Granit Xhaka made his 44th international appearnce against Albania in Saturday’s Group A encounter – but all of the pre-match analysis surrounded the sibling rivalry between himself and older brother, Taulant.

For the first time in the Euros, two brothers were set to face each other, with a fair share of Arsenal supporters watching on eagerly as their new acquisition made his European Championship debut.

Battle of the brothers: Taulant (right) and Granit were in the headlines ahead of kick-off | Image: Getty

Operating as a holding midfielder alongside Watford’s Valon Behrami in a 4231 formation, the 23-year-old was confident and assured in possession, during a game filled with plenty of tension from the offset.

This was reiterated just minutes after kick-off when Xhaka slid in two-footed with a forceful challenge on Amir Abrashi, breaking up play. With questions over his temperament on the pitch, you’d assume undertaking tackles like that at the Emirates would quickly make him a fan favourite in north London upon arrival.

Tactically aware and equally cautious not to get too far forward following Fabian Schar’s opener, Albania were forced to play patiently as they did not provide attacking width in the final third – giving the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri freedom to roam forward and pose testing questions of the Albanian backline.

Soon enough, there was a period where Switzerland were sloppy in possession, making needless mistakes and giving Albania signs of encouragement as they looked to equalise before the interval.

On more than one occasion, Xhaka refused to shy away from his defensive duities and protected Ricardo Rodriguez on the flank near the corner flag, either making an important interception to clear or thwarting an attempted cross into the box. Tenacious in the tackle and not hesitant to showcase his impressive passing range, Granit played an important role in Switzerland’s nervy 1-0 win.

Xhaka (centre) tracking back to help fullback Ricardo Rodriguez out of possession. | Image: Getty

Albania looked a team rejuvenated after they had Lorik Cana sent off shortly before the interval – they created more chances as the pitch was stretched, whilst it was clear Xhaka and co were becoming gradually frustrated by the fact their lead was under increasing pressure as time wore on.

Haris Seferovic could’ve netted a hat-trick, and other chances were squandered but courtesy of some excellent saves by goalkeeper Yann Sommer, the Swiss held firm at the back and sealed all three points.

Romania up next on Wednesday afternoon, Xhaka and his team-mates will be quietly confident that they can continue this momentum: a win will see them progress into the knockout rounds with a game to spare.

Man of the Match display: Xhaka was Switzerland’s lynchpin – making 3 tackles, 5 clearances and 5 successful aerial duels. | Image: FourFourTwo