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Granit Xhaka on the Losing Side as C. Ronaldo Blitzes Switzerland

Image result for xhaka switzerland portugal

Source: Getty Images

The end of season paves the way for some international football without disruptions which allows nations to feature their best talent in their respective bids to win the competitions they are registered in. It seems like eons ago, but many were skeptical about the UEFA Nations League tournament but following some brilliant matches as well as some good organization I must say, we are down to the last four of the inaugural tourney as Portugal took on Switzerland in front of a capacity crowd with a chance for another European final.

Just three years ago, they went to France and grabbed home the European Championships, even though the hosts were overwhelming favorites to go home with the trophy. Three years on and Fernando Santos side, led by their inspirational captain, Cristiano Ronaldo, locked horns with a Swiss team led by Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka. The Swiss might not be world beaters but they have held their own well in recent matches, since their Round of 16 exit in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. They left a lot to be desired with their defending when they gave up a shock 3-0 lead against Denmark to draw 3-3, but they were fully aware of the threat Portugal would pose, especially with the likes of Ronaldo in their ranks.

We didn’t wait to long to see the Swiss net bulge as Ronaldo stepped up to dispatch a well taken free kick that left Yann Sommer rooted with no chance in Hell. The usually reliable Manuel Akanji struggled alongside Fabian Schar, as Portugal continued to barrage the Swiss with waves and waves of attack. The Swiss had some good chances of their own with Xherdan Shaqiri clean through on goal but Rui Patricio was on hand to make a point blank save. Haris Seferovic, that plies his trade in Portugal, had a glorious chance as well, but his effort smashed the wrong side of the cross bar and went over.

Our darling VAR wasn’t going to be left out, as it was used to determine a penalty that was awarded to Switzerland when Nelson Semedo was adjudged to have pushed Steven Zubar. Rui Patricio guessed right to dive in the direction of Ricardo Rodriguez’s penalty but he was really disappointed to see the ball creep under him to level the contest for the Swiss. It wasn’t against the run of play as Switzerland had been giving Portugal a run for their money in what I’d regard as a balanced game.

We never want to see any of these professionals suffer any injuries but it wasn’t a pleasurable sight for the experienced Pepe, as injury forced the hand of the gaffer to bring on Jose Fonte. Good job by Ruben Neves holding the fort while Pepe was being treated. For such a technical metronome in midfield, he wasn’t half bad in the few moments he served his nation as a make shift center back.

Image result for xhaka yellow caRD PORTUGAL

Source: Getty Images

For a player that picked up 14 yellow cards across four competitions last season, it was no surprise to see Granit Xhaka in the book again, when he tried to swap jerseys with Bernardo Silva. I guess he couldn’t wait till the end of the game.

With extra time looming, I was wondering whether there was going to be a match winner in regulation time but as the saying goes, ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man‘ and Portugal’s main man, Cristiano Ronaldo, delivered once again, arriving late in the box to fire in a near post piledriver from B. Silva’s cut back. Sommer was nowhere to be found when Ronaldo’s free kick embarrassed him in the first half but conceding that way in his near post was really questionable. Ronaldo certainly wasn’t done with the proceedings as he rolled back the years with some fancy footwork late on before blasting a trademark drive to the bottom corner.

90 minutes played, one chance created, 91% pass accuracy, 29 accurate passes, 49 touches, 10 duels, three attempted dribbles (all successful), five shots and most importantly, three goals scored. If that’s not a Man of the Match performance from Ronaldo, then I certainly don’t know what that is.

Commiserations to Granit Xhaka and his proud nation that reached the semis of the UEFA Nations League, but it was all about Cristiano Ronaldo, that has guided his nation to yet another final.

Sayonara.

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Granit Xhaka: The Key to Arsenal’s Title Chances?

Image result for xhaka leicester

Arsenal were much improved last season as the Gunners secured a second-place finish behind shock champions Leicester City – but many fans were left disappointed as they fell short in their pursuit of the Premier League title.

This season, Arsene Wenger’s men will look to go one better as they hunt their first league crown since 2004; and summer signing, Granit Xhaka, could be the man to lead the club back to the summit of English football.

If truth be told, the Switzerland International’s arrival has taken Arsenal’s midfield up a notch. On paper, Wenger now has the best middle formation in the top flight at his disposal and Xhaka’s skillset will prove crucial throughout the campaign.

