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There will be a couple of interesting Arsenal-related sub-plots when England face the USA at the World Cup on Friday evening.
After putting six past Iran in their opening fixture of the tournament on Monday afternoon, the Three Lions know that another three points at the Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar will see them qualify for the round of 16 stage with a game to spare – and it could be enough to top Group B.
Amid a report from The Athletic, Gareth Southgate is expected to name an unchanged starting line-up from four days ago which means Bukayo Saka keeps his place in attack alongside Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, whilst fellow Arsenal teammates Aaron Ramsdale and Ben White will be on the bench.
Now, with Saka putting himself in contention to win the World Cup golden boot after netting a brace against Iran, a familiar face in another club teammate, Matt Turner, is likely to be in the USA goal this evening and he will no doubt be out to stop the 21-year-old from adding to his tally.
However, there’s another reunion on the cards for England’s No.17 as he’s set to go head-to-head with a former arsenal academy starlet in Yunus Musah, whose career has gone in a different direction after swapping Hale End for Valencia in 2019 without making a single first-team appearance.
Interestingly, if the way USMNT set up against Wales is any indication of how they’ve prepared for the England clash then the aforementioned pair could be in direct competition as Musah might be asked to double up with left-back Antonee Robinson to keep tabs on Saka as he operates from the right-hand side for England.
Despite Musah being a couple of years younger than Saka, he was fast-tracked to play in the same group as the winger by former youth team coach and club favourite Freddie Ljungberg who admits that whilst he was sad to see the midfielder leave Arsenal three years ago, he is proud of his progress since.
“Yunus was put up a couple of age groups to play in the team with Bukayo because I thought he had the talent,” Ljungberg told the Daily Mail. “He was a bit younger and worked really hard. Yunus left when I went to Germany which was sad that Arsenal let him go. That’s how the world is and it’s nice to see him making a name for himself.”
To Ljungberg’s point, Musah has gone from strength to strength since leaving Arsenal. He’s made almost 100 appearances for Valencia, broken into the USMNT and is being linked with a return to England as Liverpool are said to be interested in his signature.
Though Musah (£30million) is not nearly as valuable as Saka (£103million) right now, as per the CIES Football Observatory, the fact that two Arsenal Hale End graduates are about to go head-to-head on football’s biggest stage has left Ljungberg with a sense of pride.
“For me, it is unbelievable to see – it’s a really cool thing,” he added. “But for them it will be so much bigger and better. It’s a special day for both of them. It is amazing to see two players from the Arsenal academy that played with each other from when they were 14 or 15 years old to now playing against each other when they are 19 and 21 for two different countries and on the biggest stage of the World Cup.
“The steps they have taken compared to five or six years ago shows how quickly it can go in football.”