Football Manager – Taking The Dolly Blues up the Leagues – Season 13

Last season was Lancasters first in the Premiership and although we only had 7 wins, only got 33 points and only scored 40 goals we survived relegation on the last day of the season, and we also got to the FA Cup final but lost so there were positives and negatives.

Our form for most of the season was poor but a tactical change late on improved the form as we only lost 2 of the last 8 games including the FA Cup final which was our best form of the season.

I’m thinking for this year we start with the same tactic and the asymmetric formation of 4-3-1-2 with 4 at the back, 3 central midfielders, an attacking right winger and 2 strikers.

We’ve been given £43m to spend and a favoured club vision to spend all the original transfer budget so that’s what I’m going to look to do.

I’m thinking we need a new striker, another central midfielder and a right back as our priorities and maybe someone that can play left wing or defensive midfield incase we need to change our tactic.

Our keeper has been on loan for the last 4 seasons and got our player of the year last year but at 24 hes only Championship ability and potential so I won’t be keeping him, I do however have a 19 year old Peruvian keeper I signed in January who could step up to first choice but if I can find a much better one to sign I might do.

We started doing our transfers early this season as I’ve been scouting players all last season so had some options that I could try and sign and we brought in a 20 year old Serbian wonderkid at right back for only £3.8m and then we broke our transfer record to bring in a 19 year old Danish wonderkid midfielder for £7.5m.

I’m getting conscious that we are signing too many foreign players so I may need to sell some fringe foreigners but I’d also like to sign some British players if I can so I’ve brought in a 18 year old English promising centre back from Man Utd on a free transfer but will be looking for more.

For pre-season we went on a trip to the USA and had two games drawing the first 1-1 then winning the second 4-0 with a couple of good performances as even the draw we had nearly 30 shots and should have scored a lot more.

We then brought in more players as I first smashed our transfer record splashing out £20m on a 19 year old Turkish striker who I’m hoping will add the goals we lacked last year, we then signed a 18 year old Columbian 6ft 5in centre back for £750k, a 18 year old South African centre back on a free transfer with both centre backs being back ups and we bought a 18 year old Austrian left inside forward for £2.6m.

I then decided I would get a new goal keeper as the young Peruvian isn’t premiership ability yet so I splashed out £5.75m on a 19 year old Serbian wonderkid.

I’ve still got too many foreigners but luckily most, if not all will be classed as under 21 so don’t need registered in the team and won’t count towards the 17 foreigner limit so won’t be a problem, it’ll only start becoming a problem when they get older or if we get into Europe but for now we’re ok with them all.

I’m also trying to sell some players, so far I’ve got rid of a French right back for £175k, a English midfielder that was our first ever money signing bringing in £500k, a young English striker for £230k, a Dutch midfielder for £40k and another English striker for £250k all of those were now rubbish players signed when we were in the lower leagues and I’ve made profit on all of them.

I then sold the Australian striker/winger we picked up for free 2 seasons ago for £11.25m, while he looks decent he never played very well so I was happy to sell him as it’s a good profit and it’s a foreign player we don’t need leaving the club.

I think I’m done with transfers now unless someone world class becomes available for cheap but otherwise I’m happy that we have good players in all positions now, some of our back up players could be improved but they are good enough for now.

The only problem, if it is a problem, is that while the players are good, they are all young as the only players we have in the first team squad over 21 are a 24 year old back up midfielder and a 23 year old back up defender giving us an average age of 20 which might hinder how well we do.

However it’s a team that can grow and in a few years time could potentially be full of world class players if we can keep hold of them and if they reach anywhere near their potential.

Our pre-season friendly games went well, after the draw and win mentioned earlier we went on to win our 4 remaining friendlies with the best of those being a 2-1 win over Bayern Munich.

Ahead of the first league game as usual I had a look at the season preview page and we have the same odds as last year to win it at 2000/1 but we are not predicted bottom as we are predicted 19th ahead of newly promoted Middlesbrough.

