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Wizardry of Mesut Ozil marks out Germany's next star

No matter what lies ahead Mesut Ozil has already left memories that will become part of this World Cup's identity. The 21-year-old dazzled in the destruction of Australia and signalled the arrival on the world stage of Germany's latest star.

sports Updated: Jun 15, 2010 13:20 IST
Kevin McCarra (The Guardian)
Kevin McCarra (The Guardian)

The 21-year-old Mesut Ozil dazzled in the destruction of Australia and signalled the arrival on the world stage of Germany's latest star

No matter what lies ahead Mesut Ozil has already left memories that will become part of this World Cup's identity. That is quite an impact from a 21-year-old making his first appearance at the tournament. The German presided over the slick 4-0 destruction of Australia. Everyone had heard of the victors' escape from its long dependence on veterans, but the freshness was the gift of Ozil.

The element of surprise was resounding since few supposed the midfielder was about to reveal such art and intelligence. After all, he did not previously have a place in the star culture that would have been his already if he were with Bayern Munich instead of Werder Bremen. Now, even the defeated cannot stop themselves from paying tribute.

Tim Cahill may have cried after the red card for a foul on Bastian Schweinsteiger, but he recognised excellence. "I think the devastating factor was Ozil," said the Everton midfielder. "Credit to the youngster. He's a great player and obviously he's going to do great things for the team. The way he opens up defences is a credit to him."

Ozil has been prized, if not celebrated, for a while and has a purposefulness about him. Schalke dropped him from the side as part of an attempt to strongarm him into signing a new contract, but his stance never altered. There was nothing else to do in 2008 but sell him to Bremen for around 4m when he was still a teenager.

Ozil and his father were scolded for avarice, but it now looks a sensible move that is also directing him toward riches. His value will have multiplied giddily following the rout of Australia. Ozil's skill was well known, but the technique was accompanied on Sunday by a perfect understanding of where and when to send the ball. His wrong-footing pass to the right epitomised that at the opener when he extended an invitation to the advancing Thomas Mller and his cut-back was thrashed home by Lukas Podolski. Ozil had a well-nigh infallible night and one dummy caused as much havoc as any of the touches.

His superiority was such that there had to be small reservations since the display could not conceivably be typical of him. Examination has to be made of the incompetence of Australia and it is most unlikely that any other opponents at this tournament will leave Ozil in peace to get on with expressing himself. Nothing was put beyond the reach of a midfielder who was on the verge of scoring after an individualist run of his own.

The undisputed potential is just starting to be realised. Ozil did land a prize with the 4-0 devastation of England in last year's Under-21 European Championship final. His goal depended on a laughable miscalculation by Joe Hart, but he had also controlled the play. He is a boon to Germany and that country enjoys yet another reward for its knack of discovering talents of immigrant stock.

Ozil is of Turkish descent, just as the now retired Mehmet Scholl was in part. The Bremen player is a Muslim who struggles with the fact that honouring the obligation to fast during Ramadan would rob him of strength and leave him feeling unwell. Nonetheless, integration into German football has undoubtedly been accomplished. As people wonder where England's future stars are to be found it remains true that, for all the good intentions, potential stars do not appear often enough from Ozil's type of background.

He himself relishes the different strands of his heritage. "My technique and feeling for the ball is the Turkish side to my game," Ozil has said. "The discipline, attitude and always-give-your-all is the German part." Maybe, of course, that is too neat for comfort. He is still raw and a caution for diving against Australia was more than merely distasteful. It was stupid in the context of a game in which victory was already certain.

That will have made people question whether he quite has the poise to sustain his impact at this tournament. He will be marked much more closely by countries who have a dark finesse in such areas that far exceeds anything in Australia's repertoire. Even so, his effect could be lasting whatever happens against Serbia.

Arsene Wenger's monitoring of Ozil was widely reported last year and if the topic was put into storage at the time it could now be impossible for Arsenal to blow the dust off their interest. The Premier League club is far from being alone in that and managers around Europe will be aghast at setting the matter to one side.

Were Ozil to demand a transfer from Bremen, only the most affluent sides could afford him. That will not necessarily be a concern if his alleged fondness for Barcelona is reciprocated one day. For the moment, the priorities lie with the World Cup. Germany were always likely to be formidable, but it was Ozil who really elevated them as they stood far beyond the reach of Australia.

He made Germany appear dazzling on Sunday and there will be all the more conviction in the ranks of Joachim Lw's squad. This is a relatively young band of players and it is taxing to live with the expectation that they will go far in the tournament, as their predecessors did so often. After Ozil's virtuosity every target ought to seem within reach.
Guardian News and Media 2010

First Published: Jun 15, 2010 13:05 IST