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Swiss Punch Their Ticket to Round of 16Salem-News.com Sports
Shaqiri triple takes Swiss through.
(MANAUS, Brazil ) - Xherdan Shaqiri hit a hat-trick as Switzerland qualified for the Round of 16 with a comfortable 3-0 win over Honduras at the Arena Amazonia in Manaus.
The Bayern Munich midfielder's treble - the second seen at Brazil 2014, following that of his club colleague Thomas Muller - secured second spot in Group E and set up a knockout duel with Argentina in Sao Paulo.
Shaqiri had never scored at the FIFA World Cup™ before today, but he signalled his intent to change that as early as the third minute, when his close-range effort forced Noel Valladares into an excellent save.
There was nothing, however, the Honduras keeper could do three minutes later when Switzerland's No23 next took aim. On that occasion, Shaqiri scored a contender for goal of the tournament, cutting inside from the right, holding off two Honduran defenders and curling a superb left-foot shot in off the underside of the bar from 25 yards.
Honduras attempted to respond, but suffered throughout from a lack of quality and composure in the final third, and had no-one to match the class of Shaqiri. With 31 minutes played, the Bayern midfielder doubled his and his team's tally, racing through on to a pass from Josip Drmic, sizing up the angles and slotting calmly and firmly into the bottom-right corner.
The Hondurans did improve markedly after half-time and carved out several early chances in the second period that, had they been converted, might have sparked a comeback. Jerry Bengston was the player to whom most of these opportunities fell, but first he failed to connect with an attempted diving header and then, after rounding goalkeeper Diego Benaglio, watched in agony as Ricardo Rodriguez made a dramatic goal-line clearance.
Those misses allowed Switzerland to put the outcome beyond doubt with 19 minutes remaining, and again it was Shaqiri who did the damage. Not for the first time, he was indebted to some excellent set-up play by Drmic on the left, leaving the Europeans' hat-trick hero to side-foot a casual left-foot shot low beyond the wrong-footed Valladares.
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