Fantastic

Is it possible to win the Champions League with an Icelandic club?

68 posts in this topic

I've taken it upon myself to try. Historically Iceland has never had a representative in the group stages of the competition. Working against them further is the fact that all clubs in Iceland are semi-professional. To give you a useful comparable, it's the same status and pay grades as a Blue Square South/North side, possibly a little bit more.

For my challenge I have selected Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur. I could have gone with a first division side, but I don't think it helps anyone, least of all me, when trying to do this challenge. Let's just assume that in five to eight years I could have taken a first division side to the top of the league. This just saves a bit of time.

Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur are based in the capital, that gives them the biggest boost, compared to clubs outside of the capital, because the better the city's reputation the more interested players will be to move there. On top of that they are the most successful club in the league's history, just another helpful boost. I also selected my starting reputation as international, less so for the ability to attract players but more about giving me time to build a team. It is no secret that the lower the reputation the less patient the board is with you.

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2011 Season

Our first season was about getting into a commanding position. KR start with some very good players for the Premier Division. They have three internationals, two of which are selected regularly, although only my goalkeeper Hannes Þór Halldórsson becomes a regular starter. The other player, Kjartan Finnbogason, is an excellent striker. Along with a few other key players they form the backbone of the side.

To strengthen the side I actually made thirteen signings over the course of the season:

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This was excessive, I won't hide from that. Nor will I hide from the simple fact I spent my money woefully, £35k on a thirty five year old Iraqi playmaker who played four matches. On top of that 7/13 players I signed were strikers. Consider I already had three strikers at the club, that is a ridiculous number. But I can justify it. Just.

I needed a striker to be able to play with Finnbogason, he was excellent in the Upper Icelandic League cup (a cup competition that runs from mid february until late march that serves as a kind of pre-season) however we could not be a one dimensional side. We needed to be free scoring. I was proved right about this issue, because Finnbogason went 25 hours without a competitive goal during my first season. That is horrible.

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11 in 11 cup matches, then 5 in 5 games in the league then nothing until the penultimate match of the season. But such is the dearth of talent in Iceland it made sense for me to bring in these cheap options to test them out.

That brings me onto the other ace in my sleeve. I have loaded the full league pyramids from every Scandinavian nation:

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On top of that I also set up a custom database that loaded every player based in Scandinavia. This only real serves me well in my first few seasons, but there are an inordinate amount of players in these countries who can be signed for nothing. Either because they have no value or because they are on amateur contracts. Either way, this worked for me and I managed to bring the team together to win the league:

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We won the league. This was the absolute minimum for me and our perfect seven game start was the catalyst for a great season. Along the way we were knocked out of the Icelandic Cup by Fram and did not qualify for the Europa League. Trivial marks on an otherwise wholly successful season. The job for next season was to take our opportunity in the Champions League and convert that into success. That would mean group stage, as another minimum.

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I'm going to be a little patronising but it's necessary just to qualify how much the Champions League can mean to club in Iceland. The income from merely representing your nation in the group stage is approximately six million pounds.

Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur has an annual expenditure of almost £2 million, with a similar income. It's a fairly break even process, throw in cup wins, player sales it can be a pretty self serving system.

Now I'm going to ruin the next chapter in the story by showing you this next image, but it's inevitable so I figure it's important to show people just how greatly the six million affects the club:

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That huge step when the group stage place is attained launches the club into the stratosphere compared to where they were. It gives them a spending capability far beyond what they're used to. Even if Champions League status was not attained for a while after, that would still completely change their game on the domestic front.

Why you ask? One word: professional.

Professional status means you can train players full time, which means they have better fitness levels, it means you can offer players more money, longer contracts and it overall makes your club a far more desirable destination for players. In an league like Iceland where no club has pro status and we do, that means we're ten years ahead and should be hitting first place every year without fail. That makes my job easier. But first I have to get there, right? Don't worry, I'll show you how I did it.

