Switzerland progressed to the knockout stages of the 2014 World Cup thanks to a timely solo performance from attacking midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri. If the Bayern man is seeking a new home, he just increased his profile.
Finally Xherdan Shaqiri has arrived. In Switzerland's decisive group game against Honduras, he delivered the type of performance many have been waiting for him to produce since the tournament started in Brazil.
According to the noises coming from his agent, the Bayern Munich winger is in search of a new club. What better place then to advertise his qualities than the 2014 World Cup in Brazil? In Switzerland's opening game against Ecuador, his bright start was overshadowed by the limp performance of his side's victory. It wasn't his finest performance, but it was certainly enough to tempt onlookers into another viewing.
Yet when they did, they - along with many in Switzerland - were left with more questions than answers. The Swiss were fodder for French cannons as they suffered a heavy and unexpected 5-2 hammering. Despite looking comfortable in the 10 role, Shaqiri drifted in and out of the game in a manner that has often hindered him in the red of Munich.
Suddenly, not only was Shaqiri's window of opportunity closing but so was Switzerland's. A World Cup dream and high personal expectations were all hanging on one final performance. Having had the post-defeat flack fended off him and his teammates by coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who said he would retire at the end of the tournament, Shaqiri knew that Honduras could be his and his country's last chance.
The time to shine
As if there was no pressure on the game at all, Switzerland played their best football of the tournamentin a 3-0 win
. Defensively there might still be question marks, but their attack clicked like never before in Brazil. At the heart of it and almost on cue was Shaqiri.
With Switzerland's early pace and intent promising but in danger of not delivering, Shaqiri muscled a few yards for himself before unleashing a long-range rocket that left Honduran goalkeeper Valladares standing. Half an hour into the game and Shaqiri had his second, darting onto a lovely pass from fellow Bundesliga-player Josip Drmic to dummy the goalkeeper with a fine low strike across goal. Two goals in one half and Shaqiri had put his country in charge.
A slightly nervy second-half performance left Shaqiri started drifting out of the match, a side to his game which perhaps has a few potential future employers wavering over making a transfer bid. Understandable considering his two goals and the state of control Switzerland were in, but just as the journalist's pens sharpened and Honduras looked the more lively, Shaqiri reminded why doubting the muscle-packed playmaker is always rash. With Drmic - a man who has already secured his move to Bayer Leverkusen after a fine domestic season - again the silky provider, Shaqiri rounded off a counterattack to sweep home the second hat-trick of the 2014 World Cup.
After a momentum-stopping defeat, "Shaq" returned Switzerland to their best, taking them to a knockout stage showdown with Lionel Messi's Argentina. That result aside, Shaqiri might already have shown enough on the turn against Honduras to force the hands of his numerous suitors, regardless of what the river reveals when Shaq faces one of the tournament favorites.