Ottmar Hitzfeld was happy to have delayed his retirement for a few days at least after Switzerland prolonged their stay at the FIFA World Cup by beating Honduras 3-0 thanks to a left-footed hat-trick from Xherdan Shaqiri, who added: "As a little team like Switzerland, we have already accomplished something big."
As a reward for coming second in Group E behind France, Switzerland will play Argentina in Sao Paulo on Tuesday for a place in the quarter-finals. "That's still so far away, I just want to enjoy the moment," said the 65-year-old Hitzfeld when asked about his side's chances against one of the tournament favourites.
The two-time UEFA Champions League-winning coach, who announced his decision to retire back in October, is soaking it all in during his final days in a frontline role in professional football. "I never really thought about the possibility of this being my last match," Hitzfeld said after the victory over Honduras in the humidity of Manaus. "But now I am just happy that the stress continues. We showed total willpower to conquer our weaker selves in these difficult conditions. Now we'll try to make up for fluid depletion, but not with alcohol!"
It is unlikely, however, that he will admonish Shaqiri for announcing he would celebrate his treble, the 50th in World Cup finals history, with "a nice glass of red wine". Deployed by Hitzfeld as a playmaker, the FC Bayern München midfielder took full advantage of his freedom. The 22-year-old expertly curled his team in front after six minutes before finishing off two assists from the impressive Josip Drmic as the Nati delivered the perfect response to their 5-2 defeat by France last Friday.
"That first goal was a boost for the team," explained Hitzfeld. "Xherdan is a player who can make the difference. Some pundits said he has been poor recently, but I disagree. He did a great job against France and it really paid off to play him as a No10 today."
"It's a huge honour to score three goals at a World Cup," Shaqiri added. "It's important that we stuck together as a team. As a little team like Switzerland, we have already accomplished something big. I am really proud of the team, I couldn't have scored three goals without them."
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