Home » Shaqiri made history at Euro 2024 with a goal only he could have scored

Shaqiri made history at Euro 2024 with a goal only he could have scored

Shaqiri made history at Euro 2024 with a goal only he could have scored

When Xherdan Shaqiri signed for Chicago Fire in 2022, he was supposed to be a transformational signing.

After all, he was the highest paid player in Major League Soccer at the time, guaranteed to earn at least $8.15million (£6.4m a current rates) a year. Two play-off appearances since 2010 isn’t ideal; terrible, in fact. The Fire were looking for the man who won the league title in the first six seasons of his career, with Basel in Switzerland and then Bayern Munich in Germany, to lift them up to the levels they reached in the 2000s.

It hasn’t quite turned out that way.

Shaqiri has scored a few goals but he’s been maddeningly inconsistent. This season he has two in 12 appearances and hasn’t been a certain starter. Is it a coincidence that his club have drawn two and won two since he joined up with the Switzerland squad for the European Championship, after winning just two of the games he did play? Possibly. But they clearly haven’t been damaged by his absence.

Still, maybe some players are just much more suited to international football.

Shaqiri was a surprise selection for Switzerland’s second Euro 2024 game against Scotland, a 1-1 draw on Wednesday. It was the second big call in two games that Swiss coach Murat Yakin had made: he selected, almost from nowhere, Kwadwo Duah, for the opener against Hungary and was rewarded with a goal after just 12 minutes.


The Briefing: Scotland 1 Switzerland – Shaqiri’s stunner, own goal confusion, Tierney’s agony

Duah having impressed so much, it was then equally surprising that Shaqiri replaced him for the Scotland game. But again, Yakin was rewarded. And the really gratifying thing for the manager, who was under some pressure before the tournament, is that neither man would have been able to score the other’s goal.

Duah used his pace to zip behind the Hungary defence and find the net on Saturday but that wasn’t happening with Shaqiri, whose movement these days is… a little more selective. But equally there was no chance that Duah would have scored the goal Shaqiri did, pinging the ball into the top corner of the top corner after Scotland wing-back Anthony Ralston had presented the ball to him about 25 yards from goal.


(Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images)

And in fairness to Duah, it wasn’t just him.

“I don’t know how many other players would have been able to score that goal,” said Yakin after the game. “But he’s got so much confidence and ability he was able to just hit it.”

His opposite number, Scotland coach Steve Clarke, agreed. “If that chance falls to any other player in the Swiss team, that’s not a goal,” he said. “So that tells you what I think of Shaqiri. 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.”

Shaqiri was selected as a false nine, and spent most of his time on the pitch dropping deep to create space for Switzerland’s more mobile players to move into, but actually he wouldn’t have been able to score the goal had he not been standing in the centre-forward spot.

And standing is the operative word. He doesn’t move very much these days, not dynamically at least. But you don’t really need to move very far if you can hit strikes as sweetly as that.

It wasn’t just a brilliant goal: it was an historic one. Shaqiri is one of seven Major League Soccer players at Euro 2024 (if you count Olivier Giroud, who hasn’t yet played a game for LAFC), but when that ball arced just inside the post against Scotland, Shaqiri became the first MLS player to score in a European Championship game. In fact, he’s the first player from a North or South American club to score at Europe’s big jamboree.

That wasn’t all. Shaqiri laughed rather bashfully after the game when it was pointed out that he is in a select club of four to have scored at three Euros and three World Cups. (Miroslav Klose, Jurgen Klinsmann and Cristiano Ronaldo are the others. Not bad company.)

Does this tell us something about MLS? There is a temptation to apply additional meaning to a moment like that. One in the eye for those that write MLS off, look at the quality that exists there.

That might be true, but it also might just be true that some players are just more comfortable with their national team. Which isn’t really a surprise: Shaqiri made his international debut in 2010, and this was his 124th cap and 32nd goal. Only Granit Xhaka has played more. Only three players have scored more.

He just looks so much more at home in a Swiss shirt. It’s like a comfort blanket, designed by Puma. “We’re always good as a collective,” he said after the game. “Everyone goes to their highest performance level.”


Shaqiri scores for Switzerland (Jan Fromme/firo sportphoto/Getty Images)

A harsh assessment of his club career is that Shaqiri hasn’t really been a relevant player since 2018, the last time he was anything close to a regular for Liverpool. Since then he had a brief, unsuccessful spell with Lyon in France, before moving to Chicago in 2022.

But he’s always there for the Swiss, even if he doesn’t always start. His role in the team was the subject of much debate before this game, and before the tournament, and there were some that doubted he should have been in Germany at all.

There were certainly plenty of others ahead of him in the pecking order. Duah, for one. Zeki Amdouni another. Breel Embolo, despite returning from a knee injury that had kept him out for most of last season with Monaco, was probably a better bet to start. It felt like, in Yakin’s 3-4-3 system, that there wasn’t a place for him: not a natural centre-forward, not quick enough to play on the wings, not reliable enough to play in midfield.

But Yakin knows that something happens with Shaqiri and Switzerland. Particularly at international tournaments.

“Hopefully,” Shaqiri said, when asked if he would still be around to score at the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico. “But this is very far away to think about, my friend. I’m just looking forward to the next game.”

And with that, he was gone. But as long as he’s in a Swiss shirt, he’ll be back.

(Top photo: Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images)