Football: World Cup stars fail to sparkle on Premier League return

Chelsea's Diego Costa (right) celebrates his goal against Burnley during their English Premier League soccer match at Turf Moor in Burnley, northern England August 18, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Chelsea's Diego Costa (right) celebrates his goal against Burnley during their English Premier League soccer match at Turf Moor in Burnley, northern England August 18, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Their dazzling displays lit up the World Cup, but the stars of the summer have failed to arrive on time for the Premier League party, with one of the tournament's flops stealing the early limelight.

Whether it is Arsenal's World Cup winning heroes, Mesut Ozil and Per Mertesacker, Chile's leading light Alexis Sanchez or Manchester United's Robin van Persie, those whose performances were the toast of Brazil have been outshone by one of the tournament's biggest disappointments, Chelsea's Diego Costa.

Arsenal's German duo Ozil and Mertesacker were bathing in ticker tape and partying long into the night just six weeks ago when Germany lifted the trophy after beating Argentina in Rio, but there was little to celebrate in Saturday's performance against Everton.

Perhaps still recovering from his World Cup exertions, Ozil, an ever-present starter in Brazil, showed none of the guile that helped Germany lift football's most coveted prize and looked ineffective in attack and neglectful in his defensive duties in a 2-2 draw at Goodison Park.

While he is integral to Germany's dynamic game, he was accused of flitting in and out of matches at times for Arsenal last season and failed to track the run of Everton's opening scorer Seamus Coleman as he burst into the box to head home.

Germany's towering centre back Mertesacker has fared no better on his return to domestic duties and a forgettable performance against Everton was typified when he was brushed aside by Everton's Romelu Lukaku en route to their second goal.

At least he lasted 90 minutes, however, unlike Sanchez, whose performances with Chile had a host of clubs scrapping for his signature.

A muted display in Arsenal's opening league match against Crystal Palace and in their Champions League qualifier against Besiktas, was followed up on Saturday by a stinging early substitution.

After struggling to adjust to the lone forward role he was asked to play by manager Arsene Wenger at Everton, he was unceremoniously hooked off at halftime.

According to the professorial French coach, his lack of form is not a concern, just a question of fitness and fine-tuning.

"He is not ready physically but I am not worried about him," said Wenger. "Once he will be at his best physically his confidence will come back."

Van Persie provided one of the most iconic images of the World Cup, his arched back and athletic leap timed perfectly to meet Daley Blind's crossfield ball to angle a header past Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Having missed Manchester United's first game, his first Premier League appearance of the season came at Sunderland on Sunday and ended in an early substitution after an ineffectual display.

Not all the World Cup returnees have suffered poor starts to the campaign, however.

The extended rest that Spain's early exit afforded Costa seems to have done the power of good to the striker who stumbled, tripped and miscued his way through the World Cup.

He only played in Spain's opening two games, a 5-1 defeat to the Netherlands and a 2-0 reverse against Chile, and looked unfit and off the pace in both matches, but has had the look of a sharp-eyed goal-getter in Chelsea's two opening clashes.

His goals against Burnley and Leicester City have not been spectacular, but were both from the striker's handbook of right-place, right-time finishes.

With physical qualities perhaps better suited to the hurly-burly of the Premier League than Spain's tiki-taka, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho sensed the forward would hit the ground running.

"I got the feeling in pre-season that his adaptation would not be a big deal, he is an easy guy," said Mourinho. "His style of play has adapted to our needs, so it has not been a problem."

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