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Season 2012

This year was all about keeping our eye on the ball. We had a league campaign to not f*ck up and we had a very nasty qualification process for the Champions League to tackle around the back end of the season. My main priority was getting as fast a start as possible to make sure when we hit August I could start resting player for key Champions League games. You have to remember, while we're semi-pro most matches players turn up with a condition of 93-95%. That's not healthy, chuck in a three game week and you're looking at pulled hamstrings and jadedness up to your balls.

The single most important moment of the 2012 season was the youth recruitment of Sverrir Hermannson:

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He's good, I will not doubt that. But I have to look at him pragmatically, he is just a stepping stone, he is a goal scoring bank that will move us to the next level when is sold, but he will not win me the Champions League. The entire club has to progress. But he is crucial because he gave us an edge, a level of power and excitement that encouraged me to be adventurous with my signings this year.

I predominantly focused on defenders and midfielders (all free):

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It's simple logic for me. The best people to emulate in this situation are the Danish and Norwegians. Specifically Kobenhavn and Rosenborg. Those two qualify for the group stages and while far more advanced that=n Iceland in footballing terms, not beyond the realms of reality. If I can start picking up players clubs from the top leagues in these countries were interested in, then it would make us better. No doubt. It sounds like flawless logic, but remember Iceland is not an attractive place to work in.

But I got some good ones in, Baldvinnson the Faroese defender was a rock and proved to be a natural leader. Rekish was the creative spark I needed to fuel Hermannson and the club flourished:

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We walked the league, picked up the ULC and the IC along the way too. It was around halfway through the season I switched us onto the formation I will be using for the rest of the game:

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Tacticians will argue that you build the system to fit the team. But this is a system I know that works because it's the same 4-4-2 I've used on the last three versions of the game. My reasoning is that with the large turnover of players into the club as I slowly try to improve the squad it makes far more sense to keep the tactic constant and changed the pieces gradually, improving the unit. If I keep changing my philosophy we'll never get set.

So that all worked out according to plan. It's nice to say that, but then I didn't have any real doubts about it. I made the team better from the previous year and it showed. The major hurdle we had to face was the qualification process for the Champions League.

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Every nation has a coefficient that is an aggregate of their performance and their clubs performance in Europe. This magical number decides how many places a nation gets in Europe's competitions. Iceland's is sh*t, they get one for the Champions League and three for the Europa League:

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The only way to improve this is to perform better in the competition.

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12th place is the last place a nation can be in and still receive and automatic placing in the group stage. That requires a coefficient of about 30.000.

Put it another way, as you'll find out in a second, we qualify for the group stages, we subsequently get knocked out with just one victory. But for that year Iceland was given a coefficient of 4.500. Your coefficient is calculated on a five year basis. So if a team from Iceland were able to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League five years in a row, that would give them an aggregate coefficient of 22.500. That would put them in about fourteenth place, where Switzerland are now. Add on top of that, at that stage a second team would be qualifying for the competition, so that only opens the book further.

The point I'm making is that it can be done, we can slowly grind our way to the top, we have a realistic target to meet: five groups stages in five years.

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We were fortunate. We faced the champions of Finland, a relatively familiar side to us. Then the champions if Israel who were of a similar quality, before finally the champions of Romania, who were a real test, but we were able to match them

So we qualified. I know it's very reductive to just list off the results, but that's what counts and we move on. We achieved our number one goal for the season. That means we could turn professional, that means we can improve further, that means we can start to really bring in some quality into the side.

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A nice little adventure in the group stage. Totally and utterly worked over by most teams, but a final match victory against Juventus was an amusing surprise. I'll put it down as a fluke, but it still made the trip worthwhile.

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But there is one nagging concern I have and that is that if we were able to attain the magical five group stages in a row, that sets us up for a very nasty proposition, the fact we will no longer be in the Champions qualifying section of the Champions League qualification process, we will then be placed into the Best Placed section where we will face strong teams from Europe's elite divisions. This scares me because I don't believe we'll be at the level to match teams like Arsenal at Valencia. Not at all. But then I guess this wouldn't be a challenge if it got easier as time went on...

So in all season 2012 was a major success, we got everything we wanted and we were set up for a very exciting third season where I can begin to shape the side into a thorn, ready to scratch at those above us.

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Rekish is good as well.

