Xhaka says penalty miss will make him stronger

ST ETIENNE, France (Reuters) – Granit Xhaka said his miss in Switzerland’s penalty shootout loss to Poland at Euro 2016 would make him stronger and promised he would not back down from taking penalties in the future.

The Swiss team lost 5-4 after a 1-1 draw on Saturday, their second successive heart-breaking elimination from a major tournament after they were beaten by a last-minute goal in extra time against Argentina at the 2014 World Cup.

Xhaka impressed throughout the tournament with his immaculate passing and cool elegance in possession but the usually unflappable player lost his nerve in the shootout and sent a dismal effort wide of the goal.

“I’m sorry for my team mates, for the travelling fans, for Switzerland,” he told Swiss television. “Anyone who knows me knows that I will make sure I come back even stronger.”

“I took the penalty the way I always do. But I didn’t connect properly with the ball. I am still a young person, only 23. This just makes me stronger. And I promise I will step up at the next penalty shootout.”

Switzerland ultimately paid for their lack of firepower and failure to turn possession into clearcut chances.

They dominated all four of their matches in terms of possession yet rarely look dangerous.

Haris Seferovic, who started three of their matches, had the most chances but just could not get the ball to go in and suffered more misfortune on Saturday when he fired against the crossbar.

Teenager Breel Embolo started the game against France and made substitute appearances in the other three games but was not quite ready to play an important role in a major tournament.

Coach Vladimir Petkovic gave Eren Derdiyok a try in the second half of Saturday’s match and the Turkish-based player missed out on two good chances during extra time.

Overall, the technically gifted Swiss gave the impression that they could have produced more, especially with players such as full backs Stephan Lichtsteiner and Ricardo Rodriguez, goalkeeper Yann Sommer, Xhaka himself and the mercurial Xherdan Shaqiri.

Often seen as dull, they did, however, leave a mark on the tournament thanks to Shaqiri’s spectacular bicycle-kick goal against Poland.

That second half, and the extra time that followed, marked the only time during the tournament that Shaqiri showed his cheeky skills to their full and the Swiss looked a different side.

“We have produced four very positive performances,” was Petkovic’s verdict. “We deserved to have stayed here but unfortunately it came down to penalties and we were beaten in the lottery.”

(Writing by Brian Homewood in Nice; editing by Clare Fallon)