As the World Cup draws to a close and teams, players, coaches, pundits & fans alike reflect on what was and what could have been, we at Outside of the Boot under our Talent Radar feature recognise the best young players at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The eligibility criteria for this list are all those players who were 21 and below at the start of the 2013/14 season (taken as June 1st 2013).
What was expected of him? Among the many Talent Radar players in Ottmar Hitzfeld’s squad, Shaqiri was a standout performer and had his place solidly booked in the starting XI. The Bayern man was expected to shine on this stage after having a quite season in the Bundesliga.
How did he perform? Much weight was placed on Shaqiri’s shoulders to carry the Swiss forward. Their campaign began against an Ecuador side that wasn’t exactly a push over. Shaqiri was placed on the right wing, with the intension to utilize his strength as well as his capability to cut in and shoot. Early on in the game, Shaqiri’s quick feet and speed saw him push through on an effort that tested Alexander Dominguez. The game saw Shaqiri quiet for most of the time with his contribution notable but limited. A floated in corner by Shaqiri which was met my Behrami as well as a shot into the side netting counted as his only significant involvement that seemed to threaten the Ecuador side. Despite not putting forth his best performance in his national outfit, Shaqiri still managed to bag the Man of the Match award. This was largely down to Hitzfeld’s brilliance who in the second half shifted Shaqiri to a central position which saw the ex-Basel man excellently bring players into the game. Not a full deserved man of the match award, but certainly an improved performance from the first half.
The second match of Switzerland’s World Cup campaign saw France take them apart before two late strikes proved nothing but a consolation. Shaqiri once again had dipped below his expectations but his relatively disappointing performance shouldn’t be singled out as it was the whole fielded XI that failed to get a grasp on the game. The game did create a chance for Shaqiri when Xhaka took a shot from distance which was saved. The rebound fell to Shaqiri whose shot on goal was denied by the French captain once again.
The final group stage game saw the Swiss face Honduras. The match saw a more in-control Swiss side as they went on to win 3-0, with all three goals contributed by Xherdan Shaqiri. The opening goal marked Shaqiri’s first at a FIFA World Cup. The goal was a spectacular one, with play involving a text book movement of an inverted winger. Shaqiri proceeded to cut in from the right before getting the better of two defenders and finishing off with a long range curler that struck the underside of the bar. Honduras were unable to keep up with the Bayern man as he got on the other end of a Drmic pass before placing the ball into the bottom right corner. A third goal, with much credit due to Drmic, saw Shaqiri side foot the ball into the back of the net to complete his hattrick, which was the second one the tournament saw. A complete performance saw him win the Man of the Match award for the second time in the group stages.
The Round of 16 game saw Argentina knock out the Swiss in heart-breaking fashion. Shaqiri’s presence was rare at first but slowly grew as the game aged. After managing to get the better of his marker, he ran through to the attacking third before cutting back to Xhaka to provide an excellent chance for the Europeans to break the deadlock. Shaqiri was seen once again early on in the second half in a supplying mood as he made his way down the wing before passing it back to Drmic, whose effort proved wasteful.
Watching Shaqiri in this World Cup showed some of his best traits, his ability to beat his marker, awareness to cut back and pass, cut in and shoot, long range strikes as well as composure. For a player that young, Shaqiri does have a more matured mentality. Given his surroundings at Bayern as well as performing at the World Cup, we can see that he can play at a big stage as well as under pressure. More game time at club level could see this young talent show his true ability and showcase his talent at much more frequent intervals.
More from Talent Radar: Shaqiri has featured on Outside of the Boot’s Talent Radar list of Top 25 Young Players to watch at the World Cup, placed at #11. He has also made it to the Talent Radar Team of the Week in the third week of February for his performance with Bayern.
What does the future hold for him in the national team? It is quite evident that with his talent and maturity, Shaqiri will be an integral part of the Swiss national team for years to come. Alongside plenty of players in and about the same age, Shaqiri and this Swiss side could put a stronger foot forth in many tournaments to come. Already playing at a club with high standards, Shaqiri will be able to translate the experience of playing on a big stage to his national team.
Other players in the list: #10 Memphis Depay | #9 Ahmed Musa | #7 Paul Pogba | #6 Kevin De Bruyne | #5 Joel Campbell | #4 Ricardo Rodriguez | #3 Raphael Varane | #2 Neymar | #1 James Rodriguez
Razim Refai is a co-founder and editor of Outside of the Boot.
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