Xherdan Shaqiri is Basel’s second most famous sportsperson. It is possible that on nights like this, he does dislodge Roger Federer if only for some time. Effortlessness is a myth, Federer told a class of graduates recently. He recalled the hours of sweat that made his tennis silky. Shaqiri’s every sinew would testify to that. He is 32 and doesn’t move as fast as he did, sometimes he doesn’t move at all and Switzerland’s goal to cancel Scott McTominay’s strike in the 1-1 draw against Scotland was a consequence of that. But if coach Murat Yakin trusted him to start in Cologne it was because 14 years and 123 matches after his international debut, he is still good. Very good, actually.

Switzerland’s midfielder #23 Xherdan Shaqiri looks on during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group A football match (AFP)

It was at FC Basel that Shaqiri learnt the ropes and started a career that took him to Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Liverpool before going to the other side of the Atlantic to be in Lionel Messi’s league. He has played in four World Cup and three European championships finals and scored in six of them. It puts him in an elite club of four whose other members are Jürgen Klinsmann, Miroslav Klose and Cristiano Ronaldo. On Wednesday, with his 32nd goal, Shaqiri became the only player from the Americas to score in the European championship.

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Substituted on the hour mark, he got a pat from Yakin and a warm round of applause from Switzerland’s fans. The argument about whether he is still needed looks binned for now. He isn’t ruling out playing the 2026 World Cup.

Till he was there, Shaqiri would drop deep to make space for his faster teammates. You could see him jogging through the middle eyes on the ball as Switzerland used their wide players. The goal though happened because he had stood. Anthony Ralston’s pass was to nowhere and meant for no one. In his imagination, Ralston may have thought Grant Hanley was there. But there was still a lot to be done when the ball rolled into space nearly 25 yards from Angus Gunn’s goal. In a flash, Shaqiri wrapped his left boot around the ball and sent an inswinger that gave Gunn no chance.

Steve Clarke is not a man of too many words. Especially not after the 1-5 defeat to Germany. His pre-match press conference had different versions of let’s quit talking and do our bit on the pitch. But after the game, the Scotland coach said: “If that chance falls to any other player in the Swiss team, that’s not a goal. So, that tells you what I think of Shaqiri.” He didn’t end there.

“When it was rolling towards Shaqiri, it was destined for the back of the net. You don’t give top, top players that kind of chance.”

For Yakin, it was vindication of the faith in a player who doesn’t have the pace to operate on the wings, lacks defensive ability to be trusted in the midfield and, at 1.65m, cannot be the first choice for a focal point. “I don’t know how many other players would be able to score that goal,” said Yakin. “But he has got such confidence and ability…” In two games, Yakin has opted for somewhat left-field choices and both Kwadwo Duah and Shaqiri have delivered putting Switzerland on four points and on the verge of a round-of-16 berth.

Shaqiri and the spectacular at majors go back to 2014 when he scored a hattrick in the World Cup, the effort against Honduras including a screamer from range. In the 2016 Euros, he equalised with a scissors-kick against Poland. Two years later in Russia, he scored the winner against Serbia, against whom he again scored in the 2022 World Cup. And now, this.

It takes a lot to heal from a wound as physical as it was psychological that Germany’s 5-1 defeat had left on Scotland. Scotland showed early intent and were rewarded with a goal in the 13th minute. Like he does so often for Manchester United, McTominay fetched up to receive Callum McGregor’s cut-back after Billy Gilmour had sent Andrew Robertson on his way following a Switzerland corner-kick. McTominay’s shot should have been a regulation collection for Yann Sommer but for a big deflection from Switzerland’s Fabian Schar.

Like Shaqiri, McTominay can make runs into the penalty area. It gives him more goals than you would associate with a deep-lying midfielder; eight since Euro 2024 qualifiers began in March 2023 and 10 for Manchester United last season. In a match where both teams had chances and Hanley’s header, off a Robertson free-kick hit the upright, it fit that both scored.