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Wing wizard Shaqiri key to Swiss World Cup hopes

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15 May 2014 01:16:52

Wing wizard Shaqiri key to Swiss World Cup hopes

Xherdan Shaqiri has more reason than most to shine during the World Cup in Brazil.

The 22-year-old Swiss winger has endured a frustrating season at Bayern Munich having failed to nail down a regular first team berth.

But if rumours that he is to spurn the interest of Liverpool to give it another go in Bavaria are true, then Shaqiri will be hoping to use the global showpiece to convince club boss Pep Guardiola of his value.

Just 10 league starts this season was a lot fewer than Shaqiri would have been aiming for at the start of term.

Having arrived at Bayern in time to enjoy their record-breaking treble campaign in 2012/13, Shaqiri could have been forgiven for thinking life was looking good in Germany.

However, since Guardiola replaced Jupp Heynckes, Shaqiri has increasingly found himself playing second fiddle to established wide-men Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.

But when he lines up in Ottmar Hitzfeld's Switzerland team in Brazil, he is sure to be the focal point of Swiss creativity.

Shaqiri's talents are immeasurable and his direct running style hurts defences.

Short, stocky, powerful and fast, Shaqiri is difficult to knock off the ball or to stop once he builds up a head of steam.

He also has a rocket of a shot on him and a devil of a whipped ball in with his favoured left foot.

And in the heat of Brazil in June and July, his pace and thrust will be invaluable to Switzerland.

Like a considerable number of the Swiss squad, Shaqiri was born in the former Yugoslavia before a bloody civil war ripped the country apart.

His family, ethnic Albanians, fled to Switzerland in 1992 when he was just a baby and it is there that he grew up and learnt his trade.

In fact, Shaqiri is part of an even more select group of ethnic Albanians in the Swiss team alongside the likes of Blerim Dzemaili, Granit Xhaka, Valon Behrami and Admir Mehmedi.

And whereas it used to be Yugoslavia that benefitted from the mercurial talents of a number of separate republics, now it seems to be Switzerland reaping the rewards.

Shaqiri first came to prominence to a wider audience in the 2011/12 Champions League when his then Basel team helped knock Manchester United out of the group stages of the competition.

Shaqiri set up both the Swiss champions' goals in their crucial 2-1 win over United in the final group game.

That went some way to convincing Bayern to shell out almost 12 million euros ($16.4million) to acquire his services.

A good showing in the World Cup could see his star rise much higher and should he decide to leave the German champions, would-be suitors are likely to be asked for a great deal more.


AFP

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