If you're interested, here's a horribly made compilation video of his time at Dinamo Minsk:

[video=youtube;ohOXz4bw7jU]

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like the presentation and format so far, good luck to you.

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Not carrying on your old thread then?

Oh god, I haven't loaded up that game since the last post I made on here. Do you know why I stopped playing that game? Boredom. I wanted to have a really long career that panned out over the course of few dozen seasons and last the whole year until the new game came out. But as soon as I took over CSKA I lost interest. Because it was too easy. I don't mean that in a smug way, but I had gone from managing a second division Argentine side to the former World Cup Champions to a club who had in excess of £70 million to spend on players. When I do a career I want to earn success.

Truth be told I didn't play for a good few months, I had a brief game with Leeds that lasted a few seasons and ended with a Champions League win. I've been toying around with ideas for games that can keep me interested. If the problem is me losing interest because I can't challenge myself, then it's up to me to make it more challenging.

That's where I find myself now. I don't see myself losing interest until I've exhausted every option in my pursuit. I have the fire back, I want it to stay this time.

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Fair enough, shame as I was enjoying that one, especially the time in Argentina. Agree that it's no good if it's too easy, think my least favourite time on my save was 3 years at a mega-rich sugar-daddy-powered Arsenal.

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But there is one nagging concern I have and that is that if we were able to attain the magical five group stages in a row, that sets us up for a very nasty proposition, the fact we will no longer be in the Champions qualifying section of the Champions League qualification process, we will then be placed into the Best Placed section where we will face strong teams from Europe's elite divisions. This scares me because I don't believe we'll be at the level to match teams like Arsenal at Valencia. Not at all. But then I guess this wouldn't be a challenge if it got easier as time went on...

Are you sure? I thought that was just for the also rans in the bigger nations? Now I'm worried cause I've just finished my 3rd CL group stage now.

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Are you sure? I thought that was just for the also rans in the bigger nations?

Yes it is, you won't have that as champions anyway.

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Are you sure? I thought that was just for the also rans in the bigger nations? Now I'm worried cause I've just finished my 3rd CL group stage now.

Yeah, I've done some research into it as someone pointed out the same thing to me on another forum.

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I assumed, incorrectly, that when the coefficient clicked up to fifteenth place everyone just moved across a bracket. It's taken a load of my mind, but then this is all theory. I still have to actually see if I can move the league into a position where it can be asking these questions, if at all.

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Season 2013

This was a watershed season for us. Sure it sounds stupid saying that when the reality is that up until this point I'd had two years in charge of the club and we'd won a few leagues. We weren't expected to uproot any trees this season and it'll come as no surprise to you that didn't. But it was a watershed season because how I reacted to the influx of wealth coming into the club would be crucial in how far we can go.

The most important piece of news was the confirmation of professional status. That pushed our levels of seduction far beyond where they were previously. The calibre of players who were interested in joining the club meant I had to make big changes to the side.

So I did what any sensible person would do; I recruited. But I didn't stop at just a few key additions, I spent a lot of money on a lot of players. I released players, I upset players. Quite frankly it doesn't matter. There's no point getting sentimental over a bunch of virtual personalities, if the team isn't good enough we won't hit that magical five Champions League group stages in a row and that means we won't progress.

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Those are two big lists. Sixteen players came into the club and by the time the season had finished twenty four had left. My approach was scattergun. I started by making key signings, players like Mputu and Rennow who would make us significantly better in the short term. But the list grew because as my scouts attained a better knowledge of the world around us it quickly became apparent that there are some excellent players out there who are willing to play in Iceland, for the right price.

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It's a lot of information to take in, I can appreciate that. But if you do get to look at each player individually I think you can see there are certain players (in my mind Pop, Naito and Vitviskyi) that have a level of quality that will make them not only assets to this club but also desirable for other clubs. While there are some other solid signings mixed in there designed to keep the club stable over the years, it's the type of players the three I mentioned that are critical to this club.

The reason all boils down to finances. At the top end of my spending power I'm given a transfer budget of £5.5 million a year. Mix into that the wages for the players and there is room to maneuver. But only so much.

