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git2thachoppa

[FM 2007] Back to 2006, as a poor man's Andre Villas-Boas | UPDATE: 2017/18 international football - WORLD PEACE ACHIEVED

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Contents

Post 46: 5-Year Recap: 2006 - 2011

Post 88: 5-Year Recap: 2011 - 2016

Post 1 (this post): Intro

Posts 2-12: Baptism of Fire - Salyut-Energia Belgorod, Russian First Division (second tier), 9th July 2006 - 20th October 2006

- Relegation
- Sacked

Posts 14 - 37: Free Transfers Only! - Varese, Serie C2 (Italian 4th tier), 13th November 2006 - 18th July 2010

- Serie C2 title and promotion to Serie C1
- Midtable Serie C1 security

Posts 19 - 29: Rebuilding a team in the wilderness - Tunisia, 14th October 2007 - 9th November 2008

- Loss to Faroe Islands
- Resignation

Posts 37 - 68: Prince of Persia - Iran, 18th July 2010 - August 2015

- 2011 Asian Cup runner-up, beat hosts Australia away.
- First Olympics appearance since 1970s, first ever as Under-23 tournament, in London 2012.
- Best ever World Cup performance in Spain 2014, despite group stage exit, beating Scotland 3-1 and drawing 0-0 with France
- 2015 Asian Cup quarter-finalists

Posts 75 - 90: Excessive use of the Alt Gr key - Chile, August 2015 - 10th September 2017

- Failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup

Posts 93 - ?: Like Pep at City, if City had no money and Pep was crap - BSC Young Boys of Bern, Swiss Super League (top tier), 25th January 2018 - ?

===========================================================================

 

Intro

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I completed Football Manager 2007.

It only took close to a decade in real time, three decades in game time.

 

The Backstory

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They didn't just do Pick 'n' Mix.

£25 from Woolworths in 2006/2007 began my so-caled 'canon career'.

The career only took in two clubs (and quite a few countries as well). A lot of trophies, promotions, drama, records and history. You know how it is. When I took my next job in 2035, it hit me: the game has finished itself, through chaos.

The football world had imploded.

Internationally, Japan, Austria, Poland, Lithuania, Peru, Canada, to name a few, were either former champions or had reached the business end of the World Cup. Germany, Netherlands, Italy were all perennial failures. In club football it was the same; giants had fallen and been replaced by the likes of Charlton, West Ham, Nantes.

austria-national-team.jpg

Austria, the most feared team in world football.

It felt like too many teams had lost their identity. While some had created a wonderful new history in the game, the vast majority kinda merged together. There was no longer a challenge, because every club could reach the top and every league was open, there for the taking. (Ok, except Scotland, where Celtic had won by 30 points as the only team with positive goal difference!)

So it all ended in 2035, 2014 in real time.

I moved on to FM14, but it hasn't grabbed me, despite all the new features I always wanted. I thought I really had retired from FM altogether.

But the urge has returned...

 

The Gimmick And My Approach

andre-villas-boas__2373427k.jpg

Portugal, British Virgin Islands, Britain, Russia...

So I shall return to the game that stole my heart, and see if we can make another canon career. Even more canon than the first! Because I have a confession: I'm not really a former international, I can't just get a Premier League or international job. I've no footballing experience whatsoever.

So what's an André Villas-Boas to do? Get your badges and get out there! But I don't even get my foot in the door by bumping into Bobby Robson or being an assistant manager. I'm going in cold (unless I also take my first steps in the British Virgin Islands, which sounds quite sunny).

The scope is massive as I can load every league, country and player. I'm open-minded, have no baggage, and seem to be pretty good at learning languages. I could go anywhere. But it's not just location I have to consider in real terms, but personal things, and how to treat others. Can I turn down the transfer offer of a lifetime for my young starlet when he's a human being with his own career and ambitions, rather than virtual code? Can I really live in Africa, Scandinavia or Australia with their giant spiders?

This goes deeper than it first seems...

And since I'll be loading everything, you can consider this to be the ultimate simulation of FM 2007. So I'll be giving details of the goings on in the rest of the game world. Will we see eerily realistic competition winners and transfers? Which now familiar faces of real life 2016 will also rise in FM 2007's predictions? Will the world be clamouring for Guardiola and Klopp, Ronaldo and Messi?

 

Jogging Your Memory: What Was Happening in 2006?

Zinedine-Zidanes-headbutt-002.jpg

"That is not what I meant about winning more headers, Zizou."

- Zidane headbutted France out of the World Cup, with Italy winning on penalties to become the second-most successful country in World Cup history, after Brazil. The headbutt was the only real shock in a very routine tournament, no one completely flopped, it was a bit boring really.

- Frank Rijkaard's Barcelona beat Arsenal 2-1 in the Champions League final. This Barcelona lot look to be a good team. Thierry Henry's head may be turned...

- Jose Mourinho's Chelsea and their mean defence once again destroyed the rest of the Premier League, comfortably winning. Will they ever be stopped?

- Claude Makelele is so good he has a position named after him. Thierry Henry, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Eto'o, Shevchenko, Ronaldinho, Trezeguet, Ronaldo (not Cristiano) and Kaka are banging in the goals.

- Lyon won their fifth title in a row. Can they turn this into improved European performances?

- Juventus win Serie A. Nothing seems peculiar about this...

- Juventus are relegated for match fixing, and will start Serie B with a huge point deficit. Other clubs are also punished.

- Australia left the OFC and joined the AFC. It'll be interesting to see how they cope with tougher opposition in Asian qualifying from now on. New Zealand will no doubt dominate OFC forever.

- The UEFA Cup recently introduced a group stage, 5 teams per group playing each other just once.

- Alan Shearer retires. Will Newcastle cope? Of course; they have Michael Owen!

- Messi is just another top player, and that Ronaldo shows a lot of potential. Cristiano Ronaldo, that is. (Right now we still think of the Brazilian when we say 'Ronaldo'. It's very confusing.)

- Wembley still isn't finished.

- England lose on penalties.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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The first job

Home-Office-Design-Corner-Desk-Pictures-01.jpg

After a relievingly short 5 minute wait loading every single league, nation and player... er, I mean after an enlightening journey getting my qualifications and such, I stepped out into the big unknown on 2nd July 2006.

By that I mean sit at my desk sending faxes and emails.

I got my name out there. There are around 130 club vacancies, many unpronounceable, and 20 country vacancies in the world. To my surprise, many came back with interest. Clubs all round the globe offered jobs till the end of the season, others longer, with wage offers ranging from poverty to nearly £1,000 a week.

Now I was in a position of some power, and I could more stringently consider wage, location, logistics, culture and of course the squad and club itself. Bangor City were out as I'd have to get a part time job as well, and I turned down a promising looking club in Ukraine as the wage was just too basic and the town didn't seem a place I'd be happy living in.

