"Everybody can talk and every word is respected," Granit Xhaka told UEFA.com, explaining how a team ethic has powered Switzerland's UEFA EURO 2016 push.
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Barring disaster, Switzerland should be celebrating qualifying for UEFA EURO 2016 by the end of the Week of Football. Midfielder Granit Xhaka knows his first EURO is in sight, with the 23-year-old Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder reckoning a positive dressing-room spirit has been a key to their success under coach Vladimir Petković.
UEFA.com: Switzerland are second in Group E with games against San Marino and Estonia to come; you must be confident of automatic qualification?
Granit Xhaka: On paper, we should beat both teams, but these days it is more difficult to play against the smaller nations, because they fight hard and are better set up tactically. We definitely have to win against San Marino – there are no excuses – and then away to Estonia I think one point would be enough. We won't play for a point – we'll play to win.
UEFA.com: Switzerland have taken 15 points from eight European Qualifiers; how pleased have you been with the team's performances?
Xhaka: After losing our first two games we were under pressure, but we have made up ground since and performed really well in our last few matches, except losing to England.
UEFA.com: Switzerland narrowly missed out on UEFA EURO 2012, so what would it mean to make it to France this time?
Xhaka: It would be my first EURO – I've already played at a World Cup and that was certainly something I will never forget. A EURO is something different, but I am looking forward to qualifying and then playing in France.
UEFA.com: Xherdan Shaqiri can make his 50th Switzerland appearance against San Marino; how important a player is he for the team?
Xhaka: He is a very important player with a lot of ability. He showed that last year [at the World Cup]. He started in the national team very young and has been performing very well. It's not just about his abilities as a player but what he gives as a person. In this team, there is no difference between young and old – everybody can talk and every word is respected by the others. And that is what makes a team.