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Shaqiri treble sends Swiss into last 16
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 27 - 06 - 2014

MANAUS, Brazil — A rampant Switzerland reached the World Cup knockout stage and will lock horns with Argentina in the last 16 after a superb Xherdan Shaqiri hat trick gave it a 3-0 win over Honduras Wednesday.
The result in no way flattered the resilient Swiss, who bounced back from their 5-2 drubbing by France to finish behind them in Group E while third-placed Ecuador and Honduras were eliminated.
In Rio de Janeiro, ten-man Ecuador held France to a 0-0 draw at the Maracana but Didier Deschamps' side still topped Group E.
It was a memorable match for Kosovo-born forward Shaqiri, who scored the 50th hat trick in World Cup history and the second of this tournament after Germany's Thomas Mueller netted three against Portugal.
“Whenever you reach the second round it is a great motivation and we are highly motivated,” Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld told a news conference.
“We are going to write history and we have already written history with the three goals today. It is not easy to play here. So many European teams have had to go home. It is going to be a match where we have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.
“We have to draw the right conclusions and improve. We do have a chance, even against Argentina.”
Shaqiri linked up brilliantly with striker Josip Drmic who set up two of the goals after he was preferred to Haris Seferovic in the starting line-up.
The opener, however, was entirely of the 22-year-old's making as he shook of his marker and unleashed a thunderbolt into the top left corner which left Honduras keeper Noel Valladares rooted to the spot.
He made it 2-0 on the half-hour mark, steering the ball past Valladares after he was released by Drmic who missed two chances in the closing stages of the first half with Honduras constantly on the back foot.
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 went 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 meters.
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.
Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez said he had decided to quit after the defeat.
“I am not satisfied 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. Today is the last day of my contract and I have taken the decision unilaterally not to continue...I want to do something else.”
In Rio de janeiro, through luck, determination, bad finishing and excellent goalkeeping by Alexander Dominguez, Ecuador resisted even after captain Antonio Valencia was ordered off early in the second half for a studs-up challenge on Lucas Digne.
The result was disappointing for France coach Didier Deschamps but was enough to take first place with seven points and the easier of the possible second-round ties next Monday.
“We came here to qualify and did it finishing top of our group,” said Deschamps. “We didn't have a huge number of chances and their ‘keeper made some good saves but it doesn't spoil our joy at being in the last 16.”
Ecuador coach Reinaldo Rueda was left to lament the sending-off of his captain as his team came up just short.
“There is nothing to be done about it now but we lost an important player in our structure,” said the Colombian. “Various refereeing decisions went against us and it was difficult to hold on for a draw but the players showed great character.”
Deschamps made six changes for this game and will certainly bring back several of the missing players to take on Nigeria.
Karim Benzema, scorer of three goals in wins over Honduras and Switzerland, kept his place in the side, but France missed the creativity of Mathieu Valbuena and Yohan Cabaye, the latter absent due to suspension and replaced by Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin.
Les Bleus controlled much of the first half, but only sporadically troubled Dominguez in the Ecuador goal. — Agencies


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