Xherdan Shaqiri is ready to take centre stage for Switzerland once again as he dismissed doubts about his match fitness ahead of Euro 2024. 

Shaqiri, who will feature in his seventh major tournament in Germany, will hope to continue his glistening career with his nation as they kickstart their Group A campaign against Hungary on Saturday. 

The 32-year-old has scored or assisted 46 percent of Switzerland’s goals at major tournaments over the last 10 years, becoming only the fifth player to reach 100 caps for his country two years ago. 

Despite his experience, coach Murat Yakin has questioned Shaqiri's ability to play back-to-back games in the competition, with the forward insisting he has not travelled to Germany to make up the numbers. 

"It's almost embarrassing to have to answer this question. Every player who comes into the national team can and wants to play -- over the full distance," Shaqiri said. 

"No one should only show up for work half the time. I don't see any problems with that. Did (Yakin) really say that?

"I gave the answer: I'm here with the national team because I want to help the team and play as much as possible. I didn't travel to the European Championships to take a vacation."

Shaqiri scored three times during qualifying as the Swiss finished five points behind group winners Romania, drawing five of their 10 fixtures in a group that included Israel, Kosovo and Belarus. 

But Switzerland have proved in recent tournaments they have the ability to compete against the top sides, most notably beating France on penalties at Euro 2020. 

The former Liverpool midfielder believes the group of players have the quality to succeed in Germany, and is hopeful his national team can lift an international honour in the years to come. 

"It's my seventh finals, and each one has its story," Shaqiri said. "I love the tension before tournaments, it doesn't exist anywhere else.

"Since I joined the national team, we have continually improved. The respect of the opponents and the public for us has grown, as has the quality in the national team. Many players have important roles at big clubs.

"To talk about the best national team of all time, we don't have the big exploit -- three years ago we were very close to the semi-finals. The next generation is in the starting blocks and I hope that at some point Switzerland can lift a trophy."

Xherdan Shaqiri apologised for Switzerland's performance in their 6-1 loss to Portugal, crediting their opponents but saying: "We have to do better."

Switzerland exited the World Cup with a dismal last-16 defeat, completely outclassed by a Portugal side who had left Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench.

Goncalo Ramos replaced Ronaldo and scored one of two first-half goals before completing a hat-trick in a rampant second half.

Murat Yakin's men were never in the contest, only reducing the arrears when Manuel Akanji bundled in from a corner to make it 4-1.

"We are all disappointed, the whole team," Shaqiri said afterwards. "I just want to apologise to all the people in Switzerland, because we were not at our best today.

"We lost the game already in the first half against Portugal, who are a very good team. You saw the kind of goal they can score. With all respect, we have to do better.

"We have to learn from our mistakes, and if we are behind 2-0 against Portugal, it's always very, very difficult to come back. We just were not at our best today, from everybody."

Yakin had changed system, starting with a three-man defence, but he did not believe this was the problem for his side.

"We had a clear plan, we have practised it, we also had test games, the team was familiar with the system," the Switzerland coach said. "We tried to put pressure on using the flanks, but unfortunately it didn't work.

"Ronaldo or not, our players are able to play in every position. Yes, our opponents got a good start in the game, we saw many things not work out for us. There's nothing we could've done today."

Shaqiri did not dwell on Ronaldo's omission, indicating the depth of talent Portugal have at their disposal.

"It's the whole team," he said. "You saw today: he was on the bench, and they scored a lot of goals, too. The quality is there from the whole team, and we saw this today."

The winger added: "Portugal is for me a favourite and also was before the tournament. They have a good team, a quality team, and we will see in the end how far they're going to go.

"You saw today, in the offensive, they are very good. They can go very far."

Cameroon coach Rigobert Song made no secret of his pride in Breel Embolo despite the Switzerland forward scoring the winning goal against his birth nation at the World Cup on Thursday.

Embolo's second-half strike from Xherdan Shaqiri's cross proved decisive as Switzerland won 1-0 at Al Janoub Stadium, giving Switzerland a victorious start to their Group G campaign.

The goal was even more notable due to the fact Embolo was born in Cameroon but represents Switzerland after spending much of his childhood there.

Despite not choosing to play for the nation of his birth, Embolo retains links to the country and Song revealed the pair share a strong personal relationship.

As such, Song felt a degree of pride in seeing Embolo prevail on Thursday.

Asked if he had preferred Embolo to have played for Cameroon, Song told reporters: "Yes, but that's the nature of the game.

"We are all proud of our country, you saw he didn't celebrate his goal. But again this [players representing other countries] is part and parcel of football.

"I'm happy for him and proud of him. Because he's playing for the Switzerland team, yes I'd have liked him on my side, but that's not the way it went. That's just the way of life.

"For us the most important thing is how we played, rather than who scored against us."