After some consideration, interviews and settling in, I started a tricky half-year job. My new club is...

3977.png

Salyut-Energia Belgorod

Reasons for choosing

The squad are slightly underperforming, while other jobs had expectation on them. The wage is ok (£400 per week), and while it's a tough ask to get them out of the relegation zone, failure to do so wouldn't look too bad. As long as I at least improve their results, I'll personally be better off than when I started. Better than sitting around. Also, they're situated near the border of Ukraine, so aren't in deep Russia. The weather is relatively ok and the place seems relatively nice (especially compared to the one Ukranian club I checked out).

jejbzAW.png


League

Russian First Division (their second tier). Halfway through the season, they're 21st out of 22nd. The top two teams get promoted, the bottom five get relegated. They had been predicted 18th.

efAEiQ1.png

Anzhi Makhachkala is the only familiar club. We probably have the best name out of everyone, because it sounds like an enthusiastic Russian greeting, while the club below us drank too heavily before naming themselves 'August'.

 

Stadium

Name: Salyut Stadium

Attendance: 12,000, but 3,000 is a good day.

1360285370407.jpg

Behind the picture is simply fencing and a main road - that may be a pedestrian right in the bottom-left corner. I wonder if fans just stand and watch the game there. You could easily climb over, in full view of everyone in the ground, and run onto the pitch!

Check out this photo I took while standing in the middle of the street and not getting run over:

d3abJFq.png


History

Formed in 1960, the club has won a few Second and Third Divisions. They finished second then third twice in the 2001-2003 season, before winning promotion last year. The value of the club is around £500,000.

 

Squad overview

It's hard to really take stock as I'm not familiar with this league and how good a player SHOULD be. Also, as it's a short-term contract, there's no need to look to the future. The job is to keep the club in the league this year. (As there's no lower league, relegation would lead to a sacking anyway.)

The squad is thin. A good right-back, and our only right-back and foreigner (from Belarus), has a broken leg. Right now there are only 3 defenders, and one's a yellow card away from suspension. However there are about 6 central midfielders and 5 strikers.

The best player, at first glance, is nearly 36 and a player/coach. He's the only capped player (1 cap) other than the crocked Belarusian (11). The best player at second glance is 34.

Judging from results, and the unspectacular goalkeepers, the team are alright with goals, but rarely keep a clean sheet. It's clear that fixing the defence will gain points. Recent results have been pretty random though; the only result not seen is a 1-0 or 0-1, which suggest they're not one for slow, tight games.

The transfer window is open for a while yet, so the priority is a solid goalkeeper and a couple of good centre-backs, while adding depth would be nice.

 

Staff overview:

All 3 coaching spots are filled, and the one physio spot filled by two very bad doctors. I can at least fill the assistant manager spot, and one scouting spot. I don't have the budget to release people and there's no point if I'm only here for 6 months.

 

Budget:

I have £8,000 of a £16,000 wage budget free, with £8,000 available for transfers (which would buy an ok player, it seems). If there are good freebies, I can get them.

 

Player with best name:

A loanee, Eugeny Shipitspin, and one day he'll get an English commentator fired.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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Preparations

"RANDOM FOREIGN IMMIGRANT TAKES CHARGE"

"HUNGRY YOUNG PROSPECT COMES TO SAVE THE DAY"

That was the gist of the local headlines. If I'd thought there was no pressure, I forgot to figure my age and foreigness.

The Number 2

There is a lot of inexperience in the staffing setup. Everyone below me is in their early or mid 30s. So I had to bring in an assistant manager to help me out, but of course I have no real contacts, let alone in Russia. My Director of Football tells me about a 69-year-old Kazakh/Ukranian/Russian/Soviet (whatever he prefers) named Leonid Ostroushko, and assures me he's "world class" - he's been working all over the old Soviet Union for decades. So he's the perfect compliment to a 20-something foreigner in his first job.

I mean just look at him:

22801_leonid_ostroushko.jpg

After learning his background and having a conversation with him myself, I find him to be top notch. He's charismatic, knows how to handle people, and is knowledgable of all levels of coaching.

WSLGvkV.png

He and the new scout arrive on Monday. He's going to help me wittle down all the players without a club and the loan and transfer list. He'll also be in charge of the second team and Under 18s, 'cause he's the only guy with credentials here. Heck, why isn't he manager?

New Players

There's conveniently two weeks until the next fixture, so plenty of time to find players. And before the first match, 3 are signed: A 19-year-old strong CM, a 19-year-old WB, and a 20-year-old CB, who the staff are not keen on. He doesn't have anything going for him other than his dominance in the air, which may be all he needs for this job.

There are still a few players who may join, including a goalkeeper the scouts are hot for, but time is up for now and we will begin my first match: away to the league leaders.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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safcrhys   

I tried to install FM07 recently but it wouldn't work. :( One of my favourite FM's ever.

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I tried to install FM07 recently but it wouldn't work. :( One of my favourite FM's ever.

It works on Windows 7 and I assume later, both 32-bit and 64-bit. Depends on your problem, but it can be fixed either by setting compatibility mode to XP SP3 or 2000. The problem I had came from a Windows update, KB3086255, which stops a lot of older games from working. I uninstalled that and it started.

Lovely :). I will be following this. I find myself going back to the '06 and '07 versions time and time again.

Thanks mang. I tried FM14, but the tactics seem way too detailed. I just want to tell a guy to play up front as a poacher and let him work his magic, like in real life. It's as fiddly as notches. Hopefully my game doesn't die having every player and league loaded.

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The First Matches

 

(1st) KazAM 2-0 Salyut (21st)

We weren't trounced and were pretty much their equal.

Tactics were effectively a 4-4-2 diamond formation and a simple game, nothing too creative, just close down players and retain possession. Our weak link was the goalkeeper. If our striker had the confidence and skill to finish a one-on-one, and we had a star keeper, it could well have been 1-0 to us.

The next match is in 3 days. In that time, I bring in a new goalkeeper and another defender.

The new goalkeeper starts the next match.

 

(21st) Salyut 0-3 SKA Khabarovsk (6th)

This is one of those fake results.

We dominated the start (and the whole match really), they took the lead through a mistake, my captain then missed a penalty, and they took advantage of the openings in defence as we chased equalisers.

When teams are equal on points, placings are decided by games won, and then results between teams, and then goal difference, so that allows us to go for it when we go behind. It doesn't matter if we lose 1-0 or 5-0.

3O1FJMd.png

As you can see from the stats, the new goalkeeper made saves (top), the defence was solid (next 4 then the DM/CM), the midfield made a lot of great passes (the DM/CM and the next 2), and the AMC was again a threat (Leshonok). The strikers (final two) are contributing but not with many shots and so far no goals. Before the lead was taken, several shots went over or wide.

