Thursday, 12 June 2014

Arsenal Players At The World Cup

The World Cup begins this Thursday and there are 11 Arsenal players appearing for six different countries at it. I'm going to attempt to take a look at how those players and their countries might fare over the next month. 

Of all the countries with Arsenal players in their squad Spain probably have the best chance of lifting the trophy. They play in Group B with The Netherlands, Chile and Australia and they're the reigning World and European champions. Their group is far from easy with the Netherlands and Chile both capable of playing very good football and hoping to progress beyond the group stages. Australia aren't a bad side but they will struggle to get anything out of three very tough games.

Santi Cazorla is the sole Arsenal representative in the Spanish squad with Nacho Monreal not making the cut. Cazorla will do well to get into a star studded Spainish team, but he should see some action on occasions. There's every chance Spain will retain the trophy, but it won't be easy for a team which is ageing just a bit and has to play in a far from easy climate. I think Spain have a chance to win the tournament but the chances are they won't.

Next up is Germany who have a host of top class players in their squad and have to be considered as genuine contenders too. They play in Group G along with Portugal, Ghana and the United States and despite being favourites to top the group it will be a far from easy task. Both Portugal and Ghana stand a very good chance of making it through to the next phase, but the United States won't find it easy against those three teams.

Germany have three Arsenal players in their squad and all three should see plenty of action throughout the tournament. Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil are regulars in the team with Lukas Podolski often contributing from the bench. Podolski has played over 100 times for Germany and has scored almost 50 goals for them despite only turning 29 last week. 

Germany have some fantastic attacking options, but they will need to tighten up their defence if they're going to have any hope of winning the World Cup. Ozil could be a real star of the tournament if things go Germany's way and Podolski only needs one more goal to become the third highest scorer in history for Germany. I can't see Germany winning the World Cup but reaching the semi finals certainly isn't a task which is beyond them.

Group H contains a much fancied Belgium team along with Algeria, Russia and South Korea. Belgium were very good in their qualifying group and have a lot of very good players available to them. Their group isn't the toughest one by a long shot and they should be more than capable of making it through to the next stage. 

Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen is a mainstay of the Belgian defence despite being out of favour with his club and he might just see the World Cup as a bit of a shop window if he decides his future lies elsewhere next season. Belgium have never won the World Cup and it would be great to see another country lift the trophy, but I think they might be a little short of experience when it comes to the crunch. If I had to pick a team I'd like to see win it would be Belgium, but maybe the last eight will be as far as they go.

In Group E France will go head to head with Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras and they have to be favourites to progress. They might not be the force they were a few years ago, but they still have some decent players and will hope to put up a good performance. They must have the easiest group to qualify from, but they will have to perform a lot better than they did at the last World Cup to even get out of their group. 

There are three Arsenal players in the French squad with Laurent Koscielny the one most likely to be a permanent fixture in the team. Olivier Giroud will get his fair share of game time too, but he has a lot of competition for the main striking role in the team. Bacary Sagna should be the first choice right back and he's still an Arsenal player for the moment despite letting it be known he will ply his trade elsewhere next season.

I would be surprised if France didn't make it out of their group, but after that they could find it difficult in the knockout stages and a quarter final might be as far as they go. There's a feeling among some Arsenal fans that Giroud could be the top scorer in the tournament with France having a relatively easy group, but I don't think he's prolific enough despite who the opposition are and he might not play in every game either.

England play in Group D with Uruguay, Costa Rica and Italy and the two Arsenal players in the England squad might just get to play against their club team mate in the Costa Rican side. Both Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have had their problems with injuries with Wilshere only just recovering in time to make the squad and Chamberlain now doubtful to play after picking up a knock last week. The chances are Wilshere won't be a first choice pick at this World Cup, but Chamberlain might make an impact if he can recover from his injury.

It's a very tough group and England will have to be at their very best to make it through to the knockout stages. Both Italy and Uruguay will feel they have enough to finish in the first two places in the group and England will have an uphill task to finish ahead of either of them. It's a task that's not beyond them though and if they do make it out of the group a quarter final spot would be seen as not a bad performance from them.

There's not too much expected of Costa Rica at this World Cup, but they might just have enough about them to cause at least one surprise. Arsenal's Joel Campbell will get the chance to show what he can do on an international stage as he did on loan at Olympiacos last season. He could end up an Arsenal player in the future if he returns from his various loan spells and forces his way into the manager's plans. 

The chances are Costa Rica will finish last in the group, but Campbell has enough about him to cause a few problems for the other teams at times. I'm sure they would love to beat one of the three big teams in the group, but they would probably be happy to take a point off one of them and affect the outcome of the group.

All in all there's every chance of 10 Arsenal players still being involved in the quarter final stages to provide that little bit of extra interest for Arsenal fans. It would be great to see one of them lifting the trophy, but the chances are it will go to a South American team with Brazil and Argentina the most likely candidates. Spain can't be discounted and maybe even Germany too if they can defend a little better.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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