Shaqiri takes his place on the world stage

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Updated 26 June 2014
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Shaqiri takes his place on the world stage

BRASILIA: Switzerland have been expecting great things of Xherdan Shaqiri for some time and the impish player finally took his place on the world stage with a superb hat trick in the 3-0 win over Honduras on Wednesday.
For many Swiss fans it has been a long time coming. The cheeky and instinctive Kosovo-born player, who looks as if he might have learned the game on the streets of South America, made his international debut as an 18-year-old and was still a teenager when he was voted Switzerland’s Player of the Year in 2011.
Since then, the 22-year-old has shown flashes of brilliance on the international stage, including a hat-trick in a Euro 2012 qualifier against Bulgaria, and for his club Bayern Munich, but has not shone on a consistent basis.
A lack of playing time for Bayern this season coupled with some frustrating muscular injuries had even begun to spark concern that he could become another player of unfulfilled potential.
His first two performances at the World Cup were disappointing and Shaqiri complained about the raised expectations on the eve of Wednesday’s game in Manaus. “It doesn’t all depend on me,” he said. “It gets on my nerves that more critical things are written about me than the others.” But in Manaus, Shaqiri gave the performance that everyone had been waiting for, helping to send the Swiss into the knockout stages as Group E runners-up.
His opening goal after six minutes was not dissimilar to Lionel Messi’s effort against Iran as he collected the ball near the touchline, held off his marker, cut inside and fired a dipping left-foot shot into the net from 25 meters.
That was followed by two clinical finishes, both with his left foot, from passes supplied by Josip Drmic to make him the first Switzerland player to score a hat-trick at the World Cup since Josef Huegi against Austria in 1954.
There was much more to his performance than the goals, however.
Shaqiri twice set up clearcut chances for Drmic by cleverly threading the ball through the Honduran rearguard and did not shy away from defensive duties, at one point breaking up a Honduran attack by dispossessing Wilson Palacios near the edge of the Swiss area.
The early strike was also crucial in helping the Swiss cope with the stifling conditions in Manaus.
As coach Ottmar Hitzfeld had announced before the tournament, the Swiss dispensed with their usual pressing in the opponents’ half and were happy to sit back and allow Honduras possession.
The Central Americans had 62 percent of the ball while the 34 fouls, 17 from each side, played into the Swiss hands as it broke up play and gave them a breather.
Full backs Stephan Lichtsteiner and Ricardo Rodriguez also abandoned their usual marauding style and barely crossed the halfway line.
In fact, the Swiss looked far more comfortable playing a waiting game than they did against Ecuador and France, where they tried to take the initiative and were repeatedly caught on the break.
With Argentina to face in their round of sixteen tie on Tuesday, Hitzfeld may be tempted to stick with the more cautious tactics, even in the much cooler conditions of Sao Paulo.


Leonard stars as Raptors claw back with win over Bucks

Updated 20 May 2019
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Leonard stars as Raptors claw back with win over Bucks

  • Milwaukee’s MVP finalist Giannis Antetokounmpo struggles to just 12 points
  • He then fouled out in the first minute of the second overtime period

LOS ANGELES: Kawhi Leonard scored eight of his 36 points in the second overtime period Sunday to lead the Toronto Raptors to a gritty 118-112 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Eastern Conference finals.
The Raptors, who dropped the first two games of the best-of-seven series in Milwaukee, clawed their way back to 2-1 in front of home fans and will try to level the set when they host game four on Tuesday.
Pascal Siakam scored 25 points and Spanish center Marc Gasol added 16 for the Raptors, who got off to a quick start and led much of the night but had to battle to put the Bucks away.
“We just played a lot tougher,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “We were up guarding, we were physical. We were ready to play tonight.”
Milwaukee’s Most Valuable Player finalist Giannis Antetokounmpo struggled to just 12 points on five-of-16 shooting.
Antetokounmpo’s 23 rebounds helped the Bucks stay in touch, but he didn’t reach double figures in points until the middle of the fourth quarter and he produced eight of the Bucks’ 20 turnovers.
Antetokounmpo fouled out in the first minute of the second overtime period.
Moments later the Bucks managed to edge ahead 105-103 — taking the lead for the first time since Antetokounmpo scored the game’s opening basket — but Leonard and the Raptors roared back.
Leonard’s steal and dunk put Toronto ahead 112-109 and his driving bank shot gave Toronto a 114-110 lead with 32.4 seconds remaining.
Leonard played a key role in limiting Antetokounmpo and Nurse said his defensive play was “probably the biggest key of the game.”
“Not only did he just play good, but he made some huge plays with some steals and rip-aways and break aways,” Nurse said.
“Offense was hard to come by there for both teams for a while and any time you can get a steal and a break out it’s a huge momentum play.”
Toronto had a chance to win it in regulation, but they let a 96-91 lead slip away in the final 1:13 of the fourth quarter.
Milwaukee guard Khris Middleton’s putback basket from his own miss with 2.2 seconds left in regulation forced overtime.
The Raptors led 103-99 with 1:29 remaining in the first extra session.
But Malcolm Brogdon floated in a shot and George Hill drained two free throws to tie it before Leonard’s jump shot fell short.
The Raptors overcame a slow night from Kyle Lowry, who scored 11 points before fouling out with 6:12 left in the fourth.
Although Leonard scored 19 points in the fourth quarter and both overtimes, some grimaces from the Raptors star sparked concerns he might be injured.
“I’m feeling all right,” he said. “This is playoff basketball. Everybody’s hurting, you just have to keep fighting.”
Hill led the Bucks with 24 points and fellow reserve Brogdon added 20. Center Brook Lopez led the Bucks starters with 16 points.
“I feel like we gave ourselves several chances,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We weren’t able to get over the hump.
“When you have opportunities you’ve got to make them and we didn’t quite make enough of our good ones. I think we’ll be better in game four, Giannis, everybody.”