I’m hoping we do better than last year’s 17th as we have a much better squad but we have a really hard start with Chelsea away, Liverpool at home then Man Utd away so hopefully we won’t get stuffed in them and have it affect morale too much.

Our first game and the first against a big club was going well and it looked like we would be robbed again by the ref as Chelsea were awarded and scored a 92nd minute penalty but straight away we equalised in the 93rd to earn a good draw, albeit lucky as they were the better team and our new keeper got man of the match on his debut, our goal also game from our record signing debut striker too which was good.

Our next game is at home and we were supposed to have been moving into our new, new stadium (our second in recent years) but it was delayed by 3 months to the end of September so we are still playing at Burnley. Interestingly we have just been informed that we have sold 18,541 season tickets which if it was real life would cause problems as our new stadium will only hold 15,900 so a couple of thousand fans would be a bit pissed off.

We lost our game at home to Liverpool but we were the better team as they scored from a long throw in and only had 2 shots on target and an xG of 0.71 while we had 7 on target and an xG of 1.46 but couldn’t score. The performance was good though so hopefully against some poorer teams we will get a few more wins than we did last year.

I then brought in another player on loan as I got a striker from Chelsea that although we didn’t really need, to be able to sign our record signing striker we had to promise to strengthen in attack so I figured a loan striker would be the cheaper option, he’s also a good back up.

We then lost 3-0 away to Man Utd but it didn’t feel like they should have won by 3 as we hit the woodwork twice, their first goal came from a long throw, their second was a mistake from our defender and their third came from our attacking throw in where our player threw it to their player who ran the full length of the pitch past several of our players to score.

The throw in goal I think is a known bug as there is lots of posts on the SI forums about it as human teams throw them to opposition players all the time and SI have said it’s being looked into.

Also has anyone else noticed that if you give the ball away from a throw in or a misplaced pass in midfield or attack that opposition players just run through and past loads of your players and score? It’s like seeing that famous Ryan Giggs goal in the 1999 FA Cup semi final against Arsenal several times a season.

3 games in and with our hard start we’ve got 1 more point than I thought we might have and our performances haven’t been too bad. We now have a better run of games so hopefully will start picking up more points.

Our right winger also got injured in the Liverpool game and could be out for a couple of months and we didn’t really have a good back up so I decided to buy a new one, also our current one while having good stats only got 4 goals and 1 assist last year so I’ve used up the rest of the transfer budget and broke our transfer record again spending £25m on a 19 year old Ukrainian wonderkid.

We have back to back games now away to Middlesbrough, first in the Carabao Cup where I played my reserves and we won 2-0 thanks to our substitute youth right winger we got last year coming on and becoming the youngest scorer in the competition scoring in the 85th minute and then our 6ft 5in Columbian centre back scored from a corner a couple of minutes later.

In the league game, we needed a win seeing as they are the only team predicted to finish below us and like us only have 1 point from their opening 3 games and we got the win as we easily won 4-0 for our first league win of the season.

August then ended what has been a busy transfer window for us as transfer deadline saw a couple more fringe players leaving as we sold two 23 year old left backs for £350k and £425k and a 24 year old midfielder also for £425k all of whom were decent in the Championship but didn’t play last season.

In total this season we’ve spent all our transfer budget like the board wanted us to bringing in 11 players for a total of about £66m and got rid of 12 players and loaned out 6 others for a total of about £19m including loan fees which makes it the first time we’ve spent more than we’ve brought back in and it means as a manager in my career I have now spent more in total (£90m) than I’ve got selling players (£57m).

Although we have spent a lot of money and increased our wages a lot for our standards, we still have the lowest salary per annum in the league of £29.81m over £10m less than the next club and about £210m less than the top club and we weren’t anywhere near the top spenders in the league but we are the 3rd highest for net spend this year.

We now have an international break again which means I’ve got a game with Switzerland, we only have 1 competitive game against Greece in World Cup qualifying and we narrowly beat them 2-1.

