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Swiss coach Yakin calms fears over crunch Serbia World Cup clash

Switzerland coach Murat Yakin has brushed aside fears that his side’s decisive final World Cup group game against Serbia could see a repeat of the bad blood which marred their meeting at the 2018 tournament.

Four years ago the Swiss pipped Serbia to qualify for the last 16 of the World Cup thanks to a 2-1 win when the sides met in Kaliningrad, secured thanks to goals by Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri.

Both Shaqiri and Xhaka celebrated scoring in that game by making a double eagle gesture with their hands to represent the Albanian flag.

They both have roots in Kosovo, a former province of Serbia that declared independence in 2008 and where many people identify with the Albanian flag.

But an independent Kosovo is not recognised by Belgrade and Serbia were angered by what they saw as provocative celebrations.

“I think we will be well prepared and we will need to gather all our strengths to be able to play Serbia,” said Yakin after Monday’s 2-0 defeat against Brazil in Doha.

“We have to just focus on the football, both teams. It will be an interesting and exciting game. Everything else I really don’t care about.”

Switzerland’s defeat in their second Group G game leaves them on three points after two matches, two ahead of both Serbia and Cameroon who drew 3-3 in a thriller earlier on Monday, while Brazil have six and have already qualified.

That means Switzerland will qualify for the last 16 with a draw when they face Serbia on Friday, provided Cameroon do not beat Brazil at the same time.

Yet Yakin insisted he would not be instructing his team to play for a point.

“I like positive outcomes. As head coach you can’t send your team out to play for a draw. We want to try to win the game and we hope we have the quality to do so,” he said.

The 31-year-old Shaqiri missed Monday’s game with a minor injury but Yakin indicated that the Chicago Fire winger should be back in time to face Serbia.

“He had a muscle strain. We did some tests and were not exactly sure what his condition was so we didn’t want to take any risks,” he said.

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