the Switzerland squad of years gone by would not have achieved.
Serbia will now need something from their final Group E match against Brazil, while a draw against Costa Rica would see Switzerland through. "It's a wonderful atmosphere and a positive experience and that's what football should be about". I think we all together need to steer away from politics in football and we should focus on this sport as a handsome game and something that brings people together. "I am a man of sports, and this is what I'm going to stay being".
Xherdan Shaqiri of Switzerland celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group E match between Serbia and Switzerland at Kaliningrad Stadium on June 22, 2018 in Kaliningrad, Russia.
- This will be the first meeting between Serbia (as an independent nation) and Switzerland.
Xhaka silenced the Serbian contingent in the 52nd minute, however, when he rifled home a loose ball in spectacular style from 25 meters before Shaqiri ran onto a through ball and finished with aplomb to win the game at the death. Switzerland were terrific against Brazil and deserved their point - what they lack up front they more than make up for in the unyielding qualities of their midfield.