MANAUS (BRAZIL), June 26 (IANS): Bayern Munich winger Xherdan Shaqiri's stunning hat-trick sent Switzerland into the last 16 of the FIFA World Cup as they beat Honduras 3-0 in the final round of Group E here at the Arena Amazonia here Wednesday.
Switzerland's 2-5 defeat to France found the team in a rather precarious position before the final round and they needed to beat Honduras at all costs and hope that Ecuador do not beat the possibly indifferent group leaders, reports Xinhua.
Shaqiri eventually led Switzerland into the knockstage with two wins and one loss. France and Ecuador finished 0-0 to secure Les Blues' spot atop Group E with seven points and Ecuador's exit with only three points.
Honduras were never able to find a way through the Swiss backline and they go home with three consecutive losses.
In the round of 16, Switzerland will face Argentina while France take on Nigeria.
The Swiss got off to a blistering start as Shaqiri scored six minutes into the game. The attacking midfielder of Bayern Munich showed some great individual skill to beat a defender and then blasted the ball past a helpless goalkeeper Noel Valladares into the top corner.
The 23-year-old Shaqiri scored again in the 31st minute as he was found in space by teammate Josip Drmic before calmly sending it in the lower corner.
In the 71th minute, it was Drmic again who passed Shaqiri the ball in acres of space before he finished past Valladares with little trouble.
Shaqiri's hat-trick is the first time that a Swiss player has scored multiple goals in a World Cup match since 1954.
Honduras's best chance came on 52 minutes. Their striker Jerry Bengtson had already beaten the Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio, but defender Ricardo Rodriguez kept his team's clean sheet intact with a last-second goal-line clearance.