World Cup: Xherdan Shaqiri Warms Up For Messi Showdown
Switzerland might not have the magic of Lionel Messi, but in Xherdan Shaqiri it has a player who is desperate to shine on the biggest stage of all.
The Bayern Munich star scored a hat-trick to help his nation book a last-16 tie with Messi's Argentina at the World Cup, following Wednesday's 3-0 win over Honduras in Manaus.
The Swiss finished with six points from three matches, one behind group winner France, which drew 0-0 with Ecuador.
France, which faces Group F runner-up Nigeria in the next round, wasted a number of good opportunities against a side which played the majority of the second half with 10 men.
Ecuador captain Antonio Valencia was shown a straight red card for a poor tackle on France's Lucas Digne.
Switzerland, ranked sixth in the world, won its opening game before suffering a 5-2 thrashing by the French.
But it bounced back against Honduras with the impressive Shaqiri stealing the sow.
The diminutive midfielder curled home the opener on six minutes and then ran clear to add his second before the break.
Shaqiri then rounded off a counterattack with 19 minutes remaining to seal the win, his third set up by Josip Drmic.
It was all too much for Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez who told reporters he would leave his role after losing all three group games.
“I am not satisfied by what we achieved at the World Cup,” he said after the game.
“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.”
While Honduras heads on home, Switzerland will travel to Sao Paulo to face an Argentina side which won all three of its Group F games.
France, meanwhile, will take on Nigeria in Brasilia on Monday following a low-key contest with Ecuador.
Didier Deschamps' side had plenty of opportunities to win the game but found Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez in inspired form.
Dominguez saved from Paul Pogba and Andre Griezemann in the first half as Les Bleus attempted to make the breakthrough.
Ecuador, which needed to match Switzerland's result to qualify for the next stage, then suffered a setback when Valencia was sent off for a reckless, studs-raised tackle.
But the South Americans still had the opportunity to win the game when Cristian Noboa ran clear on goal only to fire hopelessly wide.
France, which threw on Olivier Giroud in attack, had chances late on to win the game but Pogba headed agonizingly wide.