Manaus (Brazil), Jun 26 (PTI): Riding Xherdan Shaqiri’s triple strike an inspired Switzerland eased past Honduras 3-0 to book their last 16 berth as Ecuador became the first Latin American side to bow out of this World Cup after playing a 0-0 draw with Group E toppers France yesterday.
Bayern Munich midfielder Shaqiri sent the Swiss in front with a cracking goal from just outside the area in the sixth minute.
The No.23 showed some great individual skill to beat a defender and then blast the ball past a helpless Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares into the top corner.
Play slowed down a bit after Shaqiri’s stunning strike, though Honduras did try to build up possession in the midfield.
But Shaqiri had other ideas as he scored again in the 31st minute to double Switzerland’s lead.
Swiss striker Drmic Victor capitalised on a Victor Bernarndez’s mistake in the midfield to pass it onto Shaqiri, who calmly tucked it in the lower corner.
Shaqiri became the hattrick man in the 71st minute when he netted an assist from Drmic again to seal his team’s pre-quarterfinal entry.
Meanwhile France coach Didier Deschamps would not have been too pleased with the draw against Ecuador but the side did dominate proceedings at the Maracana.
France, who had scored eight goals in their two previous games, powered forward from the start.
But through luck, determination, bad finishing and brilliant goalkeeping by Alexander Dominguez.
Ecuador were left with 10 men after skipper Antonio Valencia was red carded in the 50th minute when he lost a challenge against Lucas Digne and the Manchester United player was dismissed by the referee.
For France, Karim Benzema and company kept their fans on tenterhooks as the forward line missed many a chance when the ‘Brazuca’ kept finding the pole, goalkeeper and the advertising hoardings instead of the net.
Ecuador also had a few good run ins but not enough to threaten the group leaders France.
Switzerland though will have a tough outing against tournament favourites Argentina in the pre-quarterfinals while France will take on Nigeria in the last 16.
In another set of matches earlier in the day, Argentina edged past Nigeria 3-2 to top Group F while the African champions also made it to the last 16 courtesy Bosnia-Herzegovina’s 3-1 triumph over Iran.
Lionel Messi mesmerised the fans with his double strike as the Argentine star took his goal count to four in three World Cup games.
Forward Ahmed Musa was the star for Nigeria — also scoring a brace — but the African team lost out against the Latin American skill in the longer run of play.
If Messi scored in the third and stoppage time of the first half then Musa matched it up in the fourth and the 47th minute. But it was Marcos Rojo who gave Argentina the winner in the 50th minute.
In Salvador, a powerful strike by Manchester City star Edin Dzeko gave Bosnia an early lead before Miralem Pjanic added a second just before the hour to settle a relatively dull affair.
Iran striker Reza Ghoochannejad brought life into the game by netting his side’s first goal of Brazil 2014, but Bosnia replied immediately with an Avdija Vrsajevic goal.