'Messi of the Alps' out to conquer Argentina
XHERDAN Shaqiri, dubbed "the Messi of the Alps", thanks to his World Cup hat-trick, hopes to conquer new peaks when Switzerland faces Argentina in their last-16 clash.
Shaqiri lived up to his flattering nickname with a hat-trick in his team's 3-0 romp against Honduras in their final group match to set up today's last-16 clash in Sao Paulo against Lionel Messi and Argentina.
Swiss newspaper Blick boasted: "We have our own Messi."
Said the 22-year-old: "It's a dream tie for us; little Switzerland is facing a big challenge.
"We have achieved something big as little Switzerland. I am proud of my three goals.
"Anything is possible now in the last 16."
Switzerland have never beaten Argentina in six previous attempts and are bidding to reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in 60 years.
"He has already showed what he is capable of. Xherdan wrote a page of history against Honduras," said Switzerland's German coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, as the Swiss chase a historic win.
"If we put in a similar performance, then we also have a chance against Argentina."
At their most recent meeting, the Swiss were drawing with Argentina in a Bern friendly in February 2012 until Messi hit two late goals to claim his first international hat-trick in a 3-1 victory.
Shaqiri's Bayern Munich coach, Pep Guardiola, has said Argentina's "Seleccion" must be on their guard against the pint-sized winger, whose preferred nickname "XS" is at odds with his bodybuilder physique.
"They must pay close attention to Xherdan Shaqiri," said Guardiola during a World Cup event in Buenos Aires.
"He's dangerous in the penalty area, because he's quick and can shoot very well."
Having played second fiddle to left wing Franck Ribery at Bayern, Shaqiri is revelling in his role in the middle as an attacking midfielder with Switzerland.
Against Honduras, he became the first Swiss player to score multiple goals in a World Cup match since 1954 - when they last reached the quarter-finals.
Two of Shaqiri's goals came from assists by striker Josep Drmic, who is hoping for more of the same against Argentina.