Is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ready to turn the corner?
Could a single goal be the impetus to turn a good player into an excellent one?
That’s the question running through my mind after watching Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s stunning strike in England’s 2-2 draw with Brazil in the Maracana yesterday.
England were dominated in the first hour and looking like they may succumb to a pounding after Fred broke the deadlock for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team. But then England manager Roy Hodgson decided to make a change and bring on a bit of youth, speed and energy.
In the 62nd minute Hodgson removed Glen Johnson in favor of Oxlade-Chamberlain and as soon as the Arsenal youngster stepped on the pitch, the balance of power seemed to tilt. In fact, it was only five minutes into his stint that the Ox leveled the match.
The Arsenal winger found Frank Lampard, who linked up with Wayne Rooney for a tidy one-touch pass that resulted in the later laying off a succulent ball that Oxlade-Chamberlain hit flush from 20 yards out. The low, hovering strike curled around the Brazilian defense and seemed to hit the net almost as soon as it left the winger’s foot. Goal-keeper Julio Cesar had no chance.
Following the match Oxlade-Chamberlain spoke about the delirium of the moment. “I can’t really remember it to be honest! I think I played it to Lamps, he played it round the corner to Wazza, he set it and I just hit it.” The goal summoned memories of England’s famous 2-0 victory at the Maracana 29 years ago when Ox’s father, Mark, wore the England shirt.
Since his arrival at the Emirates from Southampton in 2011-12, Oxlade-Chamberlain has impressed but despite his immense talent, has yet to truly break out as a fearsome Premier League winger. Part of the break out process is getting opportunities, which Arsene Wenger has steadily provided handing the Ox 26 appearances in his first season and 33 this past year.
But the other part of breaking out is snatching that career defining (and confidence boosting) moment when a player recognizes that there are no limits to what he can accomplish. Those big moments tend happen in big matches on special stages.
Regardless of yesterday’s match being a friendly, it was against Brazil and in the iconic Maracana stadium. Adding to the intrigue is that in 1984 Ox’s father, Mark, represented England in the Three Lions’ famous 2-0 victory over Brazil in the very same stadium.
Something tells me that when young Alex returns to that site for next summer’s World Cup, he’ll have arrived as one of the dominant young wingers in the game.