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Euro 2024: Swiss captain Xhaka deals with the coach

Swiss captain Granit Xhaka is currently on good terms with manager Murat Yakin, he said on Friday, downplaying reports of rows over strategy during a poor qualifying campaign marred by late mistakes.

Switzerland will face dark horses Hungary in their first Group A match in Cologne on Saturday and need a strong performance to allay fears that their impressive record of reaching the knockout rounds of the tournament could be suddenly ended.

Switzerland slipped into Euro 2024 second in their group after a campaign in which they only beat Andorra in their last eight games and lost the lead late on to opponents such as Israel and Kosovo.

The results led to reports of tensions between Yakin and his players and calls from fans for his dismissal.

“We are old enough to explain everything. So I’ve had a great relationship with the coach over the last six or eight months. It was better than in the past,” Xhaka said at a press conference.

“He came to see me many times… We had dinner together. We drank a lot of wine together. So everything’s going well. We are both ambitious and want to achieve success for ourselves and the team.

“We are happy that we have a coach who listens to us and wants to talk to us,” added Xhaka.

Midfielder Xhaka, one of Switzerland’s key players, has gained a reputation for his fiery temper and occasional tantrums during substitutions.

The 31-year-old has mellowed since leaving Arsenal and played a key role in Bayer Leverkusen’s emphatic Bundesliga triumph this season.

Switzerland have reached the knockout stages in the last five major tournaments, but Xhaka is not dismissing his team’s chances of making it to the top six in a group that includes Hungary, Scotland and hosts Germany.

“We know I don’t like talking about ‘ifs’ but also about hypotheses,” he said.

“We would like to make an important mark tomorrow with a good match, trying to win all our group stage matches.”