Home » Shaqiri ready to spark Swiss, says not here for vacation

Shaqiri ready to spark Swiss, says not here for vacation

Shaqiri ready to spark Swiss, says not here for vacation

DUSSELDORF – Switzerland’s maverick midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri has dismissed doubts about his match fitness ahead of his country’s opening match of Euro 2024 against Hungary in Cologne on Saturday.

The 32-year-old former Bayern Munich and Liverpool player is preparing for his seventh major tournament with the Swiss national team and is ready to play a leading role.

Coach Murat Yakin has reportedly expressed doubts about Shaqiri’s ability to play back-to-back games at the Euros and the subject was raised at media conference on Thursday.

“It’s almost embarrassing to have to answer this question. Every player who comes into the national team can and wants to play — over the full distance,” Shaqiri told reporters.

“No one should only show up for work half the time. I don’t see any problems with that. Did (Yakin) really say that?

“I gave the answer: I’m here with the national team because I want to help the team and play as much as possible. I didn’t travel to the European Championships to take a vacation.”

Switzerland endured a mediocre qualifying campaign as they finished a distant second behind Romania in their group, winning only four of their 10 games with five draws.

They are packed with experienced players such as Bayer Leverkusen’s Granit Xhaka, however, and with Shaqiri providing his unique flair they will hope to at least equal their run to the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 — which included a victory over France on penalties after trailing 3-1.

Still, they will be regarded as dark horses but Shaqiri does not care, saying the Swiss are ready to deliver.

“It’s my seventh finals, and each one has its story,” Shaqiri, who has played in Major League Soccer with Chicago Fire since 2022, said. “I love the tension before tournaments, it doesn’t exist anywhere else.

“Since I joined the national team, we have continually improved. The respect of the opponents and the public for us has grown, as has the quality in the national team. Many players have important roles at big clubs.

“To talk about the best national team of all time, we don’t have the big exploit — three years ago we were very close to the semi-finals. The next generation is in the starting blocks and I hope that at some point Switzerland can lift a trophy.”

Shaqiri scored a memorable overhead kick goal against Poland in the 2016 European Championship and Swiss fans will be hoping he can rediscover his spark this time.

“They already told me at home: ‘you’re doing something special again at this final round. So I already have a lot of pressure, he joked, adding that he will be happy with whatever role Yakin has in store for him.

“The trainer and I have a transparent exchange. We’ll see what happens. If I come off the bench, I’m ready to help the team like that,” he said. “I’m also here to help the boys deal with the pressure. It doesn’t matter how long you’re on the pitch — you always give your all in the national jersey.” REUTERS