Xhaka brothers poised to face each other at EURO
Friday, June 10, 2016
There could be a UEFA European Championship first on Saturday when brothers face each other for the first time as Switzerland and Granit Xhaka take on older sibling Taulant's Albania.
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There should be a UEFA European Championship first on Saturday when brothers line up on opposing sides for the first time in final tournament history.
In the white corner of Switzerland (for Saturday anyway) there is Arsenal's recent signing Granit Xhaka; in the red of Albania his brother Taulant. The siblings were born in Basel to Kosovar-Albanian parents, came through the ranks at FC Basel 1893 and represented Switzerland at youth level.
Basel defender Taulant, who at 25 is the elder of the pair by two years, switched international allegiance in 2013 and after a clutch of injury withdrawals eventually debuted for Albania in September 2014. Granit, a midfielder, was 18 when he made his senior bow for Switzerland in 2011.
Switzerland players of Kosovar-Albanian or Albanian extraction:
Granit Xhaka, Valon Behrami, Admir Mehmedi, Xherdan Shaqiri, Blerim Džemaili
Albania players born and/or brought up in Switzerland:
Amir Abrashi, Arlind Ajeti, Migjen Basha, Shkëlzen Gashi, Frédéric Veseli, Naser Aliji, Lorik Cana, Burim Kukeli, Ermir Lenjani
The only previous siblings to face off at a major finals have actually done so twice: Kevin-Prince Boateng with his father's country Ghana and brother Jérôme representing Germany, the nation of their birth. They met in the FIFA World Cups of 2010 and 2014, Germany winning the first encounter 1-0 and drawing 2-2 in Brazil two summers ago.
Mandanda v Mandanda
The one other time brothers were in direct opposition at international level (so far as we can tell; feel free to correct us below), albeit in an unofficial friendly, was in February 2008. Marseille's Steve Mandanda played the first half in goal for France A; brother and fellow keeper Parfait played the second half for Democratic Republic of the Congo. Interestingly, Steve was born in Kinshasa and Parfait in Nevers, France.