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It doesn't take a genius to work out that the red line on the graph above is the moment the club turned professional. Since that moment our weekly expenditure on salary has nearly trebled. It's understandable that it would go up, better players want more money. But the problem is that at we're almost at the edge of spending as it is.

I'll count the 2013 season as the much needed injection, but to stay viable as an entity, to keep bringing in a steady three or four million pound profit every season we need to keep our eyes on the finances.

In a way this is the beauty of trying to win the Champions League with a club from a division where they have no competition. If we can win the league and qualify for the Champions League with peanuts, then we can be sensible with out money, keep scouting, keep turning over players and just gradually build. I see us buying these wonderful players and my hearts starts fluttering thinking we're going to make waves. We don't make waves, we get a point and even then it was lucky. So I have to be patient.

But what are our options? I can't expect to win the most prestigious cup competition in the world with a group of players who are allowed a maximum wage of £3,700 per week. I'm not going to start throwing around estimates, I can only look at what I think will get us in a better position: keep winning.

Yes, I know what you're thinking, I'm an idiot. Of course if I keep winning then things are going to great. But for those who haven't cottoned on yet, the crucial factor here is dynamic league reputation. If KR can continue to qualify for the Champions League group stages, **** if one day they could qualify for the second round, that in turn makes the reputation of the Icelandic Premier Divsion go up.

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This is where things start to get complicated. In order to maximise the potential of the Icelandic Premier Division, we're going to need a partner in crime. What I mean is that at the current moment in time Iceland has one team in the Champions League and three in the Europa League. But none of those three Europa League teams are doing anything, they just turn up and then get knocked out. If we could have another club being a minor success on the continental stage, it would benefit us and the league in a much greater way.

But how do I do that, short of cheating by managing a second club myself? I'm not too sure at the moment, my best idea is to funnel cash into a select team, excess money we are not using at this club. Purchase one of their players for an exorbitant amount of money and hope they spend it on some good players and do well... It sounds ridiculous just typing it out. This is down the line theory I'm writing here, but it's still worth thinking about because it's only going to become harder as the seasons go by.

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So onto what actually happened during the season. Aside from bringing in a load of players and thinking far too deeply into league dynamics and finances, we did actually play some football. In fact we played some really good football this year.

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Eventually we're going to start winning the league without dropping a single point. When that day comes I may very well begin to just holiday the game until the start of July. It's an unfortunate by product of becoming incredibly successful, it can become incredibly dull. But at least we don't have to worry about the league, it isn't a nuisance, just a very protracted warm up for the big show.

We picked up the ULC and the IC along the way to repeat the previous year's treble and while I talk down about our league campaign, it's still important. Over the course of the months it's useful to determine where the team needs to be improved and bring the players in.

July arrived fairly quickly and we exploded out of the gates for the qualifying phase of the Champions League:

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I was extremely pleased to draw Steaua for the second year in a row. Just the knowledge we had beaten then the previous year stopped me worrying about whether we would get through this year.

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The group stage, as I said at the start, threw up no surprises. We drew one game, at home to Leverkusen with a 94th minute equaliser, but the rest of the games we were outclassed. I could suggest that we conceded fewer goals so that's an improvement, but really that's just clutching at straws. Right now the focus is just getting to this stage, just by turning up we're achieving everything that we need to.

So where does that leave us:

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We're gradually making progress. Our coefficient continues to rise, but it's clear to me now that one season in the next five or so, we're going to need to have a lucky group stage, sneak a few points and grab third place. If we can get into the knockout stages of the Europa League within the next five years that would be something to really be proud of. It would just be nice if another Icelandic side could join us at Big School, it's hard fighting everyone by ourselves.

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It's good to see you attempt this :) It will take a long time to get yourself far in the Champions League, but even longer to get teams around you into the group stages. I think it's all about money really and relying on the AI to make good decisions and improve their squads.

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It's good to see you attempt this :) It will take a long time to get yourself far in the Champions League, but even longer to get teams around you into the group stages. I think it's all about money really and relying on the AI to make good decisions and improve their squads.

Hopefully our endeavours can help raise the profile of the league, which in turn will allow clubs like FH to attract better players. Ultimately it's going to take a little bit of luck for them to do well, but over a protracted period of time it's not out of the realm of possibility for them to get something.

