Tuesday, February 7, 2023

World Cup round-up: Laporte Shkodrans Spain, Xhaka out to smash

Morning all, hope you had a nice weekend.

Yesterday’s football saw Germany come back from a goal down to draw 1-1 with Spain, the strike from Werder Bremen’s Niclas Fullkrug a late salvation and from quite an unexpected source. The 29 year old only made his debut for the national team a few weeks ago, scoring in a 1-0 friendly win over Oman, so to rock up and equalise with just a few minutes to go in such important context is quite something.

Watching replays of the goal again, there’s a careless giveaway from Aymeric Laporte which the Germans take full advantage of, and the Man City man goes full Mustafi when the ball hits the net. Jumping up and down and waving his arms around in frustration like it had nothing to do with him – it’s very funny, and hopefully he continues to Shkodran his way through the Premier League season when we get going again. Maybe I’m being harsh and it was just frustration with himself, but it didn’t look like that.

To Shkodran: The act of making a mistake but then blaming somebody else for it.

Earlier, Costa Rica had surprisingly beaten Japan, so there was real peril for Germany. They did ‘score’ in the first half but Rudiger’s header was ruled out for offside. And really the quality of Spain’s two young midfielers, Pedri and Gavi, was the story of this game for me. They are 20 and 18 respectively, and when you consider the experience of their opposition in that area of the pitch it’s basically ridiculous how good they look. To play with control and assurance at that age is hard to get your head around, but the Barcelona Academy has produced players like this before (even if both of them were brought in from elsewhere at a young age). We had one ourselves, so I guess it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.

There was no Takehiro Tomiyasu for Japan, a slight concern given he’d surely be a starter if he was fully fit. Let’s hope the injury issues aren’t too serious and he can take part in the game against Spain, which could now have a significant impact on the group. You’d fancy Germany to beat Costa Rica without too much trouble, but if Japan get something from Spain, we get into goals scored territory to decide things. As it stands, all four sides can qualify and the more groups we have like that the better.

Canada’s World Cup is over, beaten 4-1 by Croatia despite a great start in which they scored one of the most visually pleasing goals of the tournament so far. The touch in midfield, the cross, the timing of Alphonso Davies’ run, jump and header – ooof, just lovely. But they found the going tough and perhaps defensively they were just a bit off the pace which played a part in a couple of the goals. I imagine they’ll have real regrets about that opening game when they really should have beaten Belgium. It wasn’t just the missed penalty, they failed to turn their dominance on the night into goals and ultimately that cost them.

Today there’s Arsenal interest in a couple of the games. Thomas Partey will play for Ghana as they face South Korea, while Granit Xhaka’s Switzerland will play Brazil for whom our two Gabriels will probably start on the bench. There are some quotes from Xhaka doing the rounds:

“We were joking before the World Cup to come here and of course; it is always good if you have teammates opposite you, but we are professional footballers, and for 90 minutes. I told Gabi Martinelli and Gabi Jesus if you are running one on one against our goalkeeper, I will smash you!

“Of course, they were worried. They know me. If I smash you, it will be very, very hard.”

No doubt slightly tongue in cheek, the usual kind of training ground stuff that goes on, but please Granit, no smashing. Make this one a smash free zone. Or if you must smash, smash someone else who might be playing for one of our rivals perhaps and thus render them smashed for their return to England. If it takes them some time to become unsmashed, that’s fine by me, but zero Gabi-smashing if you don’t mind.

Right, let’s leave it there for this morning. James and I recorded Arsecast Extra number 500 for you yesterday, so if you haven’t had a chance to listen, it’s there for you below. Thanks to all of you for helping us reach this milestone too!

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