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FIFA World Cup 2022:Shaqiri shines once more for Swiss

Legendary winger Xherdan Shaqiri praised for bringing X-factor.Shaqiri one of three Switzerland players to set World Cup appearance record

by Kolkata Today

Legendary winger Xherdan Shaqiri praised for bringing X-factor.Shaqiri one of three Switzerland players to set World Cup appearance record.Swiss to face Portugal in round of 16 on Tuesday.

Switzerland are through to the last 16 of the FIFA World Cup for the third tournament running and, in the wake of Friday’s 3-2 success against Serbia, their players pinpointed a couple of reasons for their ongoing consistency at this level.

Xherdan Shaqiri is one of three players to score at each of the last three World Cup tournaments – the others are Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

The first was collective. With the dust yet to settle on a frantic encounter, goalkeeper Gregor Kobel said: “This team have been together for a long time now and there’s a real sense of solidarity in the group. We’ve got some experienced players in the team and what sets us apart is the fact that we can bounce back from a defeat.”
Another reason mentioned was the form of a key individual, winger Xherdan Shaqiri. Christian Fassnacht, a late substitute on the night, said: “He brings something extra to our game and is incredibly important to us. He played a part in all three goals and you could see his skills and his inspiration – you know that he can change the outcome of a game at any moment.”

Prior to the tournament, there had been a major question mark in the Swiss media against Shaqiri’s fitness, and with good reason. The 31-year-old, who joined Chicago Fire in the MLS at the start of this season, had not played a competitive match since early October.
Once the US season ended, he worked on his fitness with FC Lugano in Switzerland, albeit without getting any match practice. Indeed, the only time Shaqiri got out on to the pitch was in the national team’s last friendly before the World Cup, when he failed to impress in the 2-0 loss to Ghana.
Coach Murat Yakin had every faith in the 31-year-old, however. “What’s important for him is to be healthy, and if he is, then he has to be on the field from the start, because not only has he got that touch of magic, but physically he’s also extremely important for us,“ he said before the tournament. Against Serbia, Shaqiri – who along with Granit Xhaka and Ricardo Rodriguez set a Swiss record for World Cup appearances with 11 – repaid his coach’s trust.

The pocket rocket (who is only 1.70 metres tall) grabbed the opening goal for the Swiss, making him the first player from his country to score at three World Cups. He then played major roles in the next two goals, from Breel Embolo and Remo Freuler.
“We’re so glad that we’ve got him – he’s such an important player for us,” said Embolo afterwards. “He proved his quality once again today and showed that he can carve out an opportunity at any moment. A fit Shaqiri would help any team progress and we’re delighted that he’s on our side.“

He is hungry for more too judging by his annoyed response on being substituted in the 70th minute. And he is not the only one wanting more. Looking ahead to a last-16 date with Portugal, captain Xhaka said: “We seem to have faced them a lot in recent years – they’re a very dangerous team and we can’t afford to make any mistakes against them.
“If we can play the way we did today, with everyone battling hard for one another and running the hard yards, then we’ve got it in us to shake up some of the really big teams.”

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