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I do think it's possible, but the AI isn't as intelligent as we are, so might take a while, but I have faith that it will happen :)

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There's no point getting sentimental over a bunch of virtual personalities, if the team isn't good enough we won't hit that magical five Champions League group stages in a row and that means we won't progress.

This!

Although I still can't help it occassionally. My captain is currently the worst player in my first team squad. He had a couple good seasons but is no longer of a quality to help the team progress. If I'm honest, this will be his last season.

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Very interesting Idea, and I doubt you will get bored. Maybe find a Parent Club to loan you players?

Good suggestion, didn't think about doing that. Done:

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This!

Although I still can't help it occassionally. My captain is currently the worst player in my first team squad. He had a couple good seasons but is no longer of a quality to help the team progress. If I'm honest, this will be his last season.

I've had a little difficulty getting players to renew contracts, ended up selling Skulason and Mputu, the latter for a £500k profit. It's turned out to be a really good piece of business. I've tried this year to bring in a few Icelanders, but it's hard when there really isn't that good a talent pool.

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I've tried this year to bring in a few Icelanders, but it's hard when there really isn't that good a talent pool.

That's another reason I've kept my captain, he's a local lad, so he's home grown for Europe.

Hopefully you get a parent team that's also useful.

My Parent team is useless. They've never sent me anyone on loan and want loan fees and full wages paid for their players. That's when they accept a bid for one of their players for loan. There is a loan agreement in place.

The only useful thing I get out of this deal is $68k a year.

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Nothing. I'm disappointed, I would have enjoyed a top tier team feeding me free money and cheap players.

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Major downside of managing in Iceland is the IFA doesn't accommodate for teams with internationals. It's a shame because you used to be able to make requests to the FA to change fixtures, but the last time I remember using that was in CM 01/02.

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Season 2014

When I write these updates, I'm tempted to subtitle them, in order to preface what's to come. If I was to do that with this season, it would probably be called the long climax or the crescendo. I'm feeding you clues, but trust me; it's good.

The important aspect for me this season was to keep ourselves upwardly mobile. I was concerned that I wouldn't get so lucky with transfers this season, but it turns out there were still some exciting players willing to move to Iceland. Add to that I was able to start moving some unneeded players out for cold hard cash. Not big money, but almost enough to cover all of our transfers this year:

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I tried to resist my urges to blow my money and I think I did a good job of controlling the ins and outs. Crucially high earner Tresor Mputu left the club, his ridiculous match highest earner clause was damaging our finances, not to mention his age (29) meant he had a limited shelf life. He along with Rekish were also wasting valuable foreign player places (only three allowed) so it made sense to move them on. Here are the ins:

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During the season some interesting business was taken care of. We saw a dramatic increase in the stock of the Icelandic Premier Division:

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In the grand scheme of things it's not that major, but for me it's a good indicator that our endeavours in Europe are not going unnoticed. Who knows how high that can go, theoretically the game should make it possible to go right to the top. But I highly doubt anyone has the patience to see that through.

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Another little bit of progress. After averaging over 4,000 a match (out of 4,500) the board finally approved my desire to increase the stadium. I'm not too sure how far we can go with this, but if we keep doing well attendances can surely only go up. It's also adding another string to our bow in terms of finances.

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Speaking of finances, we've got a very healthy year on year profit margin now, coupled with our balance this gives me a cause for optimism. I don't want to see things spiral out of control though because we haven't got any guarantees on money and selling our best players for cash, while inevitable, is not something I want to be forced to do.

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And now onto the business part of the season. Guess what, we won the league. And the ULC. And the ICC. And the IC. So yeah, what a surprise that was.

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Our unbeaten season will come eventually, but I'm not bothered about that.

What I really want to tell you is what came after.

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Two very straight forward qualification ties was followed up with a final tie against Red Bull Salzburg. Following a 1-1 draw at home we somehow managed to qualify for the group stages after conceding three unanswered goals:

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Simply incredible. I'm going to stick my neck on the line and assume that's my most dramatic comeback ever. Sure it's only for the group stages, but the given what's at stake every time we enter the qualification phases... wow, it was impressive to see the players have that level of strength.

