Ramblings on the International Break
After the disappointing defeat at Old Trafford, Arsene Wenger’s army were offered a breather as various members of the team journeyed around the globe representing their respective nations.
With places in next year’s World Cup up for grabs, several playoff matches across the various continent took place and many eyes, mine included, we’re firmly fixed on the crucial encounter between Portugal and Sweden. With forerunner or this year’s Ballon D’Or, Cristiano Ronaldo leading his charges and the mercurial Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the other end, the game promised much but the Portuguese star man made the telling contribution with a low header that was enough to hand Portugal the initiative ahead of tonight’s clash.
Elsewhere, Arsenal’s French contingent had a night to forget as the Ukrainians defeated them on their eight attempt with goals from Zozulya and Andriy Yarmolenko enough to put France to the sword. All Olivier Giroud could muster was a yellow card and Laurent Koscielny fared for worse as he had a hand in the final goal as well as a shameful red card to crown a bad day at the office for him.
On the bright side, Koscielny returns to North London unscathed and he definitely has the mental strength to overcome what has been a rather tumultuous international break for him. He has done was in the past – just think about his blatant penalties in the box, embarrassing own goals and of course, his infamous cock up with Szczesny in the 2011 Carling Cup final.
Speaking of Szczesny, the young Pole sat out his nations last friendly but he recently signed a new long term deal that would keep him for a very long while. Even if Szczesny probably signed his deal somewhere not far from the Emirates Stadium, there was some activity in Wembley as Chile came to town and they left with victory courtesy of a stellar performance from Alexis Sanchez.
Jack Wilshere managed to notch up 70 minutes or so and the Gunners would be hopeful that he will be packaged in a nice shiny red ribbon and sent back to the Gunners in one piece. A more sensible manager, Joachim Loew, has decided to send Manuel Neuer, Phillip Lahm and Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil back to their clubs for extended breather.
Aaron Ramsey also caught the epic flu of life so his manager with aid from the Welsh medical staff decided to give him a day off but he tweeted that he’d be okay for the Southampton game this weekend. Tomas Rosicky also played no part in the Czech’s game against Canada while the World Best striker, Nicklas Bendtner, played for an hour in Denmark Scandinavian derby win over Norway. The Dane has reiterated his desire to leave the club and everyone hopes for him to depart this winter so that the onus will be on Arsenal to buy a new striker.
Yesterday, I witnessed a pulsating friendly between my native Nigeria and the four-time world champions, Italy. The game had everything ranging from brilliant attacking displays to some stellar goalkeeping, from bail biting stuff to some enthralling end to end football. No time deserved to lose on the night and a draw was no less than they deserved for such a brilliant display of pulsating football and for what it’s worth, that wasn’t my definition of a ‘friendly’.
The final set of European fixtures take place tonight and all eyes would be on the French national team that’s on the brink of missing out on the soccer fiesta unless they somehow manage to score three goals against a Ukraine side known for their defensive prowess.
Unfortunately for France, there’s no Thierry Henry to use his hand to control the ball this time.