Mesut Ozil’s run of 26 consecutive appearances at major tournaments came to an end when he was left out of Germany’s World Cup win over Sweden.
The 29-year-old’s omission by Joachim Low came following his uninspiring display in the opening Group F defeat to Mexico.
Here, we look at why the Arsenal playmaker should be recalled by the world champions for their crucial clash with South Korea as they attempt to reach the tournament’s knockout stages.
Thomas Muller (93) is the only member of Germany’s World Cup squad who has won more caps than the former Real Madrid man (91). Ozil is also one of the players who won the tournament four years ago. His three direct competitors for a starting place – Julian Brandt, Julian Draxler and Marco Reus – have had considerably less exposure to international football, particularly at World Cups. Brandt only made his Germany debut two years ago, Draxler played just 14 minutes at Brazil 2014, and Reus missed the tournament through injury.
While he does have a tendency to go missing in some games, Ozil has consistently shown during his five years at the Emirates Stadium and his time with the national team that he can unlock opposition defences. Germany could scrape through to the last 16 with a draw on Wednesday but they will hope to progress in more comfortable fashion and Ozil – who has provided 40 assists for his country – has the ability to play a key role in that.
Time to reflect
Former Germany international Mario Basler compared Ozil’s body language to that of a dead frog following his below-par performance against Mexico. Whether or not complacency was a factor, Ozil now knows that his position in the team is not assured. He has had time to reflect on being dropped and the wake-up call should provide sufficient motivation to come back stronger and show his undoubted ability, beginning against Korea in Kazan.
In addition to his ability to make goals, Ozil also has an impressive record of hitting the net for his country. He averages a goal every four games, scoring 23 times in 91 appearances. Those statistics include four strikes at major tournaments. He scored at each of the last two World Cups – both winning goals – as well as the European Championships in 2012 and 2016.
Germany not much better without him
Low’s men may have bounced back from their shock defeat in the opening game by beating Sweden but it was far from convincing. With Ozil watching from the dugout, they were reliant on a dramatic, late strike from Toni Kroos for the three points in Sochi having fallen behind. They did, however, show plenty of resilience following Jerome Boateng’s red card, while Ozil’s replacement, Reus, was also on the scoresheet. Draxler, though, was hooked at half-time and that could pave the way for Ozil’s recall.