Xherdan Shaqiri believes Switzerland have all the tools they need to make it to the World Cup quarter-finals, but they will need to work together if they are to beat Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in the last 16 on Tuesday.
The Swiss were on the wrong end of a 4-1 thrashing in Lisbon when the sides met in the Nations League in June before bouncing back with a 1-0 win, but none of that will matter in a knockout game, Shaqiri said.
“For me it is gonna be totally different, because there is no friendly game, this is no Nations League, the pressure is high, and so now it’s important how the players deal with this pressure,” the 31-year-old told reporters on Sunday.
“We need a special performance. Portugal to be honest, they are a good team and for me also the favourite in this game, but we know our qualities too. We will try to have a good, special performance and try to cause them a lot of problem in the game.”
Winger Shaqiri scored in Switzerland’s high-pressure 3-2 win over Serbia to set up the clash with Ronaldo’s Portugal, and with the focus now switching to knockout football, the stakes are even higher.
“The key is really to have special performance from the whole team because you know, we are Switzerland, we have no Cristianos in our team,” Shaqiri said with a wry smile.
“As a team, we are always successful and this is gonna be also in this game the same. Everybody (has to) stick together. If everybody goes to the highest level of their performance, then I’m sure we have a chance to go through.
Shaqiri says it would be a mistake to consider him a fading force.
“You cannot write off Cristiano, he is one of the best players in the world together with (Lionel) Messi,” Shaqiri told reporters after training on Sunday.
“This guy can score any second, any minute, he has experience and everyone knows how important he is for Portugal and for his team,” added the former Liverpool and Bayern Munich attacker, who scored in Switzerland’s 3-2 win over Serbia on Friday which secured them a place in the knockout stage.
Ronaldo, who has been released by Manchester United after his controversial television interview, has scored once so far in this tournament, with a penalty in the opening group stage 3-2 win over Ghana.
But Shaqiri, who now plays in Major League Soccer with Chicago Fire, knows that regardless of Ronaldo’s threat there are also plenty of other sources of danger from Portugal.
“We have to know also the other players because it is not only Ronaldo, they have very good players, young players who can make a big difference and we need to give really a very good performance because its knockout and anything can happen in the 95-100 minutes and we are looking forward to it,” he said.