Switzerland needed a win to advance into the next stage at the 2014 World Cup, and Xherdan Shaqiri did everything in his power to ensure that this happened.
The 22-year-old star completed a hat trick in a 3-0 win over Honduras, giving his side six points in Group E. With Ecuador only managing a draw against France, this was enough for Switzerland to earn second place and a spot in the round of 16.
While everyone came to play for the European squad, Shaqiri was the true star in one of the biggest matches for the national team in a long time.
Although the midfielder had not scored in his first two matches of the tournament, it did not take long for him to come through for his nation in the third contest against Honduras. In the sixth minute, the midfielder fired a shot from distance that was one of the best in the tournament:
The reverse angle showed how perfect the shot really was:
Xherdan Shaqiri with a fantastic strike into the top corner. 1-0 Switzerland. http://t.co/N5tNXGD2Nw— Football Vines (@Vine_Football) June 25, 2014
Unsurprisingly, there were many impressed by this opening shot, including The Sun:
Shaqiri with an absolute thunderbolt of a strike from 25 yards out. Expect plenty of slow-mo replays - that was special. 1-0 #SUI— The Sun - Football (@TheSunFootball) June 25, 2014
Matteo Bonetti of beIN Sports compares the goal to that of one of the best in the world:
This is something that fans of the young player have been waiting to see for some time, including Kristian Jack of TSN:
The Shaqiri Show has finally been given a timeslot.— Kristian Jack (@KristianJack) June 25, 2014
As BBC Sport points out, this was a rare moment in Switzerland national history:
However, the midfielder was far from finished in this competition. In the 31st minute, he received a great pass from Josip Drmic and then calmly put it past the goalkeeper to double his side's lead to 2-0:
Here's Shaqiri's second goal. Simpler this time, but equally lethal: https://t.co/NNYzwK6fYL— FirstpostSports (@FirstpostSports) June 25, 2014
Janusz Michallik of ESPN points out that this duo was excelling together in the match:
Shaqiri and Drmic are having fun together.— Janusz Michallik (@JanuszESPN) June 25, 2014
This partnership was seen in the second half when Drmic again created a great opportunity to help complete Shaqiri's hat trick:
Xherdan Shaqiri completes his hat-trick for Switzerland. http://t.co/UOmssBYYC0— Football Vines (@Vine_Football) June 25, 2014
The third score helped complete what was a tremendous all-around performance by the 22-year-old star, as highlighted by Squawka Football:
Switzerland were able to hold onto the 3-0 win after Shaqiri was substituted out in the 87th minute, which was enough to advance to the next round in the tournament.
Bleacher Report's Graham Ruthven was proud of the individual effort from the Bayern Munich player, but remained disappointed it took until the third match for Shaqiri to show something:
Shaqiri has been excellent tonight. Shame it's taken him until tonight to actually show up for Switzerland.— Graham Ruthven (@grahamruthven) June 25, 2014
Luckily, it did not hurt the Swiss as they were able to move onto the next round as second place in Group E. They will move onto face Argentina in the round of 16 and will have plenty of confidence going into that match.
Even with elite players like Lionel Messi on the attack, the South American squad has been vulnerable defensively. If Shaqiri can play as well as he did against Honduras, Switzerland certainly have a chance to pull off the upset.
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.