Our first game in September after the international was one we should win as we were at home to 18th WBA who have started poor but we were rubbish and lost 2-0, we didn’t create a decent chance and played much better against much better teams so I’m not sure why they were so bad in this game.

We got a much better result and performance in the next game as we beat Watford at home 2-0, I did make a small tweak to the tactics as I swapped my midfielder on attack into the middle of 3 and moved the deep-laying playmaker on support to the right of the 3 and then changed my right winger onto attack duty, no changed to the formation, just tweaks to roles so hopefully that made the difference for this game or it could just be we are a better team to them and would have won regardless, I’d like to think it was my tactical changes.

We then done something that we’ve not done in 12+ seasons as we came from being 2 down at half time, I know it’s the first time as we got the steam achievement for it. We were away to Leeds in the Carabao Cup, albeit I hadn’t realised it was a cup game so played my best 11 and after being the better team in the first half we were losing 2-0. In the second half we had 2 early goals disallowed but went on to score 3 legitimate goals to win the game.

We have Leeds away next in the league so that’s maybe why I didn’t realise that was a cup game and despite playing a few days earlier I could play 10 of the same players with the other an enforced changed in midfield due to an injury.

The game was similar to the previous as we were 2 down at half time again and we came back in the second half, the difference to the last game was we didn’t score 3 second half goals, we scored 4 and won 4-2.

We then ended Spetember with a 3rd consecutive league win, this time at home to Norwich 2-1. It puts us into 5th after 8 games, I’m not getting carried away with our good start but we have now won more than half of last season’s total wins which is giving me hope that we will do better than last season.

We now have yet another international break and I’m starting to get sick of them as they break up the season too much.

With Switzerland we have 2 World Cup qualifying games against Portugal and Belarus where we ended up drawing with Portugal and beating Belarus. We are level on points with Portugal but they have a much bigger goal difference and 2 games left while we only have 1 game so it’s looking like we will finish second in the group so would miss out on automatic qualification. We will go into what they call a second placed teams table of which the top 6 qualify which I’m assuming is based on the qualifying group results and we don’t have to play loads more games.

Back to the league and the break done us no good again as we lost in what I think is my worst ever game on FM as Tottenham stuffed us 6-0 and we were lucky it was only 6 as none of my team turned up, we may as well have started with 7 players and it felt like they just walked through and scored when they wanted as they had 28 shots, 17 on target, an xG of 4.55 compared to our 5 shots, 2 on target and xG of 0.44.

We did however bounce back from that horrible defeat to beat Sheffield United 2-1 and then my reserves beat Championship side Reading in the Carabao Cup fifth round.

So far our results have been very mixed, it seems we either play well or play awful but either way we have been giving up too many chances and conceding too many goals and chances that are very similar and usually start with us giving the ball away and then either their players running through the team or a long ball over the top. While I’m quite liking the formation I’m thinking I might need to change how we are playing.

For the next game at home to Fulham who are 2 points ahead of us in 5th I tried using the fluid counter-attacking default tactic and then changed it slightly to a positive mentality while keeping the asymmetric formation, the other change I made was changing the central midfielder on the left side that was on defend duty to a Carrilero to try and cover the left side a bit more when my attacking wing back goes forward.

The result of the game wasn’t the best as we drew 1-1 after getting a 90th minute equaliser, however we limited them to 7 shots with only 1 on target which they scored from with an xG of 0.47 while we had 16 shots, 8 on target and an xG of 1.66 and we had 55% possession so while the result wasn’t good, I was happy with the stats.

The same tactic then got us a 3-0 loss at home to Man City who were 1 place below us. I thought it was going well as we limited their chances and nearly scored a couple on the counter but they then scored 3 goals in the last 5 minutes.

I don’t think its helping us that I keep changing tactics but everytime we have a good game and it looks to be working we have an awful game where a team rips us apart, creates lots, scores lots or are generally much better and I don’t necessarily think its just a difference in quality as on paper we have a good team, albeit a young team but we should be doing better.

