Late Drama at the British Derby and Arsenal Linked with Gotze
The game was what we hoped for as both England and Wales battled hard to get a firm grasp of Group B. As I predicted yesterday, there were starts for Hal Robson-Kanu and Joe Ledley after their performance against Slovakia but Wily Ol’ Woy Hodgson stuck to his guns and featured the same squad that was disappointing against Russia on matchday 1.
The game was somewhat cagey at the start with Aaron Ramsey being a handful to the English side but the game sprung to life when Gareth Bale blasted in a free kick from an eternity away and the ball breezed past a hapless Joe Hart. The Manchester City goalie got a hand to the ball but it was not strong enough as the Welsh side went into halftime with a precious lead.
Hodgson responded with immediate effect as he chopped off the disappointing duo of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling for Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge. The changes proved their weight in gold as Vardy reacted quickly from a terrible Ashley Williams header to poke the ball past Wayne Hennessey, leveling the game. Many can complain that Vardy was miles offside but the ball came off a Welsh player, not his teammate. Rules are rules.
Ledley suffered what looked like a calf injury and was replaced by Dave Edwards. Shortly afterwards, Robson-Kane was shipped away for Jon Williams, as he couldn’t replicate the heroics of the first game. Just when we thought that the battle of Britain was going to end in a stalemate, Dele Alli showed some quick feet and he teed up Sturridge who controlled the ball superbly before firing it past Hennessey. On a second look, you would have felt that the goalie should have done better but these things happen.
England take control of the group with four points, making their game against Slovakia a 6-pointer.
After the England game, Ukraine and Northern Ireland kicked off Group C. With both teams losing their first games, there was the reality at the back of their minds that any team that lost today would join Albania out of the tournament. Following a goalless first half, West Brom’s Gareth McAuley opened the scoring but the contest was settled by Niall McGinn.
The final game of the day saw Germany take on Poland and it was set to be an interesting encounter, bearing in mind that the Poles drew some blood off the Germans in the qualifiers. Joachim Loew replaced Skhodran Mustafi with a fit-again Mats Hummels but it took a dominant defensive display from Hummels and his Jerome Boateng to mop up everything the Poles threw at them. There were moments when Germany let their guard down but Ajax’s Arkadiusz Milik showed his nervousness as he missed a couple of sitters.
Mesut Ozil had one sniff at goal when he fired a one-timed shot that was goal-bound but his former Arsenal teammate, Lukasz Fabianski, palmed the ball over the bar. In the end, both teams shared the spoils and it throws the group wide open as Germany and Poland will be hoping to get the points they need to finish top.
Elsewhere, there was a German player we have some keen focus on, as the Sun is reporting that Arsenal is linked with a £27m bid for German midfield maestro, Mario Gotze. The midfielder began his career in Borussia Dortmund and flourished under the tutelage of Jurgen Klopp, leading them to successive Bundesliga and DFB Pokal titles. When Bayern Munich activated Gotze’s release clause of €37m in 2013, he was the most expensive German player of all time but that record was later broken by Mario Gotze.
He enjoyed a good start to his Bayern Munich career, reaching double figures for goals in his two seasons, but he found games hard to come by last season, much to his disappointment. Gotze is a player that can benefit from playing in a club like Arsenal due to his technical brilliance as a player.
Let’s see how that pans out.
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