ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland striker Haris Seferovic’s hat-trick in the remarkable 5-2 win over Belgium on Sunday was the latest episode in the career of a player who has experienced the highs and lows of football.
One year ago, the 26-year-old found himself languishing in the reserves at Benfica and his Switzerland career was also under threat after he was jeered off the field in Basel following a 0-0 draw at home to Northern Ireland in a World Cup qualifying playoff.
Although the Swiss scraped through 1-0 on aggregate to make it to Russia, a misfiring Seferovic almost cost them the tie with a series of glaring misses.
Yet, it was all very different on Sunday as he became the first player to score a hat-trick against Belgium since the 1986 World Cup and, in doing so, guaranteed the Swiss a place in the semi-finals of the UEFA Nations League in June.
“It’s a moment to enjoy,” he said. “It’s my first hat-trick and I hope it won’t be my last.”
Born near Lucerne — the scene of Sunday’s win — to Bosnian parents, Seferovic’s professional career had barely started when he made history.
In November 2009, he helped Switzerland win the under-17 World Cup in Nigeria, finishing as top-scorer in the tournament with five goals including the winner in the final against the hosts.
Two months later he was sold by Grasshoppers to Fiorentina, having made only three appearance for the Zurich club.
Although the move to Serie A seemed the chance of a lifetime, he was loaned out successively to Neuchatel Xamax, Novara and Lecce and played only 12 matches for Fiorentina themselves.
A move to Real Sociedad in 2013 got him more playing time and in same year he made his full debut for Switzerland — although that did not go down well with everyone as Bosnia striker Edin Dzeko criticised Seferovic for not choosing the Balkan country instead.
Having been included in the Swiss squad for the 2014 World Cup, Seferovic made a spectacular debut in the tournament when he was brought on as a substitute in their opening match against Ecuador and scored a stoppage time winner.
The same year, he moved to Eintracht Frankfurt where the roller-coaster ride continued.
He managed only three goals during the 2015-16 season as Frankfurt finished in the relegation playoff spot but all was forgotten when he scored the goal which ensured Bundesliga survival against Nuremberg.
Then came Euro 2016 where Seferovic failed to hit the target and made the headlines for some of the chances that went begging.
His club career continued with a move to Benfica in 2017 where he at one stage found himself shunted into the reserves — but having won back his place, he last month scored the winner in the Superclassico against Porto.
Throughout all of this, Swiss coach Vladimir Petkovic continued to show faith in a player who, for all the glaring misses, works tirelessly to track back, press defenders and create chances for his team mates.
“It’s a consequence of my observations,” said the Sarajevo-born coach of his decision to keep faith with the player.
“I see in every training session and every match, how valuable he is for us.”
Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge