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Santi can give Spain cutting edge

Arsenal's Santi Cazorla celebrates a goal with Xabi Alonso (pic: Tony Marshall/EMPICS) Arsenal's Santi Cazorla celebrates a goal with Xabi Alonso (pic: Tony Marshall/EMPICS)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014
1:00 PM

Former Gunner calls for Cazorla inclusion

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Arsenal's Santi Cazorla gives a thumbs up (pic: Peter Byrne/PA)Arsenal's Santi Cazorla gives a thumbs up (pic: Peter Byrne/PA)

Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla was a frustrated onlooker as Spain lifted their first World Cup title fouur years ago.

The attacking midfielder had helped his country win the Euro 2008 crown, converting a penalty in their quarter-final shoot-out win over Italy and coming off the bench in the final against Germany.

But a hernia forced him to miss the action in South Africa, when Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas set up the winner for Iniesta against the Netherlands before eventually teaming up with his national teammate at Barcelona.

Cazorla was back in the Spanish squad for their Euro 2012 triumph and joined the Gunners from Malaga soon after.

And former Arsenal winger Perry Groves is backing him to make an impact in Brazil, after being named in Spain’s provisional 30-man squad.

He said: “I think he was a bit unlucky last time and Spain have got such strength in midfield with the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, who all play together at Barcelona.

“But Santi showed more about himself in the FA Cup final. He wanted to get on the ball more and dictated the game. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t get in the final 23 this time because he has got goals in him.

“The goal output of Xavi and Iniesta isn’t what is should be but Cazorla can always nick you a goal.”

The classy Cazorla settled quickly at the Emirates, netting 12 times in 38 Premier League appearances in his first campaign with the club.

He managed only four goals in 31 appearances last season, but added three more in the FA Cup, including a vital strike in the final against Hull after the Gunners had conceded twice inside the first 10 minutes.

Groves added: “He had a little lean spell when (Mesut) Ozil first came in and was in his shadow, but he has been better and more creative and grown in confidence.

“He takes responsibility and you want to see talented players affecting games. I want to see him dominating the big games against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City next season.”

Cazorla has 61 caps and 11 goals to his name so far for Spain, but Groves thinks the defending champions, who also included Chelsea’s Cesar Azplicueta and Fernando Torres, will be hard pressed to retain their title.

He said: “I think it will be a tournament too far for them.

“They’re not over the hill but they’re an ageing squad and teams have worked out how to play against them.

“The fear factor is not there any more, but with the heat and conditions, you need to keep the ball and there’s not many better than Spain.

“My concern is with their forwards. Diego Costa has an injury problem and you wonder where their goals might come from, which could give Santi an edge.”

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