Saturday, Dec 20, 2014

FIFA World Cup: Shaqiri treble powers Switzerland into last-16

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri, second left, celebrates with teammate Josip Drmic (19) after scoring his side's third goal during the group E contest (Source: AP) Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri, second left, celebrates with teammate Josip Drmic (19) after scoring his side's third goal during the group E contest (Source: AP)
By: Reuters | Manaus | Posted: June 26, 2014 3:08 pm | Updated: June 26, 2014 3:10 pm

Switzerland powered into the World Cup knockout stages as Group E runners-up and will play Argentina for a quarter final berth after a superb Xherdan Shaqiri hat-trick gave them a 3-0 win over Honduras on Wednesday.

The Swiss finished behind group winners France, who will meet Nigeria after a 0-0 draw with third-placed Ecuador, also eliminated along with the modest Hondurans who suffered three defeats in as many games.

Kosovo-born forward Shaqiri enjoyed a memorable afternoon, scoring the tournament’s second treble after Germany’s Thomas Mueller also netted three against Portugal.

He enjoyed the honour of scoring the 50th hat-trick in World Cup history, having linked up brilliantly with striker Josip Drmic who set up two of the goals with fine movement after he was preferred to Haris Seferovic in the starting line-up.

Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez said he had decided to quit after the defeat.

“I am not satisfed by what we achieved at the World Cup … I think the team will have good results in the future. But I think someone can replace me and produce different results,” the coach said.

“Today is the last day of my contract and I have taken the decision unilateraly not to continue…I want to do something else,” he told a press conference.

Switzerland took the lead after six minutes when Shaqiri unleashed a thunderbolt into the top left corner which left Honduras keeper Noel Valladares rooted to the spot.

The quick-footed 22-year old made it 2-0 on the half-hour mark, steering the ball past Valladares after he was released by Drmic.

TOO HOT TO HANDLE

Roared on by chants of “Go Suisse” from their fans in the Amazonia arena, where humidity reached 88 percent coupled with a temperature of 26 degrees Celsius, the Swiss proved too hot to handle for Honduras.

Valladares twice denied Drmic in the closing stages of the first half, which produced one-way traffic as the central American side failed to muster a meaningful attempt at goal.

The Hondurans, cheered by most neutral fans, were more purposeful early in the second half and nearly pulled one back when Swiss defender Ricardo Rodriguez cleared Jerry Bengtson’s shot off the line.

It was a wake-up call for the Swiss and Shaqiri came close to adding a third, forcing another good save from Valladares before Honduras had a penalty claim waved away after Jerry Palacios went down under a challenge from Johan Djourou.

Spurred by Mexican waves on the terraces, Honduras threw men forward and were caught cold in the 71st minute, when Drmic’s good work down the left flank presented Shaqiri with a simple finish from eight metres.

Benaglio kept out a close-range Bengtson header in the closing stages as the tempo dropped in searing heat, which did not stop pockets of Swiss supporters celebrating long after the final whistle.

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