MANAUS, Brazil – Xherdan Shaqiri’s hat trick put Switzerland into the second round of the World Cup, and kept coach Ottmar Hitzfeld gainfully employed for at least a few more days.
Shaqiri scored a pair of first-half goals and added another in the second Wednesday to give Switzerland a 3-0 victory over Honduras, a result that put the Swiss in second place in Group E behind France.
“We knew that we were going to show great football today,” said Shaqiri, a Bayern Munich winger. “For us, this has been really a dream to be in the World Cup, small Switzerland in the World Cup.”
The small Swiss will next face the not-so-small Lionel Messi and Argentina on Tuesday in Sao Paulo in what could be Hitzfeld’s final match. The German veteran, a two-time Champions League winner as a coach, has said this tournament will be his last.
“We are really anxious for that. We also know that we are not the favorites for the match, but we are going to try for victory,” Shaqiri said. “Getting to the round of 16, everything is possible. You never know.”
Shaqiri scored his first goal in the sixth minute, dribbling into a crowd of defenders and curling a shot into the net off the underside of the crossbar. In the 31st, he collected a pass from Josip Drmic after a defensive error and easily beat Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares.
Shaqiri completed his hat trick in the 71st. Drmic did well to beat Honduras defender Victor Bernardez on the left and pass to a charging Shaqiri, who one-timed his shot past a diving Valladares.
The match at the Arena da Amazonia was the fourth and final game to be played in the Brazilian rainforest, and was the second to have an official cooling break because of the stifling heat and humidity.
According to FIFA, it was 26 degrees C (79 degrees F) with the humidity at 88 percent when the match started. Referee Nestor Pitana of Argentina made the decision to stop the match in the 39th, and the break lasted for about a minute. There was also an official break in the first half of the United States-Portugal match on Sunday.
After three 6 p.m. starts at the Arena da Amazonia, Wednesday’s match started at 4 p.m. But a noontime thunderstorm combined with overcast skies and a slight breeze cooled the temperature a bit after several days of sunny skies and oppressive heat.
“Toward the end things were getting tougher, but we managed to deal with this,” Hitzfeld said. “We ran for the ball.”
The extreme weather had been something Honduras was looking forward to. The Central American country has a similar climate, and they often play qualifiers under the same circumstances in an effort to gain an advantage over opposing teams.
On Wednesday, Honduras struggled to create much on the attacking end, but did manage several decent attempts in the second half. The team’s best chance came in the 52nd minute when striker Jerry Bengtson beat Switzerland goalkeeper Diego Benaglio but had his shot cleared off the line by defender Ricardo Rodriguez.
A few minutes later, Honduras screamed for a penalty after substitute Jerry Palacios went down in the area with Switzerland defender Johan Djourou on his back, but Pitana decided otherwise.
“The second half was very good. We had three or four chances to score, but to score a goal is a different story,” said Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez, who said he would not continue as coach of the national team. “In a sense, we disappointed our nation.”
Switzerland and Honduras played each other at the World Cup in South Africa exactly four years ago, on June 25, 2010, but that match ended in a 0-0 draw and both teams were eliminated.
This time, the Swiss move on and Hitzfeld has plenty more work to do against Argentina.
“(It’s) going to be a match that we have nothing to lose. We have a lot to gain,” Hitzfeld said. “We do have a chance, even against Argentina.”