Afternoon chaps, by the time you read this, the 2014 Brazilian World Cup will have started. The majority of the best players plying their trade will be present and the roller-coaster ride will give us some thrilling highs and gut-wrenching lows. Personally, I am saddened that the tropical climate will almost certainly rob us of seeing Jogi Low and his German bench wearing co-ordinated Cashmere sweaters, pastel shirts and tighter than normal trousers, but hopefully, the football on display will compensate.
But how will Arsenal’s representatives fare in Brazil? Here is my guide:
Joel Campbell – Costa Rica: Arsenal’s unseen on these shores loanee and a striker perhaps playing for an opportunity to finally play for his parent club, a whole three years after initially signing following a protracted, often (seemingly) farcical pursuit by the club. Campbell is the emerging great CONCACAF talent and his exploits last season for Olympiakos – where he won the Greek league – has projected him into the spotlight. Several clubs would gladly take him off of Wenger’s hands, although many Gooners would like to see him given a chance at Arsenal. In a hard group that includes England, Campbell will have to do well to make an impact. But if he does, expect him to either turn a healthy profit for Wenger, or cement his place in the ‘LANS’ category come August.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshire – England: Little introduction needed, and hopefully The Ox’s pre-tournament injury doesn’t affect his World Cup too much. Wilshere’s ability to soak up rough-housing and sportsmanship against England’s opponents will, I’m sure, be put fully to the test. Chamberlain, if fit, could find himself as one of the tournament’s brightest talents. His form against Ecuador, pre-injury, was electric and if England progress into the knockout rounds, he could really come into his own.
Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski – Germany: Low’s team are my tips for success, and Arsenal’s representatives are the spine of the side. Mertesacker should start at the back alongside Mats Hummels, Ozil is almost certainly going to be the main creative outlet – despite, in my eyes, quite ludicrous suggestions that he is out of form – and Podolski could be the main beneficiary of Reus’ cruel recent ankle injury, and start on the left. If Germany play like they have shown that they can, then expect a run to the semis at the very least. A solid defence and a fluid attack could be the winning formula, despite the stifling heat and humidity that the North of the country has in store.
Olivier Giroud, Bacary Sagna and Laurent Koscielny – France: Many people’s dark horses, this French side is perhaps more youthful and less experienced than past squads, but a positive mentality has been chosen over cap numbers this time around. Koscielny may not start at the back – Sakho appears to be favoured – but the soon to be ex-Gunner Sagna and Olivier Giroud will have key roles to play. A semi- final appearance shouldn’t be ruled out and this team could go the distance if they get a favourable draw in the knock-outs. Arsenal’s French talents are vital for this French squad.
Thomas Vermaelen – Belgium: Arsenal’s benched captain will, I suspect, use this tournament to put himself fully in the shop window. He is a member of arguably the best Belgian squad in a coupe, of generations and could very well top their group if Lukaku can link the attack like the injured Benteke would have done for the Red Devils. Vermaelen will either start at LCB or LB.
Santi Cazorla – Spain: Arsenal’s cheeky, smiling Spaniard will be lucky to start for Espana, but I fully expect him to be a very useful impact substitute. His versatility ensures that he’ll probably appear in every game at some point, and whilst the World Cup holders are unlikely – in my mind – to defend their title, I fully expect them to give it an almighty try, and their defensive record in recent knock-out rounds of major tournaments is little short of astonishing. Whether Costa is fit enough to provide the goals needed for a title push is debatable; Torres and Villa both have the look of players that time has caught up with, we shall certainly see. If Chile – who are my dark horses – and The Netherlands – if they turn up – play like they can, Spain could struggle to get out of their group. Cazorla will aid and assist where and when he can, and I’m sure the memory of his FA Cup final goal will ensure he is on cloud nine when their first game kicks off.
Park Chu-Young – South Korea: Okay, okay, he’s been released, but this World Cup will give Gooners a sight many won’t have seen – Park in action, on the pitch, and most likely, netting some goals. Park has a fine goal-scoring record for South Korea (24 goals/63 caps), and the Koreans are likely to progress from a reasonably straight-forward group if he can demonstrate his pedigree. Expect a second round showing for the oft-forgotten Park, but I’d be surprised if he threatened the top-goal-scorer standings.
Of course, there could be some future Arsenal players on show during this tournament; Stefan Schwarz was signed shortly after gallantly representing Sweden during USA ’94, Nelson Vivas was snapped up after France ’98 after appearing for Argentina, plus Thierry Henry was signed (a fair bit after, mind) after his emergence in the same tournament. Four years on, the relatively unknown Gilberto Silva was quickly employed by The Gunners after quietly starring for Brazil in the Far East during Japan/South Korea ’02. William Gallas was signed after Germany ’06 – appearing in every French match and another French defender, Sébastien Squillaci, was added to the squad after playing for his country during South Africa ’10. Rumored Arsenal transfer targets David Ospina, Edison Cavani, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luis Muriel, Serge Aurier, Alexis Sanchez, Antoine Griezmann, Karim Benzema and Pedro will all be on show for their countries this summer; who knows if any will pull on the famous red and white once their international duties are completed…
Personally, I am looking forward to seeing Neymar Jr’s performances whilst shouldering the host nation’s hopes, Pogba’s monumental attempt to further belittle Sir Alex Ferguson’s waning vision – the folly of his past reluctance to play him when Manchester Utd were deplete in midfield appears as clear as day, and I’d also like to see just how well Colombia – who I thought should do well – cope without Falcao’s striking genius leading their attack – do in their home continent.
Arsene Wenger will be there with French television, no doubt scouting a few talents and hoping no other club comes in for them. He could, of course, just pay the asking fee…
Thanks for reading