By DAN KARELL
Combined with a dominant performance against Honduras and an Ecuador draw, Switzerland’s World Cup campaign is still alive.
The Swiss cruised to a 3-0 victory over Honduras behind a hat-trick performance from attacking midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri, and earned a place in the knockout stages as Switzerland finished in second place in Group E. The Swiss were dependent on the result between Ecuador and France but neither team could manage a goal as they finished in a scoreless draw.
Switzerland hit the ground running at the Arena Amazonia in Manaus when Shaqiri took a pass outside the box, held off his defender while running away from goal, and swung his leg around and curled a beauty into the far upper 90, giving his side the lead.
In the 31st minute, Switzerland doubled their lead after Honduras and San Jose Earthquakes defender Victor Bernardez made a crucial error on a long ball at midfield.
Bernardez came way out of position to intercept a pass but wasn’t able to get enough of a touch on it to stop it from making it’s way to Swiss forward Josip Drmic. Shaqiri ran into the space vacated by Bernardez and at speed, advanced one-on-one with Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares and scored.
At halftime, Honduras head coach Luis Fernando Suarez replaced Roger Espinoza with Marvin Chavez but the change didn’t have it’s desired effect, with Los Catrachos continuing to make silly turnovers in their own half of the field.
Shaqiri sealed the result and his hat-trick in the 71st minute after finishing on a close-range shot in the box, after some nifty moves from Drmic to get past Bernardez.
Honduras forward Jerry Bengtson nearly scored a goal for his side when he rounded goalkeeper Diego Benaglio and fired towards goal but Swiss left back Ricardo Rodriguez made a tremendous stop on the goal-line to save the would-be goal.