XHAKA BROTHERS SET TO MAKE HISTORY AS THEY LOCK HORNS AT THE EURO 2016
About eight months ago after Granit sent supportive messages to his brother Taulant as he led his Albania team to a 3-0 victory over Armenia, the two brothers face each other today in Lens.
Taulant and his 18 month younger brother Granit -who just signed for Arsenal this summer- were born in Basel to parents who are ethnic Albanians from Kosovo. Though both of them represented Switzerland at youth level, Taulant switch to play for Albania as a full international. Granit also express his love for his country of origin but explained lack of interest from them made him stay with Switzerland.
Switzerland and Albania are only about 1,144km apart and the Xhaka brothers are not the only one in both squad that link them together. In fact, five other players in the swiss squad have links with Albania. Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri, Watford’s Valon Behrami, Shani Tarashaj, Blerim Dzemaili and Admir Mehmedi are all of Albanian descents.
Conversely, ten players in the Albanian squad either grew up in Switzerland or were born there. About seven of them represented Switzerland at youth level.
Coach Gianni de Biasi will assess the fitness of Taulant Xhaka after he had only return from a thigh injury. The midfielder played only 45 minutes of the last warm up game. He also has to decide whether to start in-form forward Armando Sadiku or regular starter Sokol Cikalleshi.
The Swiss captain armband has been passed to Stephen Liechtsteiner after Gokhan Inler was dropped out of the squad. The midfielder was one of few who had a disappointing season at Leicester.
Albania are winless in six matches against Switzerland: D1-L5.
The only draw between these teams was the 1-1 in Tirana on 12 October 2002 in a EURO 2004 qualifying match. Murat Yakin (37′) scored for Switzerland, Edvin Murati (79′) for Albania.
These teams last met in the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign. On 11 September 2012, Switzerland won 2-0 at home thanks to goals by Xherdan Shaqiri – who was born in Kosovo to Kosovar Albanian parents – and Gökhan Inler (penalty). The return fixture finished 2-1 in favour of the Swiss.
Albania’s total number of goals (seven), shots on target (28) and crosses from open play (93) were the lowest totals of any side who successfully came through Euro 2016 qualifying.
Switzerland have scored in each of their six matches against Albania.
The Swiss have never reached the knock-out stage at the finals of a European Championship and have only won one of nine matches at the tournament (D2, L6).