I think I need to settle on a tactic and just play it regardless of the results and see if the team can grow into it when they get more familiar. I could just change to what people online are saying is a broken overpowered tactic which is the standard gengenpress and 4-3-2-1 as that apparently makes it easy to win but I don’t want to resort to that, especially if I know it makes it easier.

It doesn’t help me that we keep having international breaks and we have another now where I’ve got 2 more games with Switzerland, I’m thinking I’ll leave them after the World Cup as they are breaking up my league games too much.

With Switzerland I had set up a friendly with a rubbish team to get a big win and we beat US Virgin Islands 9-0 and then finished off the qualifying group games beating Greece 2-0 to finish second in the group behind unbeaten Portugal who were the only team to take points off us.

As I assumed, the second placed teams table was based on group games which meant we finished top of that table with 19 points though that was only on goal difference and the lowest points total of those that qualified was 17 so while we have qualified for the world cup, if we had dropped any more points we could have missed out.

We should now have a break from international games now until March I think when we will have some friendly games so I’ve now got a few months of domestic football.

Our next game after the big loss to Man City was Everton away and I didn’t change anything and it was us that got 3 goals as we won 3-2 having been 2-1 down at half time. It was a good attacking display but we still gave them too many chances as they had 25 shots and 10 on target which I’m not happy with.

For the next game I tried more defensive counter-attacking instructions which worked well defensively but we were poor in attack as we got a 0-0 draw away to Villa even after we went down to 10 men early in the second half.

Then at home to Leicester I done something I’ve never done before as I watched the entire game making tweaks throughout and changing the style of play and what I found was that no matter what instructions I asked them to do, not much changed and they didn’t follow instructions most of the time. Short passing resulted in lots of long balls, focusing down the right didn’t, less risky passing gave the ball away a lot and eventually I just went back to the tactic we started the season with and we got a 1-1 draw.

We ended November in a good position mid table with 22 points from 15 games as we had won 6, drew 4 and lost 5.

December started away to Newcastle and I started by trying wing play instructions but after 20 minutes of watching the full game and seeing the ball going no where near the wings I gave up and tried the standard Gengenpress instructions and we did look a better side and went on to win 2-1 which got us our 7th win equalling last season’s total.

I’ve now got a bit of a dilemma as I could try Gengenpress from the start in the next game knowing that while I’ve been informed that it’s overpowered, I’m still using my own formation and roles so its not fully exploiting a known overpowered tactic, but I didn’t really want to use Gengenpress knowing it’s overpowered and would rather create something myself that works.

I went with the possession tactic that I used at the start of the season again for the next game instead of the Gengenpress and we got a 3-2 away win against Burnley but I was still not happy with the goals conceded as they only had 3 shots on target, we’re into the playoff places now so I shouldn’t be complaining.

I’m going to stop fiddling with tactics and stick with the tactic we ended last season with and started this season as although it’s inconsistent and we concede too many, it’s at least getting us some wins.

Early December is the time we get the early assessment of the youth intake and and after last season’s good intake, this year looks like it’s back to the rubbish intakes again as based on the assessment we might get a good Nigerian centre back but nothing else.

Our next game saw us outplay Championship side Southampton and lose on Pens in the Carabao Cup quarter final, I’m not bothered about the cup but we had a strong side out and should have won.

We then had the World Cup draw and Switzerland are in the second seeds pot which means we could get one of the best teams in our group but we got lucky as the better team we got were 13th ranked Ghana and we got 56th ranked Chile so I fancy our chances of finishing top 2 in the group.

Our last league game of 2033 ended with another win on Boxing day and it another game where we conceded some poor goals but we were good in attack as we beat Brighton 4-2, I’ll happily take the poor defending if we can score 4 each game. It means we end the year in 8th with 31 points which is only 2 less than all last season and I’m confident that we won’t be in danger of going down this year.

We then ended the year with a New Years eve game at home to Reading in the FA Cup where we won 2-0.