With the defence and presumably goalkeeper now solid, and with a midfield not doing badly, it's clear we need a goalscoring striker, and there doesn't appear to be any in the team right now.

A new striker is signed after the result, hopefully he scores goals.

Our next fixture is away to the bottom club. It should be 3 points. If we're not a joke.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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sc91   

The age of target men, Mika Aaritalo and 4-4-2. Loved FM07.

Will read, keep it up.

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It Was Supposed To End On A Happy Note

 

(22nd) Angusht 0 - 2 Salyut (21st)

Angusht are awful so I expected a win. Both strikers (the new guy and the old guy) scored, the older striker ending his goal drought of 11 hours. For the second match in a row, we had a lot of shots and most of them were off target. This isn't because they're not getting clear cut chances, it's because they're so bad that they go one on one and blast it over.

During the game, after making my 3 substitutions, my assistant reminds me (in Russian) that my good centre-back and captain is a yellow away from a ban.

Leonid: "Perhaps we should take him off now?"

Me: "I have made 3 substitutes." (My Russian is going well.)

Leonid laughs.

Leonid: "In this league, you can make 4 substitutions!"

Me: "4 substitutes?!"

Leonid: "Yes! The other team has made 4 already."

Taking him off didn't make a difference anyway because now he's injured. The fates are mocking me.

The chairman went out of his way to let me know how he pleased he was with the win. I don't know whether he has low standards or is just expecting this to be the start.

==============================

There is an offer for the dropped goalkeeper and this raises £5,000 to bid for a few players.

==============================

 

(10th) Terek 0 - 0 Salyut (21st)

2 points dropped thanks to another missed penalty (different taker). If we had the goalkeeper we sold rather than the new one in goal, it may well have been a loss.

All the teams at the bottom gained points, so there are no positives.

 

(21st) Salyut 3 - 3 Kuban (5th)

The press thought we had no chance in hell, 10/1 odds, and for 45 minutes they were right. 2-0 down after 13 minutes, I was forced to push everyone forward to play a more urgent game, and we started making chances. At half time, I encouraged the players, because Kuban were withdrawing. There are points to be taken!

Soon it was 2-1, but Kuban made it 2-2, 9 minutes later. 3 minutes later, it's 3-2, thanks to my sub striker scoring a rocket from the edge of the area. All of a sudden, the team are playing like real players.

Things are going too well, so fate decides my star AMC should fracture his arm and that Kuban should then equalise a couple minutes later.

All the bottom teams drop points, but still we're 21st.

 

==============================

A quirk of the fixture list I'm noticing is that we're playing tough teams at the moment, the ones in the upper half of the table. After a look, I'm seeing that all our '6-pointer' games against our rivals are coming in the final stages of the season. So I suppose it's good to get the tough teams now and take what we can so, when we face the teams we really need to beat, I'll have signed all my players and know my team and tactics better.

==============================

 

(6th) Anzhi 3 - 1 Salyut (21st)

Our goal was a free kick from a debutant, but other than that we were dominated, again conceding early and easily.

 

(21st) Salyut 2 - 3 Khimki (6th)

We score two early goals to lead 2-0. They throw it away by the start of the second half. They score a curling wonder goal. We have a penalty claim in the last minute denied.

This is upsetting.

We're 10 points inside the relegation zone. A couple of points would have raised us up a place, but we're not even allowed to get past that barrier.

If it wasn't for the slew of 6-pointers in the final month or two, I would quit. I want to manage Barcelona already.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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LEEMOD   

This is awesome mate, I got hounded by people for not buying FM15 or FM16, I think it goes to show that it doesn't matter what version you play, as long as you enjoy it and have a passion for writing it can still be interesting.

Keep it up mate, I will be following this.

Lee

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This is awesome mate, I got hounded by people for not buying FM15 or FM16, I think it goes to show that it doesn't matter what version you play, as long as you enjoy it and have a passion for writing it can still be interesting.

Keep it up mate, I will be following this.

Lee

Maybe next time I do a new CM 93/94 game, I'll make a thread here too. :thup:

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I Go Tactically Insane

 

I've no choice but to rest all my good players for the coming cup game with fixtures so close together, and players who're not exactly Premier League athletes.

I buy a couple of players for free, including another striker. I'd keep signing strikers until two score if I could. Chemistry doesn't matter right now, we're at the stage of the season where you keep throwing crap and see what sticks.

 

==============================

 

Russian Cup

- We enter into the fifth round

- 5 subs can be brought on

- If two teams in a match are in different divisions, the lower team gets home advantage

Our draw is tough, away to a club that is actually bigger than us in every way. Last season, Alania were relegated from the Premier Division after 15 years, but were then excluded from football altogether due to not having their licences renewed, for 'juridical irregularities'. They were reorganised, slightly renamed to 'Spartak', and admitted into the Second Division, South Zone a month after the season had started. (They will go on to rename themselves back to Alania at the end of the season.)

Russian football is a political quagmire; teams being expelled, going broke, being reborn etc. seems to be a regular thing, at least recently.

 

(2nd Div. south) Alania 0 - 2 Salyut (AET) (1st Div)

We had 0 shots on target until 120 minutes. They were better and had chances, but faded away in the second half. Our first goal was a backpass own goal. Our second came in the last minute, with everyone making 'runs' as fast as you'd expect a team of Russian lower leaguers on a hot summer's day to be moving after 120 minutes.

The draws are made for the remaining rounds of the Russian Cup. In the next round, every lower league team, bar a lucky two, will face a Premier Division side. Seems suspicious...

 

==============================

 

(12th) Sodovik 2 - 0 Salyut (21st)

Now it's 8 games without a win (if you exclude the one against the whipping boys).

 

(21st) Salyut 0 - 2 Lada (13th)

A ridiculous result and a turning point. Our chances don't go in, theirs does. This was a winnable match and we matched them, bettered them even, but once again our defenders didn't do anything when a striker got a ball and ran towards goal. There needs to be a sweeper...

 

==============================

 

Hard fixtures are no longer an excuse. It's time to change everything. From now on we will be playing THIS:

KBft73P.png

Subject to tweaking. I could make it worse if necessary.

The new keeper is being dropped, and replaced with the slightly less newer guy that he replaced.

 

==============================

 

(5th) Dinamo Makhachkala 2 - 0 Salyut (21st)

In 5 of the last 7 games (excluding the whipping boys Angusht), they haven't scored. So of course, just as with seemingly every match so far, we concede in the first couple of minutes. WITH AN ULTRA DEFENSIVE DOUBLE-SWEEPER 7-2-1 FORMATION.

 

(21st) Salyut 0 - 0 Baltika (7th)

HAHAHA! How's that? It's not so annoying have no shots on target when it's because you had 1 shot all match. They should call this the pinball tactic, because the opposition's shots, crosses and passes just ping off our 7 defenders. They had a 90th minute penalty claim turned down, and on another day they would've got a goal or two with a bit of luck, but today it's the opposition who are the frustrated ones.

