Before I proceed, I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for the lack of updates since ‘World Cup Prep’ was released on August 3rd! I had been able to create a backlog of content prior to going on holiday, but since returning home I have had to invest my time into other (less interesting) projects – and this series had to be shunted to the back of my ‘to-do list’. However, I am now back and very much hope to round off ‘Roaring Again’ before the end of October – just in time for the release of Football Manager 2017! So, without further ado: I bring to you the fourteenth part of ‘Roaring Again’.
Perhaps I have failed one of my major goals for this save? At the very beginning of this project I pledged to select players based purely upon form, but we have leaked goals at a faster rate than a sieve during the Group Stage of the 2018 World Cup – and that is partly down to the inclusion of John Terry, a player who is very much on his last legs. However, leaky or not – we have been able to progress through a group comprised of Scotland, Algeria and Jamaica; although it was far from a breeze…
England 2-1 Algeria – Zenit Stadium, Saint Petersburg
As Joe Hart led my English XI out onto the green, green grass of the Zenit Stadium I was left pondering quite how we would break down a resolute and resilient Algerian side. Would I ask my players to attack the right flank, hoping that Riyad Marhez would be unwilling to sit back and defend – meaning that he would be unable to prevent Raheem Sterling from wreaking havoc? Would I instruct John Stones and John Terry to fling long balls towards the towering figure of Harry Kane for the Spurs forward to attack bullishly? Or would I continue to instruct my side to play in the way that suits us best? Swift counter attacking, copious amounts of width and a deep defensive line is the only way in which we are able to prosper – and once again it worked for us against Algeria.
Goals from Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere were enough to outweigh the impact of Sofiane Feghouli’s wonder strike – allowing us to move three points clear of the side I was most fearful of prior to beginning our World Cup campaign. While our passing was slick and our wing-play was exceptional: we struggled to quiet the offensive capabilities of the likes of Mahrez, Feghouli and Slimani because of our institutional lack of pace in defence.
England 3-1 Scotland – Mordovia Arena, Saransk
Having fallen fail to the swashbuckling offensive style of Gordon Strachan’s Scotland side at the 2016 European Championships I was exceptionally wary of our northern neighbours while I delivered my pre-match team talk, although I knew deep-down that we should have had enough about ourselves to see off the Scots this time around – and I was proven right. Well-taken Goals from Danny Welbeck, Harry Kane and Daniel Sturridge were enough to overturn the early lead that Scotland were able to obtain through the boot of Leigh Griffiths…
Two wins from two at the start of a major tournament is all that you can ask for, especially when it is enough to confirm progression into the Round of Sixteen of the World Cup, meaning that I was able to rest and rotate my squad heading into our final Group Stage fixture against Jamaica.
Jamaica 3-2 England – Fisht, Adler
I can stomach losing to Jamaica in a game that doesn’t really matter – but the way in which we lost was an embarrassment. However, in all fairness it is no shame to lose to this Jamaican side: the likes of Michail Antonio, Dwight Gayle and Jason Puncheon are all capable of ruffling feathers at the highest level – but none of Jamaica’s well-known attacking threats scored against us, they were muted during open play. A brace from Wes Morgan and a late strike from Shaun Cummings saw us fall to our first defeat since being mauled by Germany at last year’s Confederations Cup.
I am not disappointed that my heavily rotated side conceded three to Jamaica – although that is, admittedly, an issue – it is the fact that we conceded three identical goals. Failing to mark the tallest player at the far post from a dead-ball situation three times in the space of twenty-five minutes simply just isn’t acceptable. I picked the likes of John Terry and Phil Jones based upon their psychological footballing capabilities with this exact situation in mind – and quite frankly they let me down and it is something that I will have to take account going forwards.
Fortunately, our collective lapse in concentration in our final game of the Group Stage against Jamaica did not cost us dearly when it came to the knockout round draw. We will face South Korea in the Round of Sixteen, but – most importantly – have been placed on the ‘easier’ half of the draw. Being pitted against Russia, the Ivory Coast, France, Mexico, France and South Korea is certainly the more favourable route to the Final than the alternative – so, for that – I must thank the Football Manager gods for smiling down on me.
Notable absentees in the knockout rounds include Italy and Chile; while the likes of Jamaica, Senegal and Turkey have exceeded expectations to reach this stage of the competition! Having been selected to face-off against one another in the Second Round of the competition, Brazil and Argentina will be cursing their luck – but, in all honesty, I don’t mind that at all…!
That is all for the fourteenth instalment of ‘Roaring Again’, a Football Manager 2016 series with the English National team. I very much hope that you have found this article interesting, and if you have then maybe you would like to get in touch with me – and my fellow Football Manager Addicts admin folk! – over in our Facebook Group, through my Facebook Page, via Twitter or on Tifo. It is my intention to release Part Fifteen in the coming days, an article where I will discuss our efforts against South Korea and potentially Mexico or France in the latter stages of the World Cup!