Saint Petersburg: Switzerland midfielder Granit Xhaka insists he will not be provoked into getting sent off during their World Cup last-16 match against Sweden on Tuesday.
Xhaka has received nine red cards since 2014, with Sweden defender Mikael Lustig admitting they will target the 25-year-old at the Saint Petersburg Stadium. "If you watch the Premier League you can see he tends to get red cards," Lustig told reporters on Sunday, adding, "it's just about keeping your head and trying to get him sent off."
Xhaka, however, is not worried. "My friends have told me what the player said. It's no problem for me," he said. "It's part of pre-match provocation if you like. But I have learned a lot in my time and I'm confident I won't be pushed out of the game. Quite possibly I will stay on the pitch all the way to the end," the Swiss midfielder claimed.
Swedish defender Pontus Jansson, meanwhile, was pictured laughing while showing an 'eagle salute' during a training session on Monday. The gesture is associated with Albanian nationalism and was made by Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, who both have Kosovar-Albanian roots, after each scored against Serbia in the group stage.
However, neither Xhaka nor Switzerland's coach Vladimir Petkovic were prepared to discuss the issue. Switzerland are looking to make the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 1954.
They will have to do it without Fabian Schaer and captain Stephan Lichtsteiner, who are both serving one-match bans. "I hope this is not our last round and that even the next round will not be the final one for us in this tournament," Xhaka said.
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Updated Date: Jul 02, 2018 22:24:45 IST