At the time, a record 14 Gunners made the trip to Germany, including several youngsters.
19 year old Fabregas became the youngest player to play for Spain at a World Cup, Van Persie scored a stunning free kick on his tournament bow, Adebayor was captaining Togo on their debut to the World stage, Kolo Touré’s Ivory Coast were taking part for the first time and Senderos and Djourou set a unique record in the heart of the Switzerland’s defence, the first ever nation to be eliminated without conceding a goal.
Jens Lehmann was far more experienced. At 36 he was finally Germany’s Number One, something he was never shy publicly claiming he felt was long overdue.
That he was replacing legend Oliver Khan divided opinion in the host nation.
Our keeper got everyone onside in the quarter final penalty shoot-out against Argentina.
On a piece of paper kept in his sock, he had written where 7 Argentine players preferred to aim their spot kicks, meaning he went the same direction for each one, saving two.
When Cambiasso stepped forward, the goalie intentionally re-read the paper in front of the midfielder, making him think he knew which way he most commonly would go.
Here’s the twist ……
Cambiasso’s name was never on the list.
In fact, out of the 7 names, only two actually took a pen.
Thierry Henry was cost a second World Cup by Zidane’s head butt and a Trezeguet pen hitting the bar.
The striker, who contributed three goals on France’s route to the Final had been subbed in extra time, meaning he could only watch as Italy won the shoot-out.
The Arsenal player to make the most headlines though was ironically the only one to not kick a ball in the tournament.
Sven Goran Eriksson was in charge of England’s ‘golden generation’ meaning there was zero reason to take 17-year-old Theo Walcott, yet to kick a ball for his club.
With the likes of Defoe and Bent scoring goals in the Prem, it was a manager trying to be too clever.
The teenager never played a second and was compared to a competition winner by senior members of the squad who could have done more to look after him.
It put a spotlight on the midfielder that followed him for years.
He at least had peers from his club who could look out for him, Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole.
Cole continued his reputation as the only member of the ‘golden generation’ who would consistently produce World Class performances similar to his club form.
Like at Euro 2004, the left back got rave reviews for how he went toe to toe with Ronaldo, keeping a clean sheet against Portugal for 120 minutes.
This was the tie where Rooney got sent off. With Michael Owen having torn his ACL against Sweden, maybe Walcott would have featured in the semi-Final had the Three Lions converted their pens?
We will never know…
Henry and Lehmann made FIFA’s 23 man All Star team.
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