The Switzerland star, who impressed for his nation at Euro 2016 this summer, has settled quickly into life at the Emirates Stadium and he looks ready to play a key role for Arsenal this season. After all, Gunners fans are expecting big things after Wenger paid around £35 million for the former Borussia Monchengladbach man.

The club are currently in the middle of a mini-injury crisis right now – and Xhaka’s versatility and ability to adapt to different formations could prove useful as Arsenal look for a quick start to the season.

At the time of writing, Wenger’s men are 6/1 to lift the title in bet365’s Premier League betting markets and the Gunners will need Xhaka to be at his very best to stand any chance of achieving their ultimate goal. On his day, the Swiss star can control a football match; and Arsenal’s flair players will benefit from his calming presence in front of the back four. As David Seaman said, Arsenal are lacking a Patrick Vieira – Xhaka could be the next best thing…

Xhaka won’t be a serious threat going forward but he could get involved in the opposition half if Wenger opts to play Francis Coquelin alongside him. In Xhaka and Coquelin, Arsenal have two competent central midfield players and the Gunners will reap rewards from the added reassurance throughout the core of the team.

Arsenal will need plenty of luck on the injury front to stand a genuine chance of lifting the title but Xhaka’s presence and ability to change games could prove decisive at key moments during the campaign. Going forward, he can provide key passes but defensively, he is also sound and he is one of the very best at breaking up attacks.

The Switzerland man has exceptional vision and he may form a lethal partnership with the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott in attacking areas. Xhaka isn’t the finished article just yet but he is certainly a talented prospect and Gunners fans will be excited to see him in action…

Sayonara

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Arsenal Euro 2016 Update: Xhaka Brothers Clash, Ramsey Goes Top and Wilshere Shares Spoils

The thing about tournaments like this is that when the football starts rolling, it never stops. It took forever for France to hit the ground running with the match opener against Romania but things kicked off yesterday with our new boy, Granit Xhaka, locking horn against his brother, Taulant, as Switzerland played Albania. Another former Gunner, Johan Djourou, was part of the Swiss squad that that gained victory in a rather tough encounter.

The game featured a lot of hard tackling and the things you’d wish for in a football game. Xhaka admitted that it was bizarre coming up against his brother,

“It was a very special moment for my family, it was rather bizarre,” he said, after being named Man of the Match.

“I think we played very well, we gave everything for our country and we’re very happy. Maybe me a little bit more!

“We knew it would be a difficult game, Albania are a great side, very compact and solid. We wanted to score as early as possible.

“There was a lot of pressure on our shoulders but it was great that me and my brother pushed back our limits. I don’t think anyone can hold anything against us. We fought against one another, and it was a football match, nothing more.”

Xhaka had an awesome game, creating three chances, winning five aerial duels, completing close to a century of passes and having 129 touches to his name. This earned him the man of the match award.

 

Switzerland’s victory brings them level on points with hosts, France, as both teams are doing their bit to take ownership of that group. Xhaka’s next game is against Romania on the 15th of June.

Moving over to the next game that had some Arsenal focus, Aaron Ramsey and his Welsh Dragons came up against Slovakia to open up the football in Group B. Chris Coleman played 3-5-2 that switched to 5-3-2 when the Welsh were defending and it was a no brainer when the scoreline was opened that the man that literally brought the Welsh to the competition, Gareth Bale. The Slovaks leveled the tie from a bloke called Duda.

Ramsey had a glorious opportunity to pull another goal back for the Welsh when he was left unmarked in the box but his header glanced over the bar. Then there was the counter attack for Wales that saw Bale cover quite some ground with his raw reserves of pace but after feeding Ramsey, the chance went begging, much to everyone’s dismay.

Ramsey saved the best for last as he had the decisive touch late on for Hal Robson-Kanu whose scrappy effort skipped past Kozacik to give the Welsh all three points.

Finally, England clashed with Russia for the last game of the day but there was some crowd trouble before and after the game. The game itself saw Russia do more of the defending but England failed to take advantage of the chances afforded to them. However, Tottenham’s Eric Dier, an unlikely source, curled in a lovely effort that breezed past Igor Akinfeev. Right at the death, a late effort from Vasili Berezutski halted England’s hopes of going level with Wales, which makes the encounter with the Welsh very tasty.

Sayonara.

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