The brilliance of Xherdan Shaqiri sent Switzerland through to the knockout stages of the World Cup where they will face the might of Argentina.
The Bayern Munich midfielder’s hat-trick ensured that a former Bayern manager, Ottmar Hitzfeld, will not be retiring just yet. They had to better Ecuador’s result against France to guarantee qualification and justify their remarkable status as one of the World Cup’s seeded teams.
Once Shaqiri had put away the night’s second goal against a Honduran team that had managed just one in 569 minutes of World Cup football, Swiss thoughts would have turned to Rio. France did not let them down.
But Honduras showed considerable spirit after the interval with Ricardo Rodriguez clearing off the line from Jerry Bengtson and they ought to have had a penalty when Jerry Palacios was brought down. It was nowhere near enough.
Four years ago, Honduras had forced a goalless draw with the Swiss to ensure that they and Hitzfeld failed to qualify for the business phase of the South African World Cup, despite beginning it with a victory over Spain.
They had started this one with a last-minute victory over Ecuador but a 5-2 thrashing by France meant they had to win in Manaus and from the moment, six minutes in, that Shaqiri drove his shot past Javier Valladares from 25 yards, any nerves the Swiss might have had were soothed.
Their fate in the last two tournaments, in Germany and four years later in South Africa, was sealed by a lack of goals. When, just after the half-hour mark, Shaqiri ran on to a beautifully-measured pass from Josip Drmic it meant Switzerland had now scored more in their three group games than they had in their last nine World Cup matches over three tournaments.
Shaqiri’s third, again provided by Drmic, was the 50th hat-trick in the competition and over in Rio, it meant an Ecuador side already down to 10 men would have to score twice. Hitzfeld could start planning for something altogether more challenging – how to tame Lionel Messi.Reuse content