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In the group stage we were drawn alongside Ajax, Valencia and Internazionale. That's a tough group and I thought that we could possibly sneak a draw out of somewhere.

It turns our that we actually got a draw in our fist match against Ajax, 2-2 away from home. It surprised me quite a bit, but I was delighted because it showed we had moved on from the previous few years. Normal service resumed in our second match against Inter, but I expected us to get our arses handed to ourselves. A fun fact about that match is that the attendance for that game was our lowest ever. Seems odd that our fans wouldn't want to see a massive club like Inter, but maybe they aren't fazed by celebrity.

Anway, we moved onto our third match which was against Valencia. The result is beyond incredible:

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I don't know what to say. I though we would be worked over. Before the two red cards had even happened we were in complete control of the match. The scoreline flattered us, no doubt about that, but it was nothing more than we deserved. This single moment is, for me, the moment where we take a step and say here's KR, here's what we're about, we're going to be here for a while. I feel incredibly proud about what the team did that day.

Our next match was also against Valencia and given how well we did at home I felt confident going in we could get something. We did, only a 1-1 draw but away from home that is still a fantastic result.

You have to remember now that at this point, four games into the group stage the table now read:

Inter - 8pts

KR - 5 pts

Valencia - 3pts

Ajax - 3pts

Third place was a very real possibility now, with games against Ajax at home and Inter away remaining.

Except the team only went and did this:

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I'm running out of cliched expressions to describe my disbelief. The result speaks for itself. The game put us in a very real position to be qualifying for the second round of the Champions League, all we had left was a game against Inter, with Ajax and Valencia to play ourselves. The table was as follows:

Inter - 8pts

KR - 8pts

Valencia - 6pts

Ajax - 3pts

I expected us to lose so the best case scenarios were Ajax winning or a draw, that would guarantee us second place. Worst case scenario we go to the second round of the Europa League, still a massive success.

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I've been playing this game long enough to know that no matter what I do, sometimes the game just wants to screw you. You can make all the right moves, you can buy the right players, think you have the best tactics and still you just can't get it right.

However, once in a while the game swings things your way for no reason, just as a little taster that keeps you interested. At the Guiseppe Meazza Football Manager gave me a kilo of the good stuff:

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Not possible. Not even improbable. I don't know whether I underestimate my side, but this should not be happening. But it did, it has happened and suddenly I realise KR are in the second round of the Champions League. From almost going out in the play-off against Red Bull Salzburg to not only qualifying from group stage, but actually winning our group:

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I'm tempted to just pack it in right now. This feels like a cup final victory, this is huge. We're making tidal waves all the way from bloody Iceland. I'd like to tell you more, like who we're facing, but I've only just finished the group stage. This is a special moment, it's come far too soon, at least in my mind, but whatever... let's enjoy this.

If I could bring it back to a more level headed view for a second, for the most important factor in all of this is the effect our run in the group stage has had on our prospective coefficient for next season:

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We're still running off two seasons of virtually no impact. If we can maintain a decent level of form over the next two years it is extremely likely Iceland will have two representatives in the Champions League by 2017. That' outstanding news. I'm going to get whimsical here: hit 12th place and we'll be there automatically.

Hell, this has been a ****ing great year. We're still in the Champions League for christ's sake.

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Bernardo (and Torres) look excellent.
Bernardo looks fantastic.

Bernardo was an amazing find. I operate four scouts, one locally in Iceland, one in Scandinavia, one in Central Europe and one in Eastern Europe. I almost screwed myself by having too many foreign signings so I'm trying to avoid those now. However I received a message from Bernardo's agent saying "come sign him blah blah blah". The kicker for me is the fact he has a German second nationality. Perfect storm, the question is how long I can hold onto him for.

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Wow nice work, Fantastic even. Who's knows what will happen against Milan.

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Wow that was close. Done on away goals. I though both matches were going to be routs when the first goals went in. After the goal in the home leg I switched to all out attack. We nearly won it too. Really pleased with our showing in the tournament, we've got a lot to look forward to.

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