We’ve ended the year with some good form even though I have been messing around too much with tactics it hasn’t affected us too badly so hopefully in the New Year our form will continue and we can push on for an FA Cup run again or more importantly we could push for a European place.

The January transfer window opens now and after a busy summer and a lot of changes last January I think I’m going to have a quiet one, not only do we have not much money to spend but we don’t really need anyone unless they’re a vast improvement on what we have and in which case we couldn’t afford them.

We could sell players as we have a lot of players wanted and they have quite large minimum fee release clauses so we may have no choice to sell but they will only go if their release clauses are met and if that does happen we would then have a lot of money to replace them.

We start the New Year off with the same hard run of games we started the season with as we have Chelsea at home, then Liverpool away and the Man United at home. In the reverse fixture to start the year we got 1 point from the Chelsea game but this time we lost 3-1 to Chelsea, then 3-0 to Liverpool with both opening goals coming from our attacking throw ins going straight to their player who hits it up to their player on the half way line who then runs past about 4 of my players to score.

Their other goals were just as bad defending too but the throw in ones are starting to piss me off, I’ve even gone to short throw ins and have players coming short while keeping plenty of players back to try and stop it happening but 9/10 they just throw it to the other team and one pass later they have a player running through on goal. I know SI have said it’s a bug under review but it’s an annoying bug that seems to cost us goals too often. It wasn’t a problem in the lower leagues as teams weren’t as good but against a good team you get punished too often for what seems like something I can’t do anything to stop.

And then we lost again to Man United 2-0 which could have been worse as they are miles clear at the top, have a +51 goal difference already, won their last 14 and they have often scored 4+ goals in many games including 9 in a game and 7 in another so only losing by 2 could be seen as a positive result.

I didn’t really expect any points of those teams but we have a run now where we could pick up more points against some teams lower than us in the table.

In our next league game we had a comfortable 3-1 win over WBA before coming from 2-0 down at half time against Championship side Cardiff to win 3-2 in the FA Cup fourth round, I thought it was going to be a loss after they scored 2 from 2 shots with an xG of 0.30 looked like it wouldn’t be our day but we got back into it and won with a late penalty. The FA Cup win came at a cost though as we lost our record signing right winger for 3 weeks with an injury, he will be a miss as so far he has 3 goals and 8 assists in 16 games and has the highest average rating at the club.

We then played bottom of the table Middlesbrough at home who so far have 9 points in 22 games so I expected FM to give them the win and it looked that way as they scored with their first and only shot on target all game and then defended well but we got 2 goals in the second half to get a deserved win.

We then ended January with a 0-0 draw away to Watford who are a few points below us, they didn’t have a shot on target while they defended well limiting our chances and it was a dull goalless draw.

And then the transfer window shut and as I expected it was quiet, we did sign someone as I got a 20 year old Chinese goal keeper on a free transfer as back up and I signed a 18 year old Brazilian winger for free, both had just been released by their clubs and were on my shortlist. I didn’t need either but they have potential, also the winger was loaned straight out for £1.1m loan fee so is already profitable and the keeper meant I could loan out my other back up keeper getting another £750k.

I also loaned out a back up striker, midfielder and defender who were all unhappy at not playing to give them games.

No one left the club permanently which was good, I did have some rubbish bids for a couple of my players who I might have sold if the money was right but not when they were offering less than the players worth, especially those that are in my starting squad and are key players.

I did almost get a really good Brazilian midfielder on a free too but he went to Arsenal on a worse contract and squad status so would rather be in their youth team on less money than sign for us.

February started off with another draw as we twice came from behind to draw with Leeds before we got a good 1-0 win away to Norwich as the run of games I though we would get points from ended with 3 wins and 2 draws which puts us just outside European qualification.

It seems like we have been doing well against the poor/mid table teams but there is a big gap to the better teams as they’re much too good for us. We have Arsenal next who are usually a good team and finished second last season but somehow they are down in 15th this year but looking at their team I don’t know why.

