Will Rodgers rue not snaring Swiss star Shaqiri?
Xherdan Shaqiri’s province of birth, Gjilan in Albania, is famous for having recorded the lowest ever temperature, specifically −32.5 degrees Celsius on 25 January 1963.
Having emigrated to Switzerland with his parents and three siblings in 1993, the 22-year-old is being tipped to make temperatures soar against England.
Also known as ‘the Alpine Messi’, Shaqiri is 13/2 to score first against an unconvincing England rearguard. However, the tricky attacking midfield maestro could have been plying his trade in the Premier League this season, if Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers had got his way.
“Liverpool made a bid for me before the World Cup but Bayern put their foot down and told me, ‘We’re not going to sell you’,” Shaqiri said. “My contract runs until 2016 and I could possibly extend it, I will consider my decision during the winter break.”
Shaqiri is certain to come up against a few of the players that could have been his teammates against England, namely Raheem Sterling, and possibly Jordan Henderson, if fitness prevails. The former Basel player’s first international goal ironically came against England, in a 3-1 Euro 2012 qualifying loss at home. Picking the ball up deep in the Three Lions half, he shimmied, created space and crashed a thunderous left footed drive into the back of the net.
Ahead of the visit of England, Shaqiri, who is 15/8 to score anytime, acknowledged that his team will face a tough challenge: “I expect England to come over with a lot of young players who aren’t yet so well known. They will want to repair the damage after not doing well at the World Cup finals.
“They will come over to Switzerland looking to win. But we will play our normal game – and we’ll be going for victory too.
“We are familiar with our formation as a team and we know what we have to do. The coach Vladimir Petkovic has told us he doesn’t need to make big changes for the England game.”
Shaqiri, however, will know his contributions could determine the outcome of the match, and maybe the reason for renewed Liverpool interest in January. If indeed, he is on top form, expect an explosive individual performance, with ‘the Alpine Messi’ targeting new heights.