The shock was great when Granit Xhaka (29) injured himself on September 26th in a way that seems unbelievable: Spurs player Lucas Moura, who was fouled by his own teammate, hits Xhaka’s knee with his foot. The diagnosis: rupture of the inner ligament. Three months out. The captain missed the last four World Cup qualifiers!
He, of all people, whom the new national team coach Murat Yakin had made the only indispensable. Based on George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”: All animals are the same, but some are more equal than the others.
Before the two international matches in October, Yakin put it a little differently: “Granite is irreplaceable. He is the leader, who conducts loudly, who holds the team together. “
But the pragmatist Yakin is not complaining. He has a plan B. This plans to distribute Xhaka’s sporting role on the shoulders of Denis Zakaria and Remo Freuler. And to give Xherdan Shaqiri (30) more responsibility in two ways. On the one hand as a leader on the pitch and as a penalty taker, who would of course have been called Xhaka in the presence of Xhaka. On the other hand as a captain.
And what happened to it? There was no penalty, so no one had to shoot. And Shaq blossomed with great enthusiasm for playing and assumed his responsibility as captain at the round table discussion at the beginning of the move together, at the press conference before the Northern Ireland match and in the team. And he reacted brilliantly to the unspeakable UCK jacket provocation.
Xhaka not an option for Italy game
On the one hand, this blossoming has to do with the new situation of the power cube in Lyon, where he is now the leading player. On the other hand, however, also with Xhaka’s absence. Shaqiri has more room to develop, more air to breathe without the dominant Arsenal legionnaire.
But has that made Xhaka immediately replaceable? Has he really not been missed, as SRF man Sascha Ruefer said in his analysis, almost boulevard-esque? No of course not. The only reason they didn’t miss Xhaka was because it went against the third-rate Northern Irish and Lithuanians. In the EM quarter-final against Spain, Xhaka was very much missed. And it will also be done in Rome on November 12th when the showdown on the Tiber comes. Because Xhaka has no chance of doing it again.
National team captains in the playoffs together?
So there will be the first joint appearance of the national captains number one and two in the new year. Shaqiri was injured in September. Now it is Xhaka. It will be exciting to see what it looks like when both of them move in together. After the Bulgaria game, Yakin has time to redefine how Xhaka and Shaqiri live together and to solve the “captain problem”. If the coach finds a clever solution, it will only make the national team stronger. And that can be hugely important in order to qualify for Qatar. Because the playoff games will rise in March 2022.
Yakin to Xhaka sentence by Ruefer: “This statement is absolutely out of place”(00:35)
SRF commentator Sascha Ruefer: “I don’t miss Xhaka”(00:28)
Nati coach Yakin praises Embolo: “Breel wasn’t just good, he was brilliant”(01:39)