Granit Xhaka offers reminder of quality for Switzerland as Arsenal midfielder seeks perfect London farewell

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 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Ever since he made his debut for Switzerland 10 years ago, Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka has been dreaming of a night like the one he enjoyed against France.

Up against N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba, Xhaka put in a brilliant performance in the heart of the Swiss midfield and captained them to a memorable Euro 2020 last-16 upset.

No one gave them a chance when they were 3-1 down to the world champions with 15 minutes to go in Bucharest, but somehow Switzerland found a way to fight back and win on penalties.

“We committed mistakes, but after going 3-1 down we turned it around against such a team like France, with top players in their ranks,” said Xhaka.

“This is just unbelievable. It is really difficult to find the words to describe it. I can only say thank you to this team and great credit to the coach.”

For Xhaka, the victory will have felt especially sweet. Throughout his time for Switzerland, and Arsenal, he has come under fire.

The criticism has, at times, been warranted and the frustration with Xhaka is that, while there are brilliant performances like this one against France, there are also those games where errors creep into his play.

However, that was not the case against France and Xhaka barely put a foot wrong.

His pass to set up Mario Gavranovic to equalise in the final minute was perfectly placed and he remained cool at a time when many would have lost their head.

We cannot always say that about Xhaka, whose career for club and country has certainly been turbulent at times, but the win over France highlighted just how imperious he can be on his day.

 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

“I think I had my first match in 2011 for Switzerland. Today, here, 10 years afterwards, I am here as the captain and can lead this team,” he said.

“It is an unbelievable story. I had to suffer a lot in my career. I was criticised a lot, but praised as well, in the national team and at my club. But it is hard work.

“A lot of people only see what happens on the pitch, but they don’t see the work behind it - which you need to put in. Every single one of us is proud to play for Switzerland, because something like this exists only once in your lifetime.”

The only downside to Monday night’s win for Xhaka was the fact he picked up a yellow card that means he will miss the quarter-final against Spain in Saint Petersburg on Friday through suspension.

The midfielder, however, is convinced he will play again at Euro 2020 - and back in his “home” city of London, at Wembley.

“This is painful,” said Xhaka, when speaking about his suspension. “But we will have a night tonight, which we won’t be able to forget.

“This team deserves to celebrate and tomorrow we will fly to Saint Petersburg and we will completely focus on the next match. We will show a great performance again against Spain and then it’s a home match for me in London in the semi-final.”

It is unlikely London will be Xhaka’s home for much longer, with Roma working to sign him from Arsenal. A European Championship semi-final - or even a final - would be fitting way to bid farewell.

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