April 25, 2018
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Shaqiri hat trick sends Switzerland into Round of 16

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri (L) celebrates with Josip Drmic after Shaqiri's hat trick led the team past Honduras in Wednesday's World Cup soccer match at Manaus, Brazil.
By Wire Service Reports, Special to the BDN

MANAUS, Brazil — A rampant Switzerland reached the World Cup knockout stage and will lock horns with Argentina in the last 16 after a superb Xherdan Shaqiri hat trick gave them a 3-0 win over Honduras on Wednesday.

The result in no way flattered the resilient Swiss, who bounced back from their 5-2 drubbing by France to finish behind them in Group E while third-place Ecuador and Honduras were eliminated.

It was a memorable match for Kosovo-born forward Shaqiri, who scored the 50th hat trick in World Cup history and the second of this tournament after Germany’s Thomas Mueller netted three against Portugal.

“Whenever you reach the second round it is a great motivation and we are highly motivated,” Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld told a news conference.

“We are going to write history and we have already written history with the three goals today.

“It is not easy to play here. So many European teams have had to go home. It is going to be a match where we have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

“We have to draw the right conclusions and improve. We do have a chance, even against Argentina.”

Shaqiri linked up brilliantly with striker Josip Drmic who set up two of the goals after he was preferred to Haris Seferovic in the starting lineup.

Argentina, Boznia-Herzegovina win

What distinguishes Lionel Messi from lesser players, which pretty much means all humankind, is an uncanny knack of ball control while on the move.

Such preternatural power was missing on his two goals that accentuated Argentina’s 3-2 win over Nigeria, but it was not required. Messi’s thunderbolts came on one-timers. They doubled his goals output for the World Cup, pulling him even with Brazil’s Neymar for the Golden Boot.

For the Nigerians (1-1-1), the day was like a plate of blueberry lemon pancakes — bittersweet but ultimately satisfying. They maintained second place in Group F.

The two advancing teams collaborated on a historical first at the Cup with bang-bang goals in the opening five minutes, and then repeated the feat at the start of the second half.

Messi ignited the flurry, collecting a saved shot off the post at the doorstep of the goal for, by his standard, a gimme.

With halftime approaching, Messi drew a tripping foul some 25 yards out, which set up the maestro for a direct free kick that had goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama screaming at his teammates to properly form a wall. It did not matter. Messi’s shot made like a remote-controlled drone and found the upper-right pocket of the net as Enyeama watched helplessly.

Ahmed Musa had promptly answered Argentina’s initial goal by Messi with one for Nigeria, then did it again after Marcos Rojo kneed in a corner kick to make it 3-1. Musa nearly notched a hat trick on a few occasions, which would have evened the match and left Argentina concerned about its leaky defense.

Bosnia-Herzegovina downed Iran 3-1 and will accompany Argentina (3-0) into the knockout round.

Bosnia, with nothing at stake, played loosey-goosey and got a goal in the 23rd minute from Edin Dzeko, who had missed every which way in the crucial loss to Nigeria.

Iran paid dearly for a turnover in the 59th minute, and a no-sweat goal by Miralem Paianic boosted Bosnia in front 2-0.

Iran turned up the heat with a score in the 82nd minute, only to see it canceled out on Bosnia’s goal just after the ball was put back into play.

The outcomes spared FIFA from having to draw lots to determine whether Nigeria or Iran, which could have been even after all tie-breaker measures were applied, moved on.

France 0, Ecuador 0

RIO DE JANEIRO — France and Ecuador drew 0-0 in their final World Cup Group E game on Wednesday to send the French into the last 16 as group winners and eliminate their opponents.

Ecuador keeper Alexander Dominguez made two great saves to deny Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann but the South American side’s chances were dealt a mortal blow five minutes into the second half when captain Antonio Valencia was sent off after catching Lucas Digne as both men slid into a tackle.

Cristian Noboa missed a great chance for Ecuador soon after but, having started the day level on points with Switzerland, they never looked likely to find the win they needed and they escaped defeat only because of some poor French finishing.

France top the group with seven points and will play Group F runners-up Nigeria.


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