Switzerland fans are not happy with their national team manager after he substituted Granit Xhaka in their 2-1 defeat by Belgium.
Granit Xhaka captains his national team and started their game against Belgium on Wednesday night but was taken off at half-time when coach Vladimir Petrovic made a number of changes.
At that point, Switzerland were winning the friendly 1-0 thanks to a goal from Admir Mehmedi, but a 49 minute strike from Michy Batshuayi followed by a second from the same player in the 70th minute meant the Belgians were victorious and Switzerland left wondering what went wrong.
For the media and Swiss fans, the answer was simple – it was the removal of Granit Xhaka at halftime that ultimately caused their downfall.
“The decision has seldom been so clear,” wrote Swiss publication, Blick, “Almost 40 percent of the BLICK community choose Granit Xhaka [as the best player of the match]. He does what makes a captain. He directs and organises the game. With his substitution, the Swiss game also loses a lot of structure.”
Speaking after the match, Petrovic was aware of the mistake he had made. “Granit is a leading figure for us,” the coach said. “Not just next to, but also on the pitch. But in the future too, one or the other player may not be on the field, then everyone else will have to take on even more responsibility and control the game better.
“Maybe that was a little missing in the second half, the input to go better into pressing or to distribute the balls well and correctly. Granite is important for this team.”
Switzerland drew 1-1 with Spain in the UEFA Nations League on Saturday night. Granit Xhaka played the full 90.
After the game, Petrovic was asked about Granit Xhaka’s evolution since being made captain. “Granit has been a captain for a long time,” he said, “and not just for us.
“It was at Arsenal and Gladbach. Lately he has also been very open to the players, coming up to me and trying to talk. That is also important for the team. He is very important for the team and shows that every time. “