Emotional clash turns 5-goal thriller as Shaqiri punches Switzerland past Serbia to World Cup knockouts

DOHA, Qatar -- Switzerland sealed a round-of-16 matchup against Portugal with a 3-2 win against Serbia in an ill-tempered clash at Stadium 974 that saw 11 players yellow-carded by referee Fernando Rapallini.

Goals from Xherdan Shaqiri, Breel Embolo and Remo Freuler were enough to seal victory for the Swiss, with Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic netting for Serbia.

But the game ended in unsavoury scenes off the pitch, with a FIFA announcement being made over the PA system urging fans to stop discriminatory noises and gestures.

JUMP TO: Player ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Postmatch quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures

Rapid reaction

1. Switzerland advance, but can they end World Cup knockout jinx?

Switzerland are good at qualifying for World Cups and they are pretty decent at getting out of their group but they have failed to reach the quarterfinals in their past seven attempts, so will Qatar 2022 be any different?

This 3-2 win against Serbia means that Murat Yakin's Swiss team will face Portugal in the round of 16, and it is a game that the Swiss can win with their organisation and goal threat.

But not since they hosted the World Cup in 1954 has Switzerland reached the last eight -- they have developed a habit of qualifying for the tournament yet failing to make their mark.

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Ending Cristiano Ronaldo's World Cup dream would certainly register as something to remember for the Swiss, but Yakin's team will be a danger to Portugal. They are unspectacular but solid and Fernando Santos' Portugal team will find them a tough nut to crack.

Embolo and Shaqiri, who both scored in this game, will cause problems for the Portugal defence, but whether the Swiss can contain the attacking threat carried by the Portuguese will decide the tie.

After so many disappointing tournaments, Switzerland are capable of reaching the last eight in Qatar.

2. Shaqiri delivers for Switzerland under intense pressure

Xherdan Shaqiri went into this game under huge pressure after angering Serbia with his goal celebration during Switzerland's 2-1 win at Russia 2018. On that occasion, the Chicago Fire forward, a Kosovo-born ethnic Albanian, provoked a political controversy by performing a two-headed eagle gesture (the symbol on the Albanian flag) with his arms in front of the Serbia supporters.

The celebration was so controversial -- tensions remain high between Serbia and Kosovo -- that Shaqiri missed a Champions League clash against Red Star Belgrade in Serbia with former club Liverpool due to concerns for his safety.

When his name was read out before the game at Stadium 974, Shaqiri was loudly booed by the Serbia supporters and it was the same whenever he touched the ball.

But Shaqiri was able to blank out the off-field distractions to produce a match-winning performance for the Swiss, scoring one and playing a key role in two other goals.

The 31-year-old scored Switzerland's opener at the end where Serbia fans sat, and he celebrated in front of them by putting his finger to his lips and then pointing to the name on the back of his shirt.

Shaqiri was clearly highly motivated to win this game and secure qualification for his adopted home nation, but after a heated row with the Serbia substitutes during the second half, he was substituted by Yakin.

On an emotional and tense night, however, Shaqiri was able to keep his head in difficult circumstances.

3. Serbia disappoint yet again

Serbia has consistently produced some of Europe's most talented players, with many of them performing in the continent's top leagues, but once again they have under-performed at a World Cup and crash out at the group stage.

Other than Fulham forward Aleksandar Mitrovic, who scored three goals in Qatar, Dragan Stojkovic's Serbian squad have failed to deliver.

Since the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Serbia have made it to four World Cups and have failed to progress to the knockout rounds on each occasion.

But this time, in a group with on Brazil as obvious qualifiers, Serbia lost twice and drew with Cameroon.

Top players such as Dusan Vlahovic, Dusan Tadic, Luka Jovic and Mitrovic should have given Serbia more than enough to get out of their group.

But despite taking the lead against Switzerland with goals from Mitrovic and Vlahovic, Serbia couldn't hold on for the win that would have taken them through and their defeat meant they finished bottom of the group.

Player ratings

Serbia: Vanja Milinkovic-Savic 6; Strahinja Pavlovic 5, Nikola Milenkovic 5, Milos Veljkovic 6; Andrija Zivkovic 6, Sasa Lukic 5, Filip Kostic 6, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic 6; Dusan Tadic 6, Aleksandar Mitrovic 8, Dusan Vlahovic 6.

Subs: Nemanja Gudelj 6, Luka Jovic 6, Nemanja Maksimovic 6, Filip Djuricic 6, Nemanja Radonjic 6

Switzerland: Gregor Kobel 7; Silvan Widmer 6, Manuel Akanji 7, Ricardo Rodriguez 6, Fabian Schar 6; Remo Freuler 7, Granit Xhaka 7, Djibril Sow 6, Xherdan Shaqiri 7; Breel Embolo 7, Ruben Vargas 6.

Subs: Denis Zakaria 6, Christian Fassnacht 6, Noah Okafor 6

Best and worst performers

BEST: Aleksandar Mitrovic, Serbia

The Serbia forward scored a stunning header and then created a goal for teammate Dusan Vlahovic. Serbia have had a poor tournament, but Mitrovic has been excellent.

WORST: Strahinja Pavlovic, Serbia

The Serbia defender made some brave blocks, but his concentration and positioning were so poor that Switzerland continually targeted him and they scored goals from his mistakes.

Highlights and notable moments

With a spot in the World Cup knockout round on the line, the match was a back-and-forth affair, with Xherdan Shaqiri putting Switzerland ahead first in the 20th minute.

But it only took six minutes for Serbia to punch back and equalise through Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Not long after, Dusan Vlahovic struck again for Serbia to give them the lead.

But it was short-lived as Switzerland got behind the Serbian back line in transition and Breel Embolo equalised.

After taking the lead and then falling behind, Switzerland found their way back on top when it counted, with Remo Freuler scoring the game-winner in the 48th minute.

However, this match may be remembered for just how tense it was as much as for its many splendid goals.

Midway through the second half, Serbia players were convinced they had earned a penalty, which the referee waved off, but the players weren't having it and started to scuffle with Swiss players a bit.

After the match: What the players and managers said

Serbia manager Dragan Stojković on the result: "We reversed it after 0-1 to make it 2-1, but again we didn't play well defensively. It was so easy for the Swiss to score the second goal, which was really shocking for us. Psychologically, it was very positive for the Swiss. These kinds of things at this level of play are forbidden. If you repeat these mistakes it is very difficult to win. In the future we must work hard and do everything to resolve the problem."

Stojkovic on Serbia being eliminated from the World Cup: "Given the problems we faced since our arrival at the World Cup, we struggled with injuries to key players, we did our best to bring them back to shape but it seems it was too big a problem for us. The guys did put up a fight and they did their best. However, for this level of competition, unfortunately it wasn't enough, but there are justified reasons and I cannot expect any more than what they showed on the pitch."

Switzerland goalkeeper Gregor Kobel on filling in for Yann Sommer, who was out sick: "It was my first international match for some time and to have such an elimination game was something I enjoyed as a challenge. It was certainly not the easiest game. At the end, we are very happy to have won this."

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)

  • Xherdan Shaqiri scored his fifth World Cup goal, second-most for Switzerland behind Josef "Sepp" Hügi, who has scored six.

  • Shaqiri: First Swiss player to score at three FIFA World Cups -- he scored three goals in 2014 and once in 2018.

  • Three players have scored in the past three FIFA World Cups: Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Shaqiri.

Up next

Serbia: With their loss (and with Cameroon's win), the Friday match was the end of the road for Serbia, who are out of the World Cup.

Switzerland: The Swiss side join Brazil in the top two of Group G and they advance to the round of 16 to face Portugal.