 

==============================

 

There are 9 matches left and we have 13 points to make up, but going by form we'll have to get double that. So win all our matches. Yeah, **** off, the team's not gonna do that. I'll keep playing for 0-0s and only resign when we can't at least gain a couple of places.

Angusht are relegated with two months and 9 matches still to go, with 8 points out of a possible 99. So there is one team with more cowards than my one. And we have a lot to thank them for: every team we face has just played them in the game before ours, meaning they're in a winning mood when they meet us.

Thanks, FM 07 fixture list.

 

==============================

 

The next team have won 2 in 8 (excluding Angusht).

 

(11th) Sibir 1 - 0 Salyut (21st)

They had a goal disallowed for offside... quite how you manage to be offside against 2 sweepers and 4/5 other defenders all playing as deep as possible, I don't know. Once more the opposition barely have a proper chance, but this time they manage to score one. Our striker was free in their area, spent a second on the ball, and still skied it, as is to be expected for this team. He also had a goal disallowed for offside - if he was, it was barely.

 

==============================

 

At last we reach the part of the fixture list with the six-pointers. I can abandon my ridiculous formation. The experimentation continues, however: now that I have three good centre backs fit, I'll be trying a 5-2-1-2 with a sweeper, 2 DCs, 2 WBs, 2 CMs, an AMC and 2 STs.

 

==============================

 

(21st) Salyut 3 - 0 Mashuk (18th)

Welly welly welly well. 3 goals in the first 35 minutes, and they don't have one shot on target. When I told the players afterwards that I wanted them to play like that in every match, they were confused or annoyed. This is the kind of players I'm having to deal with...

 

(16th) Metallurg Krasnoyarsk 1 - 0 Salyut (21st)

Another game, another goal conceded in the first few minutes. I kept with the 5-2-1-2 and we had chances.

 

(21st) Salyut 1 - 1 Orel (5th)

Blah blah... players played well... blah blah... but didn't win... blah blah... conceded... blah blah... who cares? Incredibly, team morale is staying as high as ever. These players are just happy to pick up any point. What a load of shmucks.

Our next league opponents are one point away from relegating us. And they're at home, naturally.

 

==============================

 

But first, the cup, which suddenly takes priority now that escaping relegation is impossible. It's two-legged, with the second leg incredibly coming after the league season is over.

Russian Cup - 6th Round, 1st leg

(21st, 1st Div.) Salyut 1 - 2 Tom (13th, Premier Div.)

We finally score a penalty, after missing several this season.

 

==============================

 

For some reason, we're favourites for our next match away. If we fail to win, they relegate us.

(17th) Fakel 1 - 1 Salyut (21st)

They score with their only shot on target: thanks to a halfway-line backpass that Gerrard would be proud of, by our centre-back (of course!), straight to their striker. One of my signings corrects the mistake with a beautiful diving header, kissing the badge as he celebrates.

A fitting end that tells you everything.

SACKED.

 

Analysis

League record before I arrived: 21st P22 W4 D7 L11 F21 A33 GD-12 PTS19

My league record at the club: 21st P16 W2 D5 L9 F13 A24 GD-11 PTS11

Tactics: 4-4-2 diamond, then a 4-3-2-1, then the insane double-sweeper 6-2-1/7-3-0 (which gained a point), before hitting on the 5-2-1-2 too late. It got us 5 points in 4 games before I was sacked. It's not known if it would've really made a difference, as the players were so unambitious, and all the hard fixtures came first with the 'six-pointers' at the end, too late to matter. To the very end, the players were too often comical in their mistakes, or having shots cleared off the line.

Transfers: A huge success, making an awful team occasionally competent. Of the 12 I bought, at least half improved the team and consistently performed. This includes the ones the scouts and assistant didn't think much of at first. I might have an eye for a player.

Reputation: It's not clear what effect, if any, this will have to my reputation. On the one hand, I was sacked after 2 wins in 16 league matches. On the other hand, I was a kid who went to a foreign country, joined a newly promoted club nearly bottom (but for a truly awful team below them), tasked with avoiding relegation in a league with FIVE relegation places, with half a season left. And I still managed to improve the team eventually.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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It turns out that your reputation would suit you to play different teams above the higher league! Hope to expect a new team in Russia to hire you.

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The Perfect Job

 

I got a few job offers from the likes of Hungary and Finland, and for good money, but they were ridiculously tough jobs. One was a bad team that was already 7 points away from safety. Another was a team that hadn't even scored in the last 4 games.

I decided I would wait a little bit. I was living at home again so there was time to wait for options, and if the job offers don't get any better, I'll at least take one that offers me a high wage.

And then I got a call.

I begrudgingly accepted, and some of my friends jealously consider taking up a career in management once they hear of my offer and as I fly off to Italy.

 

latest?cb=20120905170406

A. S. Varese 1910
 

Reasons For Choosing

The club aren't relegation strugglers... well, they are, they've were promoted last season, but the media predicted they would be around 3rd, which is sensible. The chairman was incredibly enthusiastic and offered me two years, believing I was so right for the job that we wouldn't be relegated in my first season. And the wage would be a whopping £1,000 before tax, the most I'd ever been offered.

varese_aerea.jpg

Additionally, it's only 30 miles from Milan, in the north of Italy, surrounded by mountains, hills and a giant lake. It rains a lot. I like rain. Very scenic. I wish this was real life now!

 

League

Serie C2/A, one of the three regional leagues in the third tier of Italy. The top team is promoted to Serie C1, teams 2nd to 5th have a playoff, the bottom team is relegated to Serie D, and teams 14th to 17th have a 'playout'. The point tiebreakers are Head-To-Head, Goal Difference, then Goals Scored.

Sassari's points deduction is presumably for bankruptcy.

CCcB1ah.png

We share the division with one of our fierce rivals, Lecco.


Stadium

The Stadio Franco Ossola is your standard velodrome stadium and a 15,000 all-seater. In real life, the stadium could originally house 25,000 but has been reduced for safety reasons, eventually going all the way down to 8,213.

 

History

The best years for Varese were in the 60s and 70s, as a Serie A and Serie B yo-yo club, and they've been a Serie C mainstay since. A few decades later, they would be in financial ruin due to poor management and declare themselves bankrupt in 2004. A new board took over and they were forced to start again in the Eccellenza league, the fifth tier, under a new name. In real life, the exact same would happen again in 2015.

During these troubles, they promoted from within to make Devis Mangia one of, if not the, youngest manager in Italy at 32 years old. So they've hired young before... in fact he's the guy I've replaced!

Naturally, Varese has its own Ultras, and they were notable for delivering racist abuse in the early 2000s to their own black players.