Song and Embolo shared a warm embrace at full-time, with the former explaining it was important to greet the Monaco player as a show of respect.

"We know each other, he's my little brother, I'm like the big brother, we've often spoken on the phone as well," Song said.

"I wanted to congratulate him, it's fair play. Because we are from the same family [country] but on different teams, it doesn't mean we are not going to be on good terms.

"He had a good game, I wanted to tell him. I'm not going to be a sore loser, we're still brothers at the end of the day."

Switzerland boss Murat Yakin was less forthcoming than Song in general as he addressed the media afterwards, but he did express a hint of pleasure in the narrative behind Embolo's goal.

"We know his story, his past in Cameroon," he added. "Well, you can be friendly up to kick-off and then they are your opponents.

"[Embolo's story] is football, it's writing history, these stories. Of course, he wants to score for his team and he fulfilled his task, so we are very happy. He had good moments through the match. He fulfilled his task well."

Switzerland face Brazil next on Monday, while Cameroon will hope to bounce back against Serbia the same day – another defeat will see them equal Mexico's all-time record for the most successive World Cup losses (nine).

Switzerland kept their word and thanked Northern Ireland for helping them to reach the World Cup – by sending the team chocolate.

In one of the sweeter football stories of the week, Switzerland posted a video to social media on Wednesday showing head coach Murat Yakin boxing up some confectionery treats to send to Belfast.

It was their way of showing their gratitude for Northern Ireland's goalless draw with Italy in the final round of European World Cup qualifying group games, a result that, combined with Switzerland's 4-0 win over Bulgaria, saw Yakin's men seal their place at Qatar 2022.

Ian Baraclough's side are to receive 9.3 kilograms of Swiss chocolate in recognition of preventing the European champions from scoring for 93 minutes.

Switzerland had previously promised a gift after initially paying tribute in their post-match celebrations at the team hotel in Lucerne, where they sung Sweet Caroline, the 1969 Neil Diamond hit that has become a staple song at Northern Ireland matches.

The Euro 2020 quarter-finalists drew 1-1 with Italy in their penultimate qualifier, in which Jorginho missed a 90th-minute penalty for the Azzurri. That result ensured they were able to finish two points clear at the top of Group C after the final round of games.

Italy, meanwhile, must now contend the play-offs alongside teams including Portugal, Sweden, Wales and Russia. The draw for the semi-finals takes place on Friday.

Switzerland captain Granit Xhaka turned down opportunities for a COVID-19 vaccination before testing positive for the coronavirus, it has been revealed.

Coach Murat Yakin and Swiss Football Federation (SFV) communications chief Adrian Arnold declared Xhaka, who was forced out of the World Cup qualifier against Greece on Wednesday, exercised his right not to receive the vaccine.

Xhaka has faced stiff criticism in the Swiss media for snubbing the opportunity to bolster his body's defences as the pandemic continues to surge.

Yakin said: "We can simply give recommendations to the players. It is his decision not to be vaccinated and we must respect it. He's the captain, but he's also a man. It is his own rights."

According to Arnold, Xhaka was the only member of the Switzerland squad not to have had the jab or have already recovered from the virus.

The Arsenal player's case comes in the week that the SFV has written to its 1,400 clubs and 300,000 members urging them to be vaccinated. It also follows Xhaka's red card for a dangerous tackle on Gunners duty in a 5-0 defeat against Manchester City on Saturday.

Arnold said, quoted by several Swiss media: "Granit Xhaka was not vaccinated. He's a player who isn't vaccinated. We left this up to each player, it's a personal decision of each player – just like any other person in Switzerland.

"All the other players in the team have been vaccinated or have recovered – so they are more or less safe, at least from a medical point of view. One is never quite sure.

"Now, unfortunately, Granit caught it. From a sporting point of view, it is a shame for us at this important moment."

Arnold said the Switzerland team were doing all they could to reduce contact within their ranks, with social distancing encouraged where possible and masks worn in meetings.

"I think it would have been irresponsible on our part not to know who in the team is not vaccinated," Arnold said.

"We had intensive discussions with the players already during the Euros. We have done everything to facilitate access to the vaccine, but each person is free to decide whether or not they want to be vaccinated."

It appears unlikely Xhaka will be able to play in Switzerland's next game, which comes against Euro 2020 winners Italy in Basle on Sunday.

However, Arnold, quoted in Blick, said: "We still have hope. On Thursday he will do another PCR test. It is the case that [on Monday] he had a negative PCR test, on Wednesday morning a negative rapid test, now unfortunately a positive one. So we still have the hope that the test on Thursday will be negative."

Arsenal sit bottom of the Premier League table heading into the clash with Norwich City following the international break, though regardless of Xhaka's health by then, the midfielder is facing a three-match suspension so will not be involved.

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