After the game I could see why they are doing so poor as they played very defensively and barely created anything and we eventually broken them down scoring the only goal of the game in the 90th minute.

We then ended February with an FA Cup 5th round defeat at home to Everton as they scored 2 from 3 shots against my back up keeper after our wonderkid got ruled out for 4 weeks with a hernia. To make the result worse, our left back got injured early on and is now out for 2 weeks too.

March started with back to back wins against Sheffield United and Fulham who are both lower than us in the league which then confirmed we have survived relegation as we can no longer finish lower than 16th and with 9 games to play we still have the chance of European qualification.

We couldn’t get 3 consecutive wins but should have as we had Everton at home and dominated but only scored one and our misses came back to bite us in the ass when they equalised with their first shot on target in the 90th minute. Their goal came from a long throw to their defender who scored his second goal of the season, and only his 3rd goal in 5 years, the same defender also got his other goal against me in the FA Cup defeat.

Afterwards we got the youth intake and as expected we got a good Nigerian centre back and nothing else, I’m happy with it though as the centre back has 5 star potential and really good physical stats so could be good if he improves.

It was then another international break, the last until the summer and we had 2 easy friendly games beating Kosovo 3-1 and then Moldova 5-0.

3 days after the last international games we had Tottenham at home in the league and as most of my team are internationals it meant a lot of key players weren’t fit so a rotated team were easily beaten 3-0, we didn’t do too bad until their defender that hasn’t scored for 3 seasons and over 90 games got his first of the season in the 71st minute and then we collapsed conceding 2 more from poor defending.

Then 3 days after that we were away to Man City and most of the team that played Spurs were tired so it was another rotated team and we lost 4-1. City scored in the 20th minute from our attacking throw in where they have a player emulating peak 1999 Giggsy has he ran from inside his own half past half my team to score and there’s no coming back from that with a weakened side away to city.

I’m really started to get pissed off with conceding goals that start with our attacking throw in giving it to their players, then one pass later a player scores a wonder goal dribbling past everyone, there is nothing I can do to stop it. That last one my throw in instructions have 3 defenders staying back but the player ran towards where they should be after running through several players, and there was 1 defender there who didn’t even try to get near him.

Those goals where a player runs from their own half past loads of players happens once in a blue moon in real life, yet I’ve conceded several like that on FM, all usually starting from our attacking throw in.

I have also just realised that for the last 2 defeats my star goal keeper who was injured was actually now fit and I forgot to put him back and played my rubbish back up keeper against 2 big teams. It’s not the first time I’ve done it but at least it wasn’t for like 15 games like last time I done it.

My next game is my 700th in management, not for Lancaster as it includes Switzerland now but the last couple of milestones have ended in a loss I think and this time we are away to 12th placed Leicester who are below us so maybe we can win this milestone.

And the game was another loss, only 1-0 but the goal came from another fucking attacking throw in from us straight to their fucking player and one long ball later the player was running through and scored.

I feel like I’ve been ranting a lot this season but it’s so frustrating conceding the same types of goals all the time and seemingly there is nothing I can do about it.

After 3 defeats we got a win at home to Aston Villa and it was a big win as they were just below us and the win has put us into 6th, 5 points ahead of Villa who are 8th with the top 7 getting a European place. We are 12 behind 5th as the top 5 have been much better than us, with 4 games to play its looking like there are 4 teams that can get the last 2 European places but we are looking good for it.

We then beat Newcastle 3-2 at home followed by beating Burnley 3-0 also at home which confirmed European qualification as we can now only finish 6th or 7th with 2 games remaining.

The last 2 games were away to Brighton and then away to Arsenal who are 11th and 12th in the league respectfully and we had a 4-2 loss to Brighton as they scored 4 from 7 shots on target including 2 that came from our attacking throw ins again while we had 20 shots 12 on target but could only get 2 and then the last game against Arsenal ended in an awful 5-0 defeat.

The last 2 games didn’t really matter as we’ve still finished 6th but it sums up our season as we’ve either been good or really bad and conceded some horrible goals.

