Daily Archives: September 10, 2023
Bukayo Saka and Oleksandr Zinchenko starred in the standout match of the European Qualifiers yesterday. Gareth Southgate continued to use Harry Maguire in the heart of his defense, despite the fact that he’s no where close to full fitness or form, and the terrible Jordan Pickford remained between the sticks as well.
From an Arsenal perspective, Zinchenko started in midfield for Ukraine, with Vitaly Mykolenko playing left back and for England, Declan Rice played the anchor role alongside Jude Bellingham and Jordan Henderson, while Saka cut in from the right flank as expected. Eddie Nketiah didn’t even make the bench but was seen with the rest of the reserves on the pitch.
The match itself was very good, with end to end stuff on full display but it was Ukraine that drew first blood when Zinchenko arrived in the box in the right time to slot home Yukhym Konoplia’s cut back. Ben Chilwell was culpable for that goal as he didn’t see the Ukraine right back drift behind him before he executed the assist for the Zinchenko finish. England got their equalizer from the most unlikeliest of sources, with Kyle Walker drifting into the box and receiving a sumptuous pass from Harry Kane before toe poking the ball confidently into the net. That was Walker’s first England goal in 77 caps for his nation.
Saka had a very eventful game and was a constant thorn in the flesh of Mykolenko. There were even times when Zinchenko had to double up with Mykolenko to shove off the threat Saka posed. The Arsenal winger had three shots and two key passes to the attacking third before he was eventually substituted by Conor Gallagher.
England’s draw with Ukraine puts them in cruise control at Group C with the Three Lions sitting pretty at the top of the pile with 13 points, while Ukraine is in second place with seven. Italy remained in third place with four points after a poor showing against North Macedonia that ended in a draw.
Elsewhere, Leandro Trossard played 77 minutes for Belgium in the Kevin de Bruyne position, as they emerged as 1-0 winner against Azerbaijan. Yannick Carrasco scored the only goal for the Red Devils, playing from the left wing, but Trossard relished his creative role well, creating three chances and firing three shots, with one hitting the woodwork. With Carabao Cup and Champions League action coming soon, Trossard will be relishing his chances of featuring for Arsenal and I hope he puts up great performances like the one he did yesterday.
Speaking of performances, it’s looking like it might be the end of the road for Germany’s Hansi Flick as his team put up another horror show against Japan yesterday. Unless you’re living under a rock with no access to internet or cable TV, you would recall that Germany put up a very poor showing in the 2022 FIFA World Cup. They lost their first game to Japan and shared the spoils with Spain. This ensured that their win against Costa Rica wasn’t enough to secure qualification due to results elsewhere.
With Germany hosting Euro 2024, Flick and his team are automatic qualifiers, so they have been playing several friendlies against different nations all across the world to allow Flick apply some tactics and test some players. However, the results have been downright horrible.
- Germany 2-0 Peru
- Germany 2-3 Belgium
- Germany 3-3 Ukraine
- Poland 1-0 Germany
- Germany 0-2 Colombia
Then Takehiro Tomiyasu and his Japanese Blue Samurai came to Wolfsburg yesterday.
Yukinari Sugawara made mince meat of Nico Schlotterback before drilling a cut back that was converted by Junya Ito. Antonio Rudiger put Ito under immense pressure when the pass from Sugawara came through so there might have been a deflection that waltzed past Marc-Andre Ter Stegen in goal. Germany got the equalizer after some brilliant attacking play that saw captain, Ilkay Gundogan, tee up Florian Wirtz that set up a carefully-threaded ball for Leroy Sane that side-footed the ball home with his trusty left foot.
Junyo Ito turned from scorer to provider then he teed up Sugawara’s pass to Ayase Ueda’s path and the Japan No. 9’s one-time finish left Ter Stegen flat-footed to make it 2-1. Germany had a chance to equalize when Sane was sent through on goal by Serge Gnabry but Tomiyasu was on hand to make a superb block that ended up as a corner.
After 73 minutes, Flick decided that he had seen enough of Kai Havertz and yanked him off for Thomas Mueller. Havertz played as a center forward for Germany yesterday, and failed to register any shot for his nation, and created one chance. However, he won two tackles, made three recoveries and won 75 percent of his ground duels. He pretty much had good defensive numbers despite playing as a center forward.
With Germany going for broke to get an equalizer, Japan sealed the contest when Takefusa Kubo won the ball from Schlotterback further up the pitch and made a lung-bursting run to be one on one with Ter Stegen only to unselfishly pass the ball to ex-Gunner, Takuma Asano, that guided the ball to the empty net. Kubo put the icing on the well baked cake when he cut in from the right and swung an inch-perfect cross that was headed home by an unmarked Ao Tanaka.
These string of defeats will not help the confidence of the German side heading into the competition they are hosting, and Flick’s head might be on a spike sooner rather than later.
Most importantly, there were no injury concerns for the Gunners in action yesterday, unlike Gabriel Magalhaes that was a concern yesterday.
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