Nations’ League Finals

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar June 8, 2019 23:38

Nations’ League Finals

By Satish Sekar in Porto © Satish Sekar (June 4th 2019)

Serious

Devised to combat the ‘uncompetitive’ nature of friendlies, the first UEFA Nations’ League Finals begins in Portugal tomorrow. European champions Portugal face 8th ranked Switzerland, led by Liverpool’s Champions League winner, Xherdan Shaqiri, and captained by Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka.

Smarting from the Europa League mauling in Baku, Xhaka believes that Switzerland can banish that pain for him.

“It’s disappointing, of course, that we lost in Baku,” Xhaka said. “Now we’re focusing on this tournament, and I hope to take the trophy with Switzerland.”

Settled

Unlike many Switzerland are reaping the benefit of a settled coach and team led by Vladimir Petković. The Bosnian-Croat, a journeyman midfielder, succeeded Ottmar Hitzfeld as Swiss manager five years ago, and presided over a renaissance of Swiss football.

“He’s a very important player for us,” Petković said of Xhaka. “He has the luck of having great team-mates.

“About Arsenal, I will not talk. Granit was one of the best in the [Europa League] final.

“About his future in club level, it will be discussed after the Nation’s League.”

His thoughts on Shaqiri not playing regularly for Liverpool were similar. “It does not worry me that Shaqiri doesn’t play 90 minutes every game,” Petković said.

“With him or without him, we want to win the game tomorrow and we will do everything to get that win.”

Meanwhile, Fernando Santos assured journalists that Portugal are taking this tournament seriously. They want to qualify early for Euro2020, and having developed a taste for it, they want more trophies.

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar June 8, 2019 23:38