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‘Case closed’ over eagle goal celebrations, says Switzerland’s Behrami

Nizhniy Novgorod (Russia) (AFP) – Switzerland 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, in which a point would secure 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.

Petkovic added that he wanted to win the group ahead of Brazil, who play Serbia in Wednesday’s other Group E game.

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

Switzerland have four points after two games, like Brazil, but their goal difference is inferior.

Costa Rica are already out, losing 1-0 to Serbia and conceding two late goals against Brazil.

However, Petkovic warned that the central Americans could be tricky opponents because they had ‘nothing to lose’.

Costa Rican defender Kendall Waston admitted Russia had been a huge disappointment after the team reached the last eight in 2014.

“We have a lot at stake tomorrow, we are not an average team and we don’t go into any single game to do nothing.”

Coach Oscar Ramirez has come under heavy criticism back home in recent days and hit out at those who had targeted his family on social media.

“I am disappointed, of course, I want to make the country happy,” he said.

Ramirez added: “Some people say I am not brave enough, that is something I will not tolerate.

“If they attack me or my family, I will show there’s a tiger inside me.”

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