 

Squad Overview

There are 6 players brought it on loan (Serie C1 has no loan limits) and, according to valuations, the best 5 players are all loanees. The 6th most valuable is co-owned with Varese's parent club, AC Milan. There is one familiar name: Benito Carbone, formerly of Sheffield Wednesday and a few other Premier League clubs. I didn't know he was still playing! EIGHT of the players are over the age of 33.

Goalkeepers: Of the two keepers, one is a 19-year-old on loan from Inter Milan who hasn't played well at all. His backup looks rubbish.

Defenders: The full backs are unspectacular. In the centre, a loanee from Juventus is impressing, and so is his 34-year-old partner.

Midfielders: The options out wide are even more unspectacular, and again it's one or two players in the middle who are doing well.

Strikers: The club made their key signing when they got the free agent Benito Carbone. At 35 years old, he is still the best technical footballer by miles in the team, and his legs aren't completely dead. It's clear he was a Premier League player once upon a time. He'll be the captain, the taker of every set piece, and playmaker. His is one of the contracts that is expiring, and I've no problem immediately offering him a new two-year contract. In addition to Carbone, a Nigerian striker is getting goals and assists, even though all he can do is finish and head the ball.

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The team's strength is in the middle, but it could do with good wide players in defence and attack. Also a new goalkeeper may be required; the loan kid doesn't look that good and his performances are even worse.


Staff Overview

My assistant manager seems alright, but there are a few guys I want to replace. The goalkeeping coach is 5 in goalkeeping coaching. What the hell? He's 15 in fitness, but doesn't want to be a fitness coach...


Budget

I have a transfer budget of £30,000 and £11,500 of a £27,600 wage budget free. I can get all the free signings and, when the window opens, loans I want.


Player With Best Name

Franco Da Dalt sounds like an unintelligent mafioso.


====================

In other news...

Salyut Belgorogod News

My old club, Salyut Belgorogod, hire an old manager back. Since I left, they won 3 of their last 4 league games and lost the second leg of their cup match 1-0 away (losing 3-1 on agg.)

Which is annoying because, as I've said before, the last month or two were solely six-pointer matches. During my reign, we played every team above the relegation zone. I'm sure I would've got the same kinda results in those last games. They still finished 10-13 points (depending on tiebreakers) away from safety, so I still would've had to have won 4 matches against top half teams.

International 'bug' explained

I should point out a quirk of international football in FM 07.

The game has a bug (perhaps its only one!) where a country won't sack their manager unless they qualify for a tournament, while the sackings after a tournament seem random. If Germany fail to qualify 3 times they keep their man, while Latvia losing the 2010 final to Brazil 1-0 can be a sackable offence.

To fix this, I'll be taking partial control of firings. On important international dates I review how the countries are doing. As well as judging their circumstances and going by their aims, I can use Wikipedia (an incredible resource; I can look up Bangladesh management history for example) to compare with real life. I'll also consider that some FAs are more trigger happy or eccentric than others.

If a manager should be sacked, I add a new user, put him in as the team manager, then immediately retire him. Countries are heavily weighted (perhaps exclusively except for the player) to hiring their managers of their nationality, so sometimes a lack of options will mean they simply rehire the guy I sacked. In such a case, we'll pretend he wasn't sacked yet.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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2006/07 Review Part 1 - Varese

Results

League record before I joined: 13th P11 W3 D3 L5 F16 A13 GD+3 PTS12

League record since I joined: 8th P23 W9 D5 L9 F25 A24 GD+1 PTS32

Comparing records, the team are 8 points better off, which may well be the difference between safety and relegation.

Final table:

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Results since I joined:

(6th) (Fierce Rivals) Lecco 1 - 4 Varese (13th)

(13th) Varese 0 - 0 Olbia (9th)

(14th) Cuneo 1 - 2 Varese (13th)

(10th) Varese 1 - 0 Alto Adige (12th)

(4th) Nuorese 0 - 0 Varese (9th)

(4th) Lumezzane 1 - 0 Varese (8th)

(10th) Varese 2 - 1 Biellese (8th)

(8th) Varese 1 - 0 Montichiari (16th)

(1st) Sassari Torres 2 - 0 Varese (6th)

(7th) Varese 2 - 0 Sanremese (5th)

(2nd) Portosummaga 2 - 1 Varese (6th)

(6th) Varese 0 - 1 Pergocrema (4th)

(3rd) Carpendolo 1 - 0 Varese (7th)

(7th) Varese 3 - 2 Bassano Virtus (17th)

(10th) Valenzana 0 - 0 Varese (6th)

(6th) Varese 0 - 0 Legnano (10th)

(17th) Pro Vercelli 0 - 0 Varese (7th)

(7th) Varese 2 - 0 Lecco (16th) (Fierce Rivals)

(13th) Olbia 3 - 1 Varese (7th)

(15th) Alto Adige 2 - 1 Varese (7th)

(8th) Varese 2 - 1 Nuorese (3rd)

(7th) Varese 1 - 2 Cuneo (12th)

(10th) Biellese 4 - 2 Varese (7th)

 

Notable Transfers and Loans - Flop or Success?

Daniele Balli - GK, Italian, 39 - Free from Empoli (Serie A) - Played 5, 2 clean sheets, 7 conceded, average rating of 6.20 - Didn't have the best of starts - Flop (for now)

Gianluca Berti - GK, Italian, 39 - Free from Sampdoria (Serie A) - 6 clean sheets and 14 conceded in 12(2) games, average rating of 6.50 - Also didn't have the best of starts, but eventually settled a little. - Undecided

Doudou - DR/DC, Senagalese/Italian, 31 - £4,000 from Cesena (Serie B) - Played 14, average rating of 7.00 - Stop laughing! My Doudou was solid as a rock! Contract extended to 2008. - Success

Eric Rabesandratana - DC/DM, French/Madagascan, 34 - Free from Mons (Belgian top division) - Played 13(1), 1 MotM, average rating of 7.00 - Played out of position at LB most of the time, he was still immensely solid and reliable, earning a contract extension till 2008. Also had his first ever international appearance for Madagascar. The press got on his back after one match (when we got a clean sheet!), but were immediately silenced when he won MotM and also was in Team of the Week three weeks in a row. - Success

Galeoto - DR, Italian, 35 - Free from Genoa (Serie B) - Signed as backup, but as soon as he was needed he got injured for the rest of the season. Contract eventually renewed to 2008, with a massive pay cut. - He hasn't even played yet!

Lucas Simón - ST, Argentinian, 20 - Loan from Piacenza (Serie B) - 6 goals and 2 assists in 13 games, 2 MotM, average rating of 6.85 - We needed a goalscorer and we finally had one. Without him, barely any goals would have been scored from open play. - Success

 

Tactics and Performance

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Benito Carbone was the best player by far, so he was the captain, set piece taker and playmaker on the right wing. My first match, away to fierce rivals Lecco, was a perfect start - Carbone delivering a set piece and the defensive midfielder La Marca getting on the end of it led to a hat trick for La Marca and 4 assists for Carbone, and it wouldn't be the last time that happened.

