Morning campers, hope you’re all feeling fine, as we approach the first weekend in December which for me is Christmas decorations time!

It seems as though the World Cup is leaning in to the craziness too, because yesterday we got another batch of evening games in which things swung hither and thither and I’ll be honest with you, I was utterly captivated by it all. I have a family connection with Germany so I of course wanted them to go through, but even with that connection I couldn’t help but be happy for the Japanese on full time, because I did not believe for a second that they would be going through ahead of the games yesterday. And when both Germany and Spain went ahead, which meant both of the bigger nations were in charge of the group, I thought it would be a ‘death by a thousand cuts’ kind of game that Spain would inflict on the Japanese.

So I went for a quick halftime walk. I thought i’d be back just in time for the second half and just as I was a few hundred yards from my house I walked by the pub and sure enough, Japan had equalised! So I got back in, dumped all of my jacket and other stuff, then settled down to watch to see if the game could actually be moderately interesting.

Boy, was it. I didn’t expect the Japanese to go ahead and at one stage of the evening I certainly didn’t expect both Germany and Spain to be going out of the World Cup after Costa Rica went ahead. That truly would have been some sort of early Christmas miracle. But as we all know, it was never going to last and Germany quickly put pay to that particular group mentalness. But the fact that – even for a few seconds, it was possible that those two teams could go out, was enough to make me think what a World Cup of shocks it has been! Ultimately it was never going to end like that but the fact that Japan alone went through is a massive upset. The only shame for them is the fact that their reward for topping the group is to have to play Croatia, whereas Spain get the easier draw against Morocco, after the African’s despatched with Canada and left egg on the faces of Belgium to knock the ageing Belgian ‘Golden Generation’ out.

Honestly though, if there’s a ‘big team’ in this competition that deserve it the most, it is Belgium, because every time I watched them they looked leggy, uninspiring, ageing and were second best in most of their games. They looked every bit their age; like one of those retired ex-pro ‘Masters’ teams who do the five-a-sides in Wembley Arena as exhibition matches. They didn’t deserve to go through in any way, shape, or form and regardless of if they’d have scraped the group stages, there’s no way they’d have got beyond the Round of 16 based on the way they had been playing in this tournament.

Morocco, however, deserve some kudos, because few would have put them as the group leaders come the third group stage match. But they are undefeated! That will, of course, end in the next round and Spain will be considering themselves very fortunate, because I think they sweep aside Morocco and then they’ll have one of Ghana or Portugal in the round after that I reckon, who neither of which have looked like they’d blow anyone away so far to me. That’s a pretty tidy route to the semi final for Spain and as a result of yesterday’s defeat I reckon they might be one of the favourites to get to at least the semi’s or the final at this rate. The game yesterday will have been a disappointment for them but they have the quality of players to recover from that and in most World Cups the winning team usually has at least one blip before they go on to win it.

As for the Arsenal connection, well, you have to be happy for Takehiro Tomiyasu. He’s been battling his fitness for a while now and as a result has only managed to be a sub coming on for most of these games. But he played very well and defended excellently against the likes of Fati when he came on and I wonder if he’ll be in line for a start for the next game. It was probably expected that Japan would go out of the group stages so for him to get another shot at minutes in this World Cup will be good for him I reckon.

Today my gut feel tells me Ghana and Portugal go through today in Group H, because I think Ghana have the beating of Uruguay, but Portugal versus South Korea is a little more difficult to call. Normally I’d say Portugal but with them already through having secured six points, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them take their foot off the gas and that could give Korea the shot they need. I have nothing against South Korea, but it would be funny to see them knocked out though, not least to see Son crying again. Anything that makes that diving little cheat sad is always a good thing. The only down side is that if Ghana do progress, it means more days out there for Partey and at this point I was semi hoping he could be coming home, getting some Dubai warm weather light training, before the kick off over the Christmas period. Sadly that doesn’t look to be the case just yet, but you never know; Ghana could finish runners up and have to play Brazil in the next round, which would probably mean their tournament ends by the middle of next week.

The Arsenal news for today is of course about all of those Arsenal players playing, with Gabby Jesus and potentially Martinelli starting, which will be nice to see. Granit Xhaka will line up for Switzerland and Partey of course for Ghana, so us Arsenal fans have a little ‘skin in the game’ for today’s matches, which is always nice. Let’s just hope all of our players are happy come the completion of this set of group games.

And on that note I’m offski for another day of work. Have yourself a merry little Friday and I’ll catch you all tomorrow.