10 June 2014

World Cup Watch: Gunners in Action Pt. 2


Placed in dubious Group D along with Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica, England will begin its World Cup action with a marquee matchup vs. Italy on June 14th. Roy Hodgson's side includes the Arsenal midfield duo of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere, each of whom will play a crucial role for England if they are to advance. And it really is incredibly difficult to predict which teams will advance from this group; Uruguay, Italy and England have a combined total of seven World Cups and ten world titles, as well as a myriad of star players, which means that at least one star-studded squad will be excluded from the knockout stages of the competition.

Arsenal midfield duo Super Jack and the Ox
Credit: Flickr
England have looked less-than-stellar in their World Cup tune ups, most recently playing a ten-man Honduras to a scoreless draw amidst lightening storms in Miami. Before that, the English side drew Ecuador 2-2, a match that resulted in Oxlade Chamberlain's knee injury after clashing with Carlos Gruezo. Fortunately for England, the Ox was in training in a protective knee brace yesterday going through some pretty strenuous conditioning training. Although he will miss the opener against Italy, he could be fit to face Uruguay in England's second group match. If our revered Ox can get back to full fitness, he will be a part of the young English core that the team's success depends on.

If Super Jack Wilshere can get a spot in Roy Hodgson's starting eleven, he has the potential to form an excellent partnership alongside Steven Gerrard in the center of the English midfield. Not only does Wilshere know how to control the pace of the game, he is an absolute workhorse and will provide defensive coverage while also contributing offensively with his excellent field vision and offensive creativity. Some recent Squakwa stats show that statistically he competes with the best on the team, tied with Stevie G at 86% pass completion over the Premier League season (right behind fellow English midfielder Henderson), and second to Gerrard in successful passes per game. He also leads the team in lowest number of losing tackles. Wilshere's success in this World Cup is of the utmost importance for the future of the English national team, and could put him on the right path towards having an extremely successful (and hopefully injury-free) Premier League season for the Arsenal in 2014/2015 as well.


The Spanish legend (and not-so-secret love of my life) Santi Cazorla was the only Arsenal man to make Vicente del Bosque's side. Simply managing to make the final cut for Spain in the midfield position is a phenomenal feat that deserves tons of recognition, for the roster includes the likes of Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Koke and others (if Sergio Busquets was included in the side and Santi wasn't I would probably write Del Bosque personally to express my anger and disbelief, not that they even play remotely similar roles in the midfield).

The midfield maestro Santi Cazorla in action for the Gunners
Credit: Ronnie Macdonald

Spain will face the Netherlands in a 2010 final rematch in the opening match of this year's competition on June 13th believe it or not, and are also joined by Chile and Australia in Group B. It is truly difficult to find any weaknesses or flaws in the Spanish side, who are likely to come out on top of Group B and face the runner up of Group A, which will be one of Cameroon, Croatia or Mexico. A second round win could see La Furia Roja facing the likes of Italy in the quarterfinals (as you can tell, I'm quite keen on seeing Spain win another World Cup unless the USA can pull off a miracle and upset them in the semifinals...).

The little midfield maestro Cazorla featured in Spain's 2-0 friendly win over El Salvador, playing 45 minutes. He will most likely play a secondary role behind Iniesta, Xavi and David Silva, but Santi has the potential to provide yet another attacking option for the Spanish side off the bench.


Joel Campbell
Joel Campbell, who spent this past season out on loan at Olympiacos, will be looking to make waves in Brazil and spark Arsene Wenger's attention despite the fact that it will be difficult for his side to come away with any points at all in Group D (vs. Uruguay, Italy and England). Costa Rica's opening match is against Uruguay on June 14th. Most recently, Campbell played 86 minutes in a friendly vs. the Republic of Ireland that resulted in a 1-1 draw.

We've all had Campbell on our minds since watching him slot one in for Olympiacos against Manchester United in the UEFA Champion's League, and Costa Rica will be counting on the Gunner to play a big role and put a few away for his country if they hope to get any points in group play. He is a young talent with a lot of skill and pace and evident shooting ability, and a solid performance on the world stage could perhaps impress Le Professeur enough to give him a chance with the Arsenal.


John Djourou, who spent the 2013/2014 season out on loan at Hamburg, rounds out our Gunners in action as the sole Arsenal man to suit up for the Swiss. Switzerland are ranked 6th in the FIFA World Rankings, and will open up group play against Ecuador on June 15th. They find themselves in an interesting group in Group E, which includes Ecuador, Honduras, and the aforementioned French Gunners, and look likely to finish second in the group. Their qualifying campaign ended with an impressive 7-0-3 record, and they are confident entering the tournament. Many will remember their 1-0 upset over Spain in the opener of the 2010 World Cup, which serves as a reminder that the Swiss are not to be taken lightly.

Although he probably won't find a place in Switzerland's starting eleven, Djourou did play 86 minutes in a 1-1 draw vs. the Republic of Ireland, and a full 90 in a 1-0 win over Jamaica. The starting Swiss defense will most likely include Rodriguez, Lichsteiner, Schar and Von Bergen.

Johan Djourou
Credit: Ronnie Macdonald

Best of luck to all of our Gunners in action, and also to our USA boys who I believe will surprise the world. Only two days to go. COYG!

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