Carbone was unsurprisingly the Fan's Player of the Season, his 13 assists by far the team's and the league's highest, and he scored 5 goals in 28 league appearances. That's two goals behind our top scorer. Our top scorer, 7 goals, was La Marca, the defensive midfielder. That says it all.

Without Carbone's assists, set pieces and the later loan of Lucas Simón, the team would barely have scored any goals. The team showed spirit that meant comebacks and late goals would often occur, but this gumption eventually faded away and the goals started leaking in our end and not going in the other end.

We began with a 4-3-3 of 4 defenders, a defensive midfielder, 2 central midfielders, 2 wingers and a lone striker. It seemed a defensive midfielder wasn't doing much and the striker needed a partner, so this was later tweaked to a 4-2-2-2, effectively moving the DM position up to the ST position.

 

Financial peril

When I joined, the club had about £200,000 in the bank, but it turns out they are losing money fast. They started the season with £400,000, and it has gone down ever since. In May the next year, they were over £400,000 in the red. Thanks to board investment and a bunch of pre-season friendlies, the club remains hovering between -£400,000 and -£500,000.

Gate receipts were £250,000 higher than the wages over the season, but nothing can be done to raise money other than success on the pitch or player investment. If Varese sold every player right now for their value, they'd still be £200,000 in the red, and not much would be saved on wages with the players earning so little already.

Unsurprisingly, there will be no transfer budget next season.

 

Future Plans

With Carbone turning 36 in August, at least six players being over 34 at the start of next season, no goalscorers, and a debt racking up, the immediate reaction is to leave when possible. However, there's no time to panic yet. It depends on how good the team looks, how well they're doing, and if I get offered a job anywhere else while I'm employed (I don't know if it's wise to apply elsewhere while still hired, and I don't even know how highly I'm regarded).

My contract ends next season, and presumably I'll be asked to take a pay cut if offered a new one. But if the team does improve under me and there's hope for future success, and the wage is good enough, there's no reason to leave. I'm living in a beautiful part of Italy, the club isn't in Portsmouth territory right now, and becoming unemployed again isn't appealing.

The 2007/08 season marks the start of World Cup qualifying for most continents, so international management may be an option when the small nations sack their guys, perhaps while staying at Varese, allowing me to earn more while having more security.

 

Still to come - The shocks and drama of 2007 around the rest of the world.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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2006/07 Review Part 2 - Club Football

Summer 2006 Transfer Window - Selected Transfers

Florent Malouda - Lyon to Inter - £15.5m

Stewart Downing - Middlesbrough to Aston Villa - £12.25m

Rodrigo Palacio - Boca to Chelsea - £12m

Juan Fernando Arango - Mallorca to Tottenham - £10.25m

Franck Ribery - Marseille to Chelsea - £9.5m

Mathieu Bodmer - Lille to Chelsea - £9m

Pablo - Atletico to Chelsea - £6.25m

Eric Abidal - Lyon to Lazio - £3.7m

Martin Skrtel - Zenit to Wigan - £3.3m

Sylvinho - Barcelona to Bayern Munich - £1.8m

Vedran Corluka - NK Dinamo to Barcelona - £925k

Luka Modric - NK Dinamo to Milan - £800k

January 2007 Transfer Window - Selected Transfers

Goran Pandev - Lazio to Lyon - £12.5m

Maxi Rodriguez - Atletico Madrid to Inter Milan - £12.25m

Rafael van der Vaart - HSV to Barcelona - £11.25m

Vincenzo Iaquinta - Udinese to Roma - £11.25m

Cris - Lyon to Real Madrid - £10.5m

Lucho Gonzalez - Porto to Barcelona - £10m

Mauro Camoranesi - Juventus to Benfica - £8.75m

Mikel Arteta - Everton to Ajax - £8.5m

Giorgio Chiellini - Juventus to Villarreal - £6.5m

Marcelo - Fluminense to Real Madrid - £6m

Brede Hangeland - FC Copenhagen to Fiorentina - £825,000

 

2006/07 Awards

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Thierry Henry of Arsenal and France won the 2006 World Footballer of the Year. He had scored 27 goals and assisted 8 in 29 games so far that season. Bolton's French striker Anelka and Manchester United's England forward Wayne Rooney came 2nd and 3rd.

Nicolas Anelka of Bolton Wanderers was the unexpected name to win the 2006 Ballon d'Or (European Footballer of the Year). He had so far notched 19 goals in 18 games that season. Miroslav Klose of Werder Bremen and Germany was 2nd, David Villa of Valencia and Spain came 3rd.

 

European Cups

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Arsenal wilted to the juggernaut that is Manchester United, losing the final 3-0.

AEK Athens took the competition by storm. They beat Osasuna to qualify, then beat Bayern Munich home and away in the group stage, also getting 4 points from Fenerbahce and an away draw at Inter Milan to reach the knockout stage. They won the first leg against Real Madrid 1-0, but lost the second leg 4-0.

FC Zurich qualified for the Champions League group stage at the expense of Galatasaray, and left the competition with historic home wins over PSV and Werder Bremen, even entering the Europa League finishing 3rd in a tough group also including Man Utd.

Bayern Munich were the team who AEK Athens knocked out at the group stage, but they would go on to win the UEFA Cup by beating fellow Germans Leverkusen 2-1.

 

England

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Premier League

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Manchester United won the Premier League with 94 points and only 2 losses. Chelsea, who won the race to sign Franck Ribéry, (88) and Arsenal, with the best player in the world Thierry Henry, (86) completed a Big 3, finishing 17 points ahead of 4th-placed Liverpool.

Rafa Benitez left Liverpool at the end of the season, no doubt feeling jaded by the point gap, to go back to Valencia. Bayern Munich's Ottmar Hitzfeld took his place.

Everton had a controversial season, sensationally sacking David Moyes at the end of January despite being midtable (as expected) and on the way to a League Cup final. It's suspected there was a dispute over transfers: Joseph Yobo (7.43 average rating) and Mikel Arteta were both sold. It's hard to believe Moyes wanted to see them go. He was replaced by Aidy Boothroyd, who left Watford at the bottom of the Premier League. Everton went on to finish... midtable.

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Glenn Roeder was sacked as Newcastle United manager. They finished 14th, but were expected to be challenging for European places. He was replaced by Newcastle youth coach and legend Peter Beardsley.

Reading survived their first ever top tier / Premier League season.

Sheffield United were comfortably relegated, despite signing African legend Peter Ndlovu back to the club - he only scored 1 goal and made 1 assist in 21 starts.

Cups

West Ham lost their second F.A. Cup final in a row, losing 2-1 to Chelsea this time. Coventry reached the semis, beating Liverpool and Aston Villa on the way.

