World Cup 2018 - Day 14 at a glance
Brazil and Germany are both looking to secure their progression into the knockouts
Xherdan Shaqiri can inspire Switzerland into the last-16 of the World Cup. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty
ONE TO WATCH
It is hard to believe the Xherdan Shaqiri who so often cut a frustrated and isolated figure as a dismal Stoke City side were relegated from the Premier League, is the same player as the one whose last gasp heroics have put Switzerland on the brink of qualification into the last-16. The stocky 26-year-old forward is an enigma - a footballer who can look distinctly average one day before taking on the world the next. His mercurial talents are not in doubt, but his ability to exhibit them on a weekly basis is - hence why he tumbled into the Championship with the Potters last season.
However, Shaqiri is far more consistent at international level, with an impressive return of 21 goals in 72 caps. That includes a hat-trick against Honduras at the 2014 World Cup, and then his stunning late winner against Serbia last Friday. With the game in Kaliningrad heading for a tense draw, Shaqiri broke free on halfway, holding his nerve to slip the ball past Vladimir Stojkovic and give the Swiss a crucial 2-1 win. If the ruthless Shaqiri turns up against Costa Rica on Wednesday his side could potentially top Group E ahead of Brazil, providing them with the platform to progress beyond the last-16 of a major tournament for the first time since 1954.
Serbia’s World Cup began brightly with a 1-0 win over a spirited Costa Rica side, Aleksandar Kolarov’s free-kick proving the difference in Samara. And they looked set for qualification to the last-16 thanks to Aleksandar Mitrovic’s early goal against Switzerland, only for Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri to leave them needing a result against Brazil on Wednesday night in order to progress to the knockouts. However, a point will only be enough for Serbia if Costa Rica improbably beat Switzerland by more than one goal in Nizhny Novgord - meaning three points against the Selecao is a must.
Beating Brazil is a big ask, but one player who can help plot the downfall of the five-time winners is Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. The 23-year-old enjoyed a fine season for AS Lazio - scoring 15 goals in 48 appearances from midfield - attracting the attention of a number of Europe’s big-guns in the process. He has started Serbia’s first two group games, earning just his fifth and sixth international caps in the process - expect him to pick up any more.
DID YOU KNOW?
If Serbia are searching for a good omen ahead of their clash with Brazil, they need look no further than the final of the 2015 Under-20 World Cup for inspiration.
Milinkovic-Savic was part of a Serbia side who stunned Gabriel Jesus’s Brazil side in Auckland, winning 2-1 after extra-time.