I often say this, but Football Manager really is a game of an infinite number of possibilities: taking England to glory at the 2016 European Championships is clearly beyond the realms of realism *cough* Iceland *cough*, but with the draw for the 2018 World Cup having been completed I have been left to lick my lips in anticipation: surely we can’t do the double!?
Having beaten Slovenia, Slovakia, Scotland, Malta and Lithuania on our way to the World Cup we have been handed another favourable draw for the Group Stages – as we face Algeria, Jamaica and Scotland in Group F! On paper the only team that look likely to cause us any issues are Algeria as they do have a squad brimming with a fair few world-class talents: Mahrez and Feghouli to name just two. Jamaica are an intriguing side to face considering that they have never before qualified for a FIFA World Cup and that they trumped the likes of Honduras and Canada to reach the tournament. Another aspect that adds to the intrigue that surrounds the ‘Reggae Boys’ is that the likes of Dwight Gayle, Michail Antonio and Wes Morgan have all declared for the nation – meaning that they have a squad made up of Premier League and Championship standard talents.
The final nation to be drawn into Group F was Scotland, and it was a moment that made me cringe with utter disdain. Having been battered by the Scots during the Group Stages of the European Championships in France and been drawn to play against them in World Cup Qualifying we now face our neighbours once again! Ryan Gauld, Steven Naismith and Darren Fletcher (who now captains the side from centre back) will probably be twitching with excitement having once again been plucked from normality and placed into the spotlight.
Austria, Mexico, Morocco and Spain make up what could turn out to be a fiery Group H; Iran have finally made their return to the World Cup in Group C; and Russia (the hosts) will face Colombia, Switzerland and the United States of America in Group A. While Paraguay and Holland have earned a spot at the tournament following a lengthy exodus from major competitions, Chile and New Zealand, on the other hand, have missed out on qualification – helping to make the Russian World Cup an exciting, unpredictable proposition.
Our preparation for the tournament takes a rather eccentric format: we start off by facing Sri Lanka – then taking on Zenit (in St Petersburg), then Argentina at Wembley Stadium and finally American Samoa! I like to use friendly matches to build up match-sharpness, increase morale and build a better understanding of how my team will likely perform at the tournament. In this instance it is my hope that we will be able to go through our preparation unscathed – hopefully thrashing Sri Lanka and American Samoa, while battling against Argentina and Zenit in a more competitive manner.
We will go into the World Cup as one of the favourites to win the whole competition, however it remains to be seen as to whether or not we will be able to perform in a triumphant manner fitting of the champions of Europe – or we perform like a bunch of headless, disenfranchised chickens…
That is all for the eleventh 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 Twelve in the coming days, an article where I will discuss the outcomes from our pre-tournament friendlies…