A couple of weeks before the start of the World Cup, Germany were one of the favourites. They had a solid defence, some very good midfielders and an attack that was the envy of quite a few nations. Although they were in a difficult group, many expected them to go through. But Marco Reus’ injury just days before the start of the World Cup dampened their spirits.
The Borussia Dortmund attacker was an integral part of Germany’s plans and was coming on the back of a prolific season. Reus was supposed to be Germany’s key man in attack and while they had alternatives, they had no one in form. Mesut Ozil had a decent if not for a great season with the Gunners, but nowhere near as good as Reus. Andre Schurrle was only used sparingly by Chelsea and the same was the case with Mario Gotze, who unlike the other didn’t have the desired impact at Bayern Munich.
But as they say, one man’s loss is another man’s gain. Reus’ loss meant that Ozil took his place on the left flank and constantly swapped wings with the likes of Goze and Muller. Although the German playmaker was used to life as a central attacking midfielder, he had been used on the wings at Arsenal and seemed a more natural replacement for Reus.
The biggest celebration on the planet finally kicked off and Ozil started the opening game against Portugal in an unfamiliar right side, with Gotze taking Reus’ place on the left flank. While both Muller and Gotze got off to a bright start, the Arsenal man didn’t get off the best of starts. While he did sparkle now and then, he was nowhere near as good as he could’ve been and much of it was down to playing on the right flank.
It was much of the same against Ghana as well, where he once again showed why is nowhere near as effective on the right flank. Against USA, when Gotze was finally rested on the back of two successful outings, it looked as though Ozil might finally get his break. Instead Low went for the more direct Podolski on the left, with the Arsenal man once again being left frustrated on the right flank.
After a far from convincing group stage, many people’s belief was beginning to be vindicated. There were those that were calling for Ozil’s head on the back of three, far from stellar performances. But Low stuck with him and was rewarded for his patience. After three games, Ozil finally found his feet against Algeria where he scored what turned out to be the eventual winner for Germany.
Although it was his only goal of the tournament, his overall performance was one that showed that he was finally getting stuck into his role. Ozil showed that he was ready to adapt his play to his team’s needs and even then was doing a lot more than the others were in his position. While he didn’t get too many goals or assists in the tournament, what he did really well was keep the team moving forward at all times.
Comparison between Ozil, Robben, Messi and Sanchez in the World Cup
(All stats per whoscored)
The above table is a testament to that. Although Ozil wasn’t as effective as Messi or Robben when it came to beating his man, he was miles ahead when it came to picking out his teammates in the offensive third. The fact that he attempted more passes and forward passes than either Robben or Messi shows how judicious he was with the ball.
Only Messi created more chances and had more key passes per game than Ozil, who was for much of the tournament playing in an unfamiliar right flank. It was only in the final two games that Ozil reverted to the left flank and while he impressed against Brazil, much like the rest of the attack, he wasn’t able to do too much against a packed Argentinean defence.
On the face of it, while it might look like Ozil had a pretty average tournament, the reality is the opposite. He was key to his team’s chances and gave his coach another option and so much needed versatility in attack. While he wasn’t at his individual best, he did the job that was necessary for the team to succeed and in the end that is all that matters. For all of Messi’s and Robben’s efforts neither of them walked away with the World Cup and it was the hardworking team player that walked away as a World Champion and that in the end, is what it is all about.