Switzerland’s World Cup glory years came in the early editions of the competition, as the Alpine nation reached the quarter-final stage in 1934, 1938 and 1954.
However, in recent editions the Swiss have struggled to make it past the last 16, the stage they exited four years ago. This summer’s World Cup will be their 11th finals and they will be looking to barrel-chested Stoke playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri to inspire the team to greater heights this time around.
Xherdan Shaqiri the mercurial star
The skilful 26-year-old has a number of nicknames, including ‘the Alpine Messi’ and ‘XS’. He is no doubt the player who brings flair and imagination to an otherwise well organised Swiss side.
Shaqiri has produced some sublime moments for his country, including scoring hat-tricks in qualifying for Euro 2012 against Bulgaria and most memorably against Honduras four years ago in the group stages.
While he is skilful, his mercurial nature means that his performances do not always live up to his potential. He has a tendency to disappear from games, especially in club football, where he has played for Basel, Bayern Munich, Internazionale and Stoke.
Needs a good World Cup to move on
Following Stoke’s relegation from the Premier League last season, Shaqiri can leave the club this summer for a fee in the region of between £12-13.5million. The fee is likely to attract a lot of interest in his services this summer.
Already the likes of Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham have been linked with moves for Shaqiri. Most top-flight clubs are aware of what the star can do from his Stoke days and will see him as a bargain this summer, even if he does not necessarily produce the goods in every game.
The playmaker has revealed that he will move on this summer and would like to stay in the Premier League. What level of club he joins this summer could depend on how well he performs in Russia with his national side.
A good showing could persuade regular Champions League participants Liverpool and Tottenham to make moves for the undoubtedly talented star.
A good chance of progression
While no doubt he will have one eye on his next club move, his national team has to be his focus in the next couple of weeks. Vladimir Petkovic’s team have been drawn in a very open group alongside Brazil, Serbia and Costa Rica.
While Brazil are hot favourites to win Group E, all three of the other teams will be hopeful of qualifying for the knockout stages in Russia.
Switzerland enjoyed a strong qualifying campaign, winning nine out of their ten games. However, they needed a play-off win over Northern Ireland to make it to Russia 2018.
The Swiss seem to have a mental block when it comes to making it past the last 16 stage of this competition. However, Petkovic’s strong performance in qualifying will give them confidence that they can go beyond the last 16 stage.
If Switzerland does make it past the last 16 stage, then there is a strong likelihood that talisman Xherdan Shaqiri will have had a big hand in their progression to the latter stages.
Can Xherdan Shaqiri help Switzerland to World Cup progress?