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‘Case closed’ over eagle goal celebrations, says Behrami


Nizhniy Novgorod (Russia) (AFP) – Switzerland’s vice-captain Valon Behrami promised Tuesday there would be no further controversial goal celebrations nor politically contentious incidents from his team at the World Cup.

It was the first time the Swiss had commented since FIFA fined three players for their “double eagle” hand gestures to represent the Albanian flag in the politically charged victory over Serbia.

Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic also dismissed any notion the row had overshadowed preparations for Wednesday’s Group E match against Costa Rica, which should confirm their qualification for the last 16.

Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka and Stephan Lichtsteiner were fined by FIFA but all avoided potential two-match suspensions for their eagle gestures in Friday’s victory.

“This is case closed,” said Behrami, who admitted the players had spoken about the incident.

“We are happy that no one has been suspended.”

He added: “It won’t happen in the future because it won’t be a game like this.”

The match against Serbia had heavy political overtones as Switzerland have several players with family ties in Kosovo, including Behrami.

Shaqiri and Xhaka are ethnic Albanians with roots in Kosovo, a former province of Serbia which has declared independence, a move not recognised by Belgrade.

Thousands were killed and displaced in Kosovo in the late 1990s during a bitter conflict between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanian fighters.

Kosovo has an ethnic Albanian majority, and many identify with the Albanian flag, which the double eagle symbol represents.

Seeking to play down the incident, Petkovic, himself born in the former Yugoslavia, said “football is an emotional game and it has to be”.

He said he had never factored in the threat of suspensions for the Costa Rica match and would choose his team after training on Tuesday.

A point would guarantee Switzerland’s place in the qualifying stages but Petkovic said he wanted to win the group ahead of Brazil.

“I think we should get this done, we want to top the group,” he said.

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