Reviewing the World Cup from an Arsenal Perspective
After one month of non-stop exhilarating football action, the world’s greatest football competition has come to an end in the most dramatic fashion – a Mario Gotze goal that waltzed past Sergio Romero before he realized where the ball was. With 171 goals scored, this World Cup equaled the goals that were banged in France 98′ and it can be attributed to the mauling the Germans handed to Brazil in their own turf.
Germany began the tournament with the decimation of Portugal and this was followed with a feisty contest with Ghana. After narrowing past the United States, the Germans received a slight scare when they locked horns with a vibrant and energetic Algerian side. The quarterfinals saw Germany edge past France before destroying the host nation in the semis. The final game was always going to be nervy encounter but all it took was a strike in extra time to hand the Germans their first international trophy sicne Euro 96.
In recent times, Germany has come pretty close to winning silverware but unfortunately, there have been a lot of near misses for Die Mannshaft – losing in the 2002 World Cup finals to Brazil, a third place finish in the World Cup the nation hosted in 2006, losing to Spain in the Euro 2008 final, another third place finish in the 2010 World Cup and a semifinal berth in Euro 2012. With that kind of consistency, they were going to get rewarded for their good works.
In the 2014 World Cup, Arsenal like every other football club, had its own contingent that represented their nations. Some Gunners performed admirably giving themselves a tourney to remember while others failed to move past first gear.
Johan Djourou may have switched his footballing allegiance to Hamburg SV but at the start of the World Cup, he was a Gunner. He featured consistently for his country and he played in all the four games the Swiss featured in the course of the tournament.
While he was immense in the game against Argentina when the Swiss lost with a solitary goal, Djourou reached his nadir when Switzerland played France and alongside ex-Gunner, Phillippe Senderos, he had a game to forget.
Joel Campbell was one player everyone had a keen eye on at the start of the tournament and after his goal against Uruguay many Arsenal fans set their sights on his progress in the course of the tournament. However, as the games went on for Costa Rica, Campbell’s performances somewhat dwindled and he was always targeted by the opposition.
Costa Rica went on to top a group that had three world champions and they showed how penalties were meant to be played when they took on Greece in the Round of 16. However, lightening didn’t strike twice as they lost on penalties to the Netherlands. Campbell has returned to the club this season and many feel that he might be on his way on loan again.
Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were called up by Roy Hodgson for the tournament but surprisingly, Wilshere turned out to be a bit-part player in the tournament as he lost his place to Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson. England were shambolic in the World Cup but Wilshere managed to get some game time in the dead rubber clash against Costa Rica.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain struggled with injuries and he didn’t feature in any game. I hope his injury problems are now behind him because with Campbell and the “new signing” arriving at the club, he may be further down the pecking order but you may never know.
Thomas Vermaelen struggled to hold down a first team berth at the club last season, and it affected his performances on international level as he lost his place in the central defense to Daniel van Buyten and the left full back position to Jan Verthongen. He finally got to feature against Russia but it was a familiar tale as injury struck the Arsenal skipper yet again.
There has been some speculation on Vermaelen’s future linking him with a shock move to Manchester United and with the World Cup over, I’m sure that speculation would gain momentum and we will see how things pan out.
Olivier Giroud, Bacary Sagna and Laurent Koscielny were first team regulars at Arsenal last season but in Didier Deschamps infinite wisdom, they weren’t good enough to command a first team place.
With Mamadou Sakho and Raphael Varane being Deschamps’ first choice pairing, Kos managed a couple of meager appearances while Giroud managed to start (and score) against Switzerland. Bacary Sagna spent a considerable chunk of his World Cup campaign on the bench, as he lost his place to Matt Debuchy, a player touted to replace him at Arsenal.
Alexis Sanchez, yes, the Gunner, was a class act in the tournament for Chile scoring two goals against Australia and Brazil. He wowed the crowd with his dazzling moves and brilliant off the ball movement, making him a very difficult player to mark.
Chile was touted to be eliminated from a group that had the Netherlands and Spain but the South Americans 2-0 win over the defending champions was the final nail in their coffin. However, Sanchez was made to rue his missed spot kick in the Round of 16 as Chile crashed out of the tournament.
In a country with a vast amount of talent like Spain, one must wonder how unfortunate Santi Cazorla is, as he cannot secure a first team spot for his nation. Spain was humiliated in their first game against the Netherlands and they became the first team to be eliminated from the tournament after losing to Chile.
At least, Cazorla got some game time in the dead rubber fixture against Australia where the Spaniards managed to salvage some pride.
Finally, Arsenal’s World Cup winning trio, Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski played their respective roles for their nation with Ozil getting the most game time from the aforementioned trio. Mertesacker began the group stage fixtures but he saw himself on the fringes in the knockout stage. As for Podolski, it was a familiar feeling as he resumed his benchwarming duties.
At least, these Gunners can take some pride in the fact that they are world champions, which means that another medal has been added to their mini cabinets. This would be placed alongside the FA Cup winner’s medal they won in May.
Here’s to a great tournament.
Time to focus on club football, transfer madness and of course, another shot at winning a trophy – the Community Shield.
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