Switzerland star Granit Xhaka was relieved to emerge victorious in what he considered a “bizarre” match-up against brother Taulant on Saturday.
The two midfielders made history in Lens as they became the first siblings to start a match on opposite teams, with Switzerland beginning their Euro 2016 campaign with a 1-0 victory over Albania.
Xhaka, who excelled at the heart of the Swiss midfield – especially following Albania captain Lorik Cana’s red card – felt both he and his brother delivered strong displays during what was a wholly peculiar experience.
“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.”
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 11, 2016
Xhaka delivered an accomplished display alongside Valon Behrami at the base of the Swiss midfield, creating the joint-most amount of goalscoring chances (three), making more passes (115) and more touches (129) than any other player on the pitch.
But the midfielder, who cost Arsenal a fee reported to be close to €40million, does not feel any additional pressure to perform following his transfer from Borussia Monchengladbach.
“I’m only 23 years old, I’m still a young man,” he said. “I’ll still make a lot more mistakes. But there’s no additional pressure because of the fee around my neck.”
Xhaka was fortunate to escape at least a booking for a heavy challenge early on in what proved to be a highly-charged encounter, but he denied that the game was aggressive.
“No, I think that’s just the way I play. I like playing hard, if you will,” he said. “There was a lot of aggression but I think we were fair.
“Of course there was the red card but it wasn’t easy for him, he slipped over. But I don’t think it was a dirty match.”