World Cup Journeys: Can Mesut Ozil the pass master assist Germany to a defence of its title?

Since 2006, the German football team has done more than most to embrace the changing face of modern Germany, and no player represents that more than Mesut Ozil.

In a country that has seen millions of migrants take up German citizenship, Germany has fielded an increasingly multicultural team at each successive World Cup since hosting the event in 2006.

Alongside the likes of Sami Khedira (who has a Tunisian father), Jerome Boateng (Ghanaian father) and Marko Marin (Bosnian-Serb heritage), Ozil is a third-generation Turkish-German, who says his ancestry comes from north-western Turkey. He credits his style of play to his heritage, but his attitude to his country of birth.

"My technique and feeling for the ball is the Turkish side to my game. The discipline, attitude and always-give-your-all is the German part."

A devout Muslim, Ozil will often be seen standing by himself reciting a passage from the Quran before entering the field of play. During the German national anthem, Ozil is often silent, or silently reciting the Quranic passage to himself.

Ozil's mix of creative flair, vision and eye for a pass has seen him labelled as world football's king of the assist, making him one of the sport's most fascinating players to watch.

His professional career began at Schalke 04, coming through the Bundesliga club's youth system to make his debut in 2006, before a falling out with his coach saw him move to league rivals Werder Bremen in 2008.

There, the young playmaker proved he could replace Brazilian star Diego, fuelling his burgeoning reputation as the "next big thing" with a German Cup triumph and guiding Die Werderaner to the last-ever UEFA Cup final, which they lost to Shakhtar Donetsk.

It was just over a year before the 2010 FIFA World Cup that Ozil, aged 20, would make his full German international debut. And from there, it was obvious that Die Mannschaft had a star on their hands. To the rest of the world, Australia included, Germany's midfield maestro was still Michael Ballack. But a new prince was moving in, and it showed on a wintry night in Durban in 2010.

Fuelled by ill-advised confidence following news Ballack had been ruled out of the entire 2010 World Cup, Australian fans felt buoyant over their chances of getting something from their match against Germany in South Africa.

Socceroos fans chanted "Where's your Ballack?" — to the tune of Basement Jaxx's Where's Your Head At — to German supporters on their way in to the Moses Mabhida Stadium. Little did they know that Ballack's 21-year-old replacement would help rip the Socceroos to pieces in a 4-0 trouncing, from which Australia's campaign never recovered.

His performances at the 2010 World Cup, crowned with a peach of a goal against Ghana in the group stage, earmarked Ozil as one of the world's stand-out young talents, earning him a move to Spanish giant Real Madrid.

In his first season at the Bernabeu, Ozil racked up 25 assists, the highest for any player in Europe that season.

He made the shortlist for the FIFA Ballan d'Or during the 2011-12 season, laying on 17 assists in La Liga to help Real Madrid to a record-breaking league title, in which it amassed 100 points on the league table.

The following season saw the arrival of Luka Modric at Real Madrid, signalling the beginning of the end for his time at Los Merengues, yet he still chalked up 29 assists in an otherwise poor season for the club.

Then came his move to Arsenal — a deadline-day transfer which made him the most expensive German footballer of all time as he parachuted into the north London club.

His time at Arsenal has proved frustrating, with no league titles, but he has been part of three FA Cup winning teams. During that time, talk about whether he is a big-game player or not has surrounded the German, dividing pundits on his influence on the game.

In many ways, Ozil is reflective of the modern footballer in how stats-driven player analysis is nowadays. Rather than a raw goals count, Ozil's fans and detractors alike will pore over his assists, his chance creation, and expected goals from those chances.

Ozil's almost disinterested body language has seen him labelled as lazy, so much so that even then Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had to come out in defence of his player.

"He is a guy who works much harder than people think, but his body language goes against him sometimes," Wenger said.

His backers will bring out the statistical guns, showing his distances covered — he has consistently ranked among the hardest-working runners at Arsenal — and of course, the sheer volume of chances that he creates.

In the past nine seasons for club and country, Ozil has racked up 138 assists (source: Since making his Premier League debut in 2013, he has created 476 scoring chances and 50 assists, according to Opta — more than any other player in the competition.

In the big five European leagues, he has created over 1,000 goal-scoring chances since his 2006 league debut, also leading this metric.

A deceptively quick player, Ozil's style of play is founded on his creative streak and vision. Playing as an advanced playmaker, Ozil can be found either behind the striker or on the flank as a "central winger", who plays as a central midfielder but drifts wide on the flanks, allowing other wingers and full-backs to overlap him.

He is an extremely reliable set-piece merchant, with plenty of chances provided (and scored) from free kicks, while he is becoming particularly prolific with a signature bounce-ball move. He has scored and assisted a number of goals for club and country with a move that sees him deliberately bounce the ball into the turf first, then up over advancing keepers and through gaps in defence to disguise through-balls and shots on goal.

During his time at Arsenal, Ozil was a member of Germany's triumphant team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. But played out of position through much of the tournament — Marco Reus's injury meant Ozil was afforded a starting role, but on the left wing — his influence flickered, more than ignited, in Germany's romp home.

Now 29 years old, a senior player and with trophies under his arm, Ozil has the chance to be Germany's main man, the heartbeat of the side, as it looks to become the first team to defend a World Cup title since 1962.

Can he shed the "lazy" label and star for Germany in a wonderfully balanced team? The 2018 FIFA World Cup could provide answers, or further muddy the ongoing debate surrounding the gifted technician.