Man, does this interlull drag on. With only one country playing for anything of significance (France), we had to cross every appendage on our bodies (let’s keep it safe for work, shall we?) in hopes that no one would get hurt. Thankfully, all of those contortions on our part seem to have prevented any contusions or worse on the players’ parts. France pulled off a magnificent comeback on Ukraine, winning 3-0 to advance 3-2 on aggregate. Good for France. Better for Arsenal, no one seems to have been damaged. Here, then, is a quick run-down of how our lads represented their respective countries (keep in mind, players in this case earn high marks for not playing. The less they played, the higher they rated. Numbers, as a result, may feel a bit arbitary):
France (won 3-0 over Ukraine to qualify for the World Cup)
- Bacary Sagna (78′ for Debuchy)—8.31 Clearly vital to securing the clean sheet. The cameo earns the image.
- Laurent Koscielny—10.0: Was sent off in the first leg and had no choice but to rest. It is to be assumed that he dedicated himself to this task with aplomb.
- Olivier Giroud (82′ for Benzema)—7.0: Came on even after Benzema had scored. It’s almost as if Deschamps wanted to tweak Benzema just a bit. Back to Giroud himself, he did almost bag a goal for himself on a nifty little header, but it went over.
Germany (won 1-0 over England in a friendly):
- Per Mertesacker—6.73: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know he scored the game-winning goal (and could’ve had a second) and had a goal-saving tackle against Lallana (foreshadowing Saturday’s match?), but he played the full 90′. Silly man. Couldn’t he have “pulled” a hamstring after scoring?
- Mesut Özil—9.87: Did not play, having dedicated the previous several years of his career to tricking Joachim Löw that he is one of the more-established players. Löw said that Özil is “part of the absolute backbone of our team and for me, it is more important now to give other players a chance to prove themselves in these key positions”. Well played, Mesut; well played.
England (lost 0-1 to Germany in a friendly):
- Jack Wilshere (64′ for Cleverley)—6.93: He sat. He watched. He showed Cleverley who will be captain of the Three Lions before too long. He didn’t even do anything special other than being Jack Wilshere.
- Kieran Gibbs (53′ for Cole)—6.17: Not quite enough to show that he’s ready to displace Cole or Baines, but not a bad showing.
- Carl Jenkinson—7.93: Playing for the u21 squad, he scored his first-ever goal for England. Yes, it was San Marino, but a goal’s a goal. Good for him.
Belgium (lost 2-3 to Japan in a friendly):
- Thomas Vermaelen—8.11: Okay, so I’m breaking the pattern. Vermalaen played a full 90′, but he needs time on the pitch, so I’m not going to quibble. Yes, Belgium lost 2-3 to Japan, but it was a friendly, so….yeah.
Spain (lost 0-1 to South Africa in a friendly):
- Nacho Monreal—6.47: played a full 90′ against South Africa. What was he thinking?
- Santi Cazorla—7.11: came off the bench to play 45′ without doing much. On one hand, good to see him (and Monreal, for that matter) get some international experience and to get some more time on the pitch as he works his way back to match-fitness. On the other, meh.
Poland (0-0 draw with Ireland in a friendly):
- Wojciech Szczesny—7.37: played the full 90′ and kept a clean sheet, making some sharp saves while serving notice to Boruc ahead of Saturday’s Prem clash. Along similar lines, we may infer that Szczesny and Lewandowski chatted amiably. So there’s that.
That should do it. I apologize in advance if I overlooked a few, but my focus was on the regulars. There are a bigger fish to fry. We now have a few days to prepare for the Saints of Southampton. If nothing else, our lads return to London Colney hale and hearty, and with possible reinforcements. I’m not going so far as to say that a certain former Saint will be available (cough, cough, Walcott, cough), but it’s in the cards. We’ll take a closer look at the match in days to come. ‘Til then, thanks for your visit!