Wigan, losers of last year's League Cup final, didn't suffer the same fate as West Ham, beating Championship Crystal Palace 1-0 in this year's League Cup final. Thus they will enter the UEFA Cup next season, continuing their storybook rise up the England ranks.

Football League and Non-League

Derby County, surprising the Championship by being around 8th at the time, saw their manager Billy Davies leave to take over at Premier League Watford. Watford would go on to finish rock bottom, while Derby County would continue to rise up the table and secure 2nd and automatic promotion under Chester's Mark Wright. Oops.

Wolves sacked Mick McCarthy while battling relegation and brought in Joe ****ing Kinnear, who saved them from the drop.

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Leeds United, favourites to win the title, were relegated after being in the drop zone all season, bar one week. Steve Bruce (sacked by Birmingham a month earlier) took over from the sacked Dennis Wise during New Year's, but couldn't stop the rot.

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Dario Gradi's 23 years at Crewe ended on New Year's Eve, sacked with Crewe battling relegation. He was replaced by Everton's Assistant Manager Alan Irvine. In the short term, they climbed up the table. The long-term ramifications remain to be seen.

Torquay were relegated from the Football League for the first time ever on the last day.

Morecambe gradually made their way up the Conference National table to win the title and reach the Football League for the first time on the final day.

 

Italy

Italy.jpg

Serie A

Italy's first season since the scandal involved an exciting chase for the title between the big clubs.

Lazio won it - the final day was the only time they topped the table all season. AC Milan are the unofficial champions though, as they would've won the league by 3 points if there were no points deductions.

Fiorentina's 15-point deduction means they'll have to make do with the UEFA Cup next season, rather than Champions League, despite having the top scorer Luca Toni (27 in 35) and top assister Riccardo Montolivo (15 in 38).

Young Player of the Year Udinese's Asamoah Gyan was Serie A's brightest young star - 15 goals and a 7.47 average rating in 32 matches.

Marcelo Lippi's first job since leaving World Champions Italy was to return to Sampdoria, where he was youth coach in the 80s.

Lower leagues

Unsurprisingly, Juventus won Serie B unbeaten, by 16 points (not including the 9 points they were docked). Napoli were also promoted in 2nd.

Arezzo's 6-point deduction caused them to be relegated from Serie B.

Hellas Verona, after over a century of existence, were relegated to Serie C for the first time in their history with a 5-0 playout loss to Mantova.

Venezia won their second promotion in a row to go straight back into Serie B, two years after their insolvency and starting again in Serie C2.

 

Spain

Spain.jpg

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Barcelona never really left the top of the table, winning a third title in a row, along with defeating Real Madrid in the Spanish Cup final.

Runners-up in the league and cup, and Champions League semis, still equate to failure for Fabio Capello's Real Madrid.

In their last 4 games, Zaragoza defeated Valencia and Barcelona, but drew their last two, so finished 3 points behind Real Madrid. Still, they achieved 3rd and will be entering the Champions League, no small thanks to Argentine striker Diego Milito's 28 goals in 38 matches.

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Valencia sacked Quique Flores after finishing way back in 10th, and replaced him with the man who left them 3 years ago - Liverpool's Rafa Benitez.

Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o was clearly La Liga Player of the Year with 23 goals and 11 assists in 34 league games (as well as 10 goals and 3 assists in 12 Champions League games).

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There were two revelations: Barcelona's new young Croatian defender Vedran Corluka was a rock (7.41 average rating), and cost less than a million! Atletico Madrid's 18-year-old Sergio Agueroooooo won Young Player of the Year and scored 21 and made 7 in 34 games, outshining Fernando Torres.

Sporting de Gijon were relegated from the second division for the first time in their history.

Real Madrid Castilla finished rock bottom of Segunda Division with only 3 wins. So an absolute disaster of a season for Real Madrid at all levels.

 

France

France.jpg

Lyon threw away the chance to win 6 titles in a row, losing 4-2 at home to Marseille, allowing Lille to win for the first time in over half a century.

3 years after returning to the top league, Saint-Etienne reached 3rd to qualify for the Champions League.

Monaco, incredibly, finished bottom, suddenly ending 30 years in the top flight.

Le Mans' Brazilian striker Grafite stood out, winning Players' Player of the Season and being top scorer - 23 goals, 7 assists, 7.38 average rating in 32 matches.

Louis Van Gaal left AZ Alkmaar to join Marseille mid-season.

 

Germany

Germany.jpg

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The season ended 1. Bayern Munich, 2. Werder Bremen, 3. Hamburger SV for the second season in a row. Bayern won a treble of league, cup and UEFA Cup. Manager Ottmar Hitzfeld left to join Liverpool at the end of the season. Bayern go for a 'young' prospect as his replacement, hiring Thomas Doll. Doll rose through the ranks of HSV - player, youth coach, coach, then manager.

Stuttgart sacked their manager after 1 win in his first 5 games of the season, and brought in Jupp Heynckes. It got worse, as they ended up relegated for the first time in 30 years.

 

Scotland

Scotland.jpg

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Hearts' Lithuanian revolution topped the table for half a season, but Rangers won the SPL by 18 points, also winning the League Cup.

Hearts still leapfrogged Celtic on the final day to get 2nd and the final Champions League spot.

Despite this, manager Gordon Stachan's job remains safe. Celtic got a small measure of revenge by beating Rangers in the Scottish Cup final after 7 rounds of penalties.

East Stirling, infamous for always being bottom of the bottom league, and having finished 10th in the Third Division for the past 4 seasons, finished 2nd this time! Alas, they lost the first leg of their promotion playoff 5-0 and didn't recover.

 

Netherlands

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PSV and Ajax finished well clear of the rest of the league, and it was PSV who won - their third title in a row.

RKC Waalwijk won their first ever Dutch Cup.

PSV's young Jefferson Farfán caught the eye with 16 goals, 12 assists and an average rating of 7.62 in 27 league games, winning Player of the Year.

 

Still to come - The highs and lows of 2007's international competitions and the first half of Euro 2008 qualifying.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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2006/07 Review Part 3 - International Football

Austria/Switzerland 2008 European Championship Qualifying News



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Group D - Germany on the Brink of Disaster

Notable results:

Germany 1 - 2 Republic of Ireland

Slovakia 3 - 0 Germany

Cyprus 1 - 2 Germany (Cyprus go ahead, and a last-minute goal from Klose saves utter embarrassment.)

Cyprus 2 - 1 Slovakia

Czech Republic 2 - 0 Germany

Wales 2 - 0 Czech Republic

 

Group A - Portugal Getting Nervous

Notable results:

Finland 0 - 0 Portugal

Kazakhstan 0 - 0 Poland

Poland 3 - 1 Portugal

Kazakhstan 1 -0 Finland

Belgium 1 - 0 Portugal

Finland 0 - 0 Serbia

Finland 0 - 0 Belgium

 

Group B

Notable results:

Georgia 3 - 2 France

Faroe Islands 1 - 1 Ukraine

 

Group C

Notable results:

Moldova 1 - 1 Greece

Malta 1 - 1 Bosnia & Herzegovina

Greece 0 - 5 Norway

Moldova 2 - 2 Bosnia & Herzegovina

Hungary 1 - 1 Moldova

Greece 0 - 0 Moldova

Norway 1 - 2 Hungary

 

Group E

Notable result:

Israel 1 - 1 Estonia

No other surprise individual results. England top the group with 6 wins out of 6 and a GD of +22.

 

Group F

Notable results:

Latvia 1 -1 Sweden

Latvia 0 - 1 Iceland

Northern Ireland 0 - 1 Latvia

Liechenstein 1 - 0 Northern Ireland

Spain 0 - 1 Denmark

 

Group G

Notable results:

Luxembourg 0 - 1 Netherlands

Luxembourg 0 - 0 Bulgaria

Slovenia 1 - 0 Netherlands

Slovenia 1 - 0 Romania

Belarus 4 - 1 Bulgaria

Luxembourg 1 - 0 Albania

Romania 2 - 2 Slovenia

Indonesia/Malaysia/Thailand/Vietnam 2007 Asian Cup Qualifying News



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Group A - An Incredible Finish!

Notable results:

India 2 - 1 Saudi Arabia

Yemen 0 - 0 Japan

India 3 - 0 Japan

India went into their final match knowing a win away to Yemen would see them cause one of the biggest shocks in Asian football history, if Japan failed to win at home to the already qualified Saudi Arabia.

Japan were 3-0 down after half an hour to Saudi Arabia, India were 2-0 up against Yemen with half an hour to go. But Yemen and Japan both came back to draw, meaning Japan qualify by two points. JUST!

Group E - History Is Made... on Goals Scored!

Notable results:

Singapore 2 - 0 Iraq

Palestine 3 - 0 Iraq

Iraq 0 - 2 Singapore

Palestine 1 - 0 China

Iraq had reached the quarter-finals of the last three Asian Cups, but failed to even qualify this time.

Iraq needed a win in China but collapsed after taking a lead in 3 minutes, losing 4-1. This meant Singapore vs Palestine would decide who would make history. Singapore won 2-1, meaning both of them finished on 9 points. With the head-to-head record being 2-2 and equal goal difference, it was Singapore's 8 goals scored in the group to Palestine's 6 that eked them through to their first ever Asian Cup as a non-host.

If the tiebreaker had been away goals in the head-to-head record on this occasion, it would've been Palestine who qualified for their first ever Asian Cup.

 

Indonesia/Malaysia/Thailand/Vietnam 2007 Asian Cup



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South Korea finally won the Asian Cup for the first time since the first two tournaments of 1956 and 1960, getting a 1-0 win with the final kick of extra time against Asian newcomers Australia.

Japan didn't improve on their disastrous qualifying form and were knocked out at the group stage for the first time since 1988, losing to Oman and then, to top it off, losing 4-1 to rivals South Korea. Manager Ivica Osim could only quip "I feel like I've dropped my trousers. Twice." and, after reportedly reducing his interpreter to tears with the tirade to end tirades toward his players after the South Korea game, and expecting his impending sacking, he told the press "this job is bad for my heart. I don't want to die while I coach Japan's national team. I want to die in my hometown, Sarajevo". (A few months later he would suffer a stroke while watching Japanese football instead.)

Singapore had more surprises in them after their escapade in qualifying - they topped their group above Iran, Kuwait and joint-hosts Thailand, before losing 3-0 to Oman in the quarter finals. Sadly, their manager stepped down.

Yes, Oman, in their second ever Asian Cup and not only managing to get out the groups but reaching the semis and finishing 3rd as well, with notable victories of 3-2 over Japan and 3-1 over Saudi Arabia.

All the hosts did terribly, except arguably Indonesia who could be proud of their 1-0 losses to Japan and South Korea and 2-1 loss to Oman.

U.S.A. 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup



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It was contrasting tournaments for the U.S.A. and rivals Mexico.

U.S.A. won every match, including the final against Costa Rica 5-0, in a pleasant tournament for them and their third trophy win in 4 Gold Cups.

Mexico only managed a draw with Panama before beating Haiti in their 3-team group, and left with a whimper in a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica in the quarter finals. More is expected of manager Hugo Sanchez in the Copa America next month.

Venezuela 2007 Copa América



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Peru were left devastated after a shock run to the final ended with a 2-1 loss to Brazil after extra time.

They were 7 minutes away from lifting the trophy before Fred finally equalised 1-1. Even in the last seconds of extra time, Peru's Luis Hernández had basically an open goal to hit in a rebound, but he shot the wrong side of the post and toothy git Ronaldinho's earlier curler remained the winner. It's a miss that will haunt him.

Mexico had a second awful tournament in a month. A group exit after a 4-1 loss to U.S.A. and a 5-1 loss to Brazil (because they were also the worst third-placed team out of the 3 groups) is their worst Copa América performance ever and a sackable offence alone. Given Hugo Sanchez's team's equally awful Gold Cup performance, his sacking comes as little surprise after the worst Mexican performance (outside a World Cup campaign) in their history. He was replaced by Daniel Guzmán.

Hosts Venezuela lost patience with, and sacked, their manager Richard Páez despite a 1-1 draw against Paraguay and not embarrassing themselves in a tough group.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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June 2007 - October 2007

Summer 2007 Notable Transfers

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David Beckham - Real Madrid to Inter Milan - Free (his L. A. Galaxy move fell through I guess)

Miroslav Klose - Werder Bremen to Inter Milan - £17m

Mancini - Roma to Real Madrid - £16m

Adriano - Inter Milan to Lazio - £15.25m

Wesley Sneijder - Ajax to Real Madrid - £15m

Jesus Navas - Sevilla to Roma - £14.5m

Julio Baptista - Real Madrid to Arsenal - £13m

Eric Abidal - Lazio to Real Madrid - £12.5m

Kim Kallstrom - Lyon to Ajax - £12.5m

Darren Bent - Charlton to Valencia - £7.5m

Vedran Corluka - Barcelona to Roma - £4.1m

Pedro - Barcelona - Released

Chelsea sold Mikel, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Alex, and only signed a 15-year-old. On a free.

 

Financial future

The board is officially concerned about the club's long-term future, and continue to inject money to make the debt a little less.

The club are around half a million in the red.

Over 30 players in the whole club go out of contract at the end of the season, nearly half of them are in the first team squad. With the financial constraints, renewing a lot of these contracts will be difficult.

I manage to sell two players for £30,000 and a percentage of their next transfer fee, but that's gulfed by the £100,000 it cost releasing players whose contracts were ending.