After 38 games we have won 18, drew 7 and lost 13, in attack we have been ok scoring 59 goals which is the 10th best but defensively we have conceded 62 which is the also the 10 best but it means we are the only team in the top 7 with a negative goal difference.

Overall a good season but I feel like we should have done better, if not in league position but definitely with our performances. I fiddled with tactics too much this year but eventually settled and ended with more or less the same as we started with, the only difference being I lowered the defensive line and line of engagement by 1 notch.

We conceded too many goals that appear to be bugs in the match engine, in particular from our attacking throw ins and from players running past several players and defenders running away from players and not trying to tackle but they could also just be me thinking too much into them.

Other than the league position, other positives were that our record £25m signing right winger was fantastic as he got 7 goals, 13 assists, 10 man of the matches and an average rating of 7.47 in 29 games making him easily our best players and he won players young player of the year

Our top scorer was a striker I signed last season for £2.5m and done ok getting 10 goals last year but this year he has improved loads getting 18 League goals which was the 4th highest in the league.

Our 7 League draws was a club record low which shows how much we were either good or bad as there were not many close games ending in a draw.

For next season I possibly won’t change much as the players we have are good and will only get better as they get older but I would like a better centre back and maybe replace our £20m striker who has gone missing in too many games, he did get 10 goals and 7 assists in 34 games which isn’t bad for a 20 year old but I have identified a better striker if he will talk to us now, I wanted him last summer but he wouldn’t even talk to us.

I would also like some English players to help meet the Europa registration rules but so far the ones I’ve been interested cost too much more than we can afford which is why I’ve gone for cheaper foreign players.

All that’s left now is the small issue of the World Cup with Switzerland, while I don’t think we can realistically win it, if we get lucky draws we might do well. So far in previous games we have done well against smaller teams or those similar but we’ve struggled against big teams like England and Portugal.

Ahead of the World Cup we had 3 friendly games against South Africa and Canada where we won 4-0 and 5-2 which I was happy with, especially in the amount of chances we created and goals we scored.

In the group stage we beat Chile 3-1 and due to other results that qualified us from the group and then we got a 2-2 draw with Ghana to top the group.

In the first knockout round we got Belgium who are ranked 7th in the world and who have a world class team so this could be a tough game.

We started well against Belgium and were 2 up at half time but they got back level, we took the lead again before they got a late equaliser and it was 3-3 after 90 minutes. I pushed to 2 up top and went more attacking for extra time and we got 2 goals in the first half of extra time, they got a late goal but we went on to win 5-4 after extra time.

We have Italy next in the third round who are 5th in the world so it could be a harder game than Belgium but in the end it was easier as we scored a goal just before half time and a goal at the end in stoppage time to win 2-0 while Italy didn’t really threaten us, I thought with Belgium scoring 4 then Italy would have done better against our defense but it was easy.

We have Portugal in the quarter finals, they beat us and we drew in the 2 qualifying games to get to the world cup so maybe it’s our turn to win, but they did look a much better team when we last played them.

The Portugal game was a close game as we took the lead in the 25th minute, they equalised in the 52nd, we scored again in the 55th, they equalised again in the 83rd but we scored the winner in the 85th. It could have gone either way as all relevant stats were even.

We have England in the semis and I don’t fancy our chances as we’ve played them twice before and lost both 2-1 and in both games they looked loads better than us but they didn’t look that much better this time as we took a 20th minute lead but a defensive mistake let them score in the 40th minute and then then they scored a 30 yard winner in the 89th minute to beat us 2-1 again.

We did have another game to play as we got to play in the third place playoff against DR Congo and after missing a penalty and having a goal disallowed for offside we got a late winner and finished 3rd in the World Cup which is a good result.

Afterwards I resigned as I’ve been a bit sick of playing international games, I think I’m going to stick to domestic football for a while.

I’ll be back with an update after next season which could be a big season juggling domestic and European football.

– Sparko Marco

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