World Cup: can mercurial Shaqiri make the difference for Switzerland?

World Cup: can mercurial Shaqiri make the difference for Switzerland?
Shaqiri celebrates after scoring against Poland during the Euro 2016 round of sixteen match. Photo: AFP
One of the more impressive performers for Stoke City in a season that ended in relegation from the Premier League, Xherdan Shaqiri is hoping to do his unquestionable talent justice at what represents a third World Cup for the Switzerland star.

The stocky, Kosovo-born winger faces an uncertain club future but a breakout performance in Russia would leave the former Bayern Munich and Inter Milan man with no shortage of suitors. 

Blessed with a magnificent left foot and ample creativity, Shaqiri became just the second Swiss player to score a World Cup hat-trick in a 3-0 victory over Honduras in Manaus four years ago. 

His penchant for the spectacular surfaced again at Euro 2016 with a stunning overhead scissor kick against Poland, in a last-16 game his side would eventually lose on penalties. 

But while a regular in the national team since his debut just prior to the 2010 finals in South Africa, an inability to cement a starting place at Bayern and then Inter points to a career that is yet to reach its apex. 

At 26, the ex-Basel standout still has time on his side but must find the right fit with his impending next move to truly establish himself as the “Alpine Messi”.

Read also: Jubilant press hails Shaqiri as the 'Swiss Messi'

“The feeling that even a Ronaldinho could do little in this team is sobering,” Shaqiri told Swiss magazine Schweizer Illustrieter in an unflattering assessment of Stoke before the club was condemned to England's second tier.

“Shaqiri is a player who can make the difference because he can decide games on his own,” was how former Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld described the two-time Bundesliga champion and 2013 Champions League winner at the last World Cup.

The expectations will again be high for a player with 20 goals in 68 international appearances as Switzerland look to show their world ranking of sixth is more than just a result of shrewd planning.