Howdy peeps – y’all good?

I had a lot of work meetings on yesterday and whilst I’m happy to have the game on in the background when it’s internal, having externals in and them occasionally hearing Clive Tyldesley’s voice in the background, is probably a step too far to be honest. It didn’t sound like I missed much for the first game of the day as Croatia failed to overcome Morocco, but the following game had a fair bit of interest to it, with Germany losing to Japan. That’s another shocker to add to the pile of this World Cup and whilst Belgium went full Man UNited at home to The Arsenal and totally skanked Canada in the evening game, what I took out of the opening matches so far is this:

There are quite a few international sides who didn’t impress me much.

(Stop singing Shania Twain in your head right this second).

I thought Germany looked really poor and if Canada could finish their dinner they’d have been out of sight against Belgium before halftime. That game in itself was a fascinating watch because Belgium have their superstars and big name players who have been together a while, but they looked like an old team with not much legs and running about them. Alderweireld is 33, Vertonghen is 35, Meunier is 31, Witsel is 33, De Bruyne is 31, Carrasco is 29, Hazard is 31, Batshuayi is 29 and the injured Lukaku is 29. That’s arguably nine players over or around the 30 mark and I think I heard one of the commentators last night say how they looked a little leggy. They really did and the youthful exuberance of Canada was too much for them to handle. It almost reminded me of an Arsenal side of four years ago playing against an Arsenal side today. Back then we stocked the team full of older and more experienced heads and whilst they had all ‘been there, seen it, done it’, the lack of pace and energy in our team at times was telling. Fast forward to today and we have a rapid, young and dynamic team who have already shown the difference that pace and power can add to your side if you sprinkle it throughout the team.

Based on yesterday I can’t see Belgium going all the way.

But then again, based on a lot of the first round games, I think we’d have a really random set of teams going through to the knockout stages, which is why I guess we have the group stages in the first place. Every dog can have its day, but from a FIFA – and to be fair most of the footballing world – perspective, you don’t want to have to watch a quarter final with two rubbish teams that have had a couple of lucky wins.

What I guess I’m trying to say here is that we should probably not look too much in to some of the shock results. I expect Argentina to beat Poland and Mexico and probably go through. I expect Denmark to beat Australia and maybe they might play a French team who will heavily rotate because they are already through, so that might play in to their favour. Japan beating Costa Rica is more than likely to happen given how shocking they were against Spain and if they do that then that might be enough to knock Germany out if they can’t beat the Spanish. That match there has basically become a knock out for the Germans after their defeat. If they beat Spain and Costa Rica they still might not have enough to go through, which shows why the Japanese ran on to the pitch like they did yesterday; they knew that it was potentially one of the biggest steps towards qualifying and given how good Spain looked yesterday, Germany must be wondering if they’ll be on the plane home a lot sooner than they think.

I wonder if Japan might end up being the dark horses in this competition, you know. I don’t think they’ll top the group, but if they finish second they’ll play the winners of Group F and that would be one of Belgium, Croatia or Canada I reckon. Each of those teams I think Japan would see as beatable and if they can get through them, you’re talking a quarter final and that’s where momentum kicks in. I dunno, I just have a feeling Japan might go deep in the competition. Not win it, but I think they might go deep. Especially with that former Arsenal ‘legend’ Takuma Asano around to bang the goals in. What a story, eh? I basically forgot he existed and then he pops up with a beauty like that? Fair play to him.

Today we have Brazil against Serbia and my hope is that we see what Martinelli can deliver, as he has been delivering all season. I’m sorry, but I’m not having Richarlison as being in better form and playing better than Gabriel Jesus, whilst Martinelli has been explosive on the wing. I’m sure even if they don’t start they’ll have an impact from the bench and I’d bet a shiny pound that they deliver more than Richarlison and Vicinius Jr when they are on. I am of course completely biased and I couldn’t give a monkey’s; our two Brazilians are better than the other options that are available and they should be given the chance to show it.

There’s nothing really else going on from an Arsenal perspective; Switzerland and Granit Xhaka play Cameroon and Partey’s Ghana line up against Portugal. I’m hoping for both players to just come out of it injury free, to be honest with you. We don’t want to see Partey go down once and I hope Cedric Soares has put a good word in amongst his fellow national team compatriots.

That’s me done for today. Catch you all tomorrow