Roaring Again: Winking Revenge! – Football Manager 2016

As a young child I always questioned why football was often refereed to as the ‘beautiful game’. My earliest memories of the sport are those of agony rather than ecstasy: Steven Gerrard ruined what would have been the most beautiful moment of my life (yes, I am referring to the 2006 FA Cup Final) and just a few weeks later Cristiano Ronaldo compounded the misery by knocking my country out of the World Cup… So when I saw that we would likely face Portugal in the Semi Finals of the 2018 World Cup I could not have been more determined to get one over Ronaldo, preferably celebrating with a wink and a knee slide…


 England (P) 1-1 Portugal, Otkrytiye Arena – Moscow

With Nani ruled out through suspension Portugal went into the fixture a man depleted, meaning that they were to be ever more reliant upon their infamous talisman – Cristiano Ronaldo. Matching us with a like-for-like 4-3-3 formation was an interesting move from the freshly appointed André Villas-Boas – and it only ultimately went onto serve us the perfect opportunity to strangle Ronaldo and Sanchez out of the game.

20160714133520_1 USEGoing into the match as favourites, we started the game well – passing the ball from left to right rapidly and accurately; after just 24 minutes Rúben Neves had become sufficiently fatigued to warrant substitution and from there on we continued to press and push Portugal around the field. However, it should be noted that the stars did not perfectly align for us – an injury to Chris Smalling saw John Terry reluctantly enter the play, picking up a yellow card for a highly questionable challenge on Ronaldo just four minutes after crossing the white line…

Jesus Manzano, our Spanish referee, was exceptionally quick to reach for his pocket – booking four players before the game had even reached the 80 minute mark; at which point Raheem Sterling took the game into his own hands…. Receiving the ball on the half-turn from Dele Ali, Sterling marched forwards towards the edge of the eighteen yard box and smashed a delicious strike into the bottom corner – leaving Rui Praticio to merely clutch at air as he attempted to claw Sterling’s shot out of the bottom corner!

Unfortunately, after changing our system to a 4-1-2-1-2, Portugal ramped up their play and were subsequently able to bundle the ball over the line with just 26 seconds remaining on the clock – meaning that, once again, we would be heading into a period of 30 minutes of extra play. As the first period of extra-time got under way I made a slight tactical tweak to my side, dropping Eric Dier into the defence and pushing both of my full-backs up the field – my aim being to overload the wide areas of the pitch to prevent Cristiano Ronaldo from being able to deliver any more crosses, a phase of play that had been Portugal’s most fruitful method of offence.

Despite both teams attempting to break the deadlock the score remained tied until the end of extra-time, meaning that the game would be decided by a penalty shootout – a shootout that I actually approached with disguised optimism because with just three minutes of play remaining Portugal had gone down to ten men, meaning that if the shootout went the distance they would have to use their ‘keeper one round before we would.

But it didn’t go the distance…

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Ronaldo, Sanchez and João were unable to find a way to slot the ball into Joe Hart’s net, a problem that Dier, Terry, Vardy and Kane did not have… In the most shocking of fashions: we had beaten Portugal to reach the World Cup Final, raining on Cristiano Ronaldo’s retirement parade and burying the country’s deep-rooted phobia of penalty shootouts in the process!

Statistically we had the better of the game and thoroughly deserved our win – but I must admit that when Raheem Sterling fired the first penalty of the shootout into Row Z I did fear the worst! While Portugal will now have to dust themselves off and go again because they face Spain – their neighbours – in the hotly anticipated third placed playoff, we must prepare for the rematch to end all rematches.

20160714135001_1 USEHaving conceded just once on their way to the final – slaughtering Brazil, Spain and Poland on the merry way – Germany will be licking their lips with anticipation, believing that 2018 is their time to avenge their defeat against my English side just two years ago and right the wrongs of the 1966 final. With Emre Can marshalling the midfield, Mesut Özil providing a creative spark and Marco Reus in prolific form: Germany will enter the fixture as favourites, although going in as underdogs probably suits my side perfectly…

That is all for the antepenultimate 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 Seventeen in the coming days, an article where I will review our 2018 World Cup Final clash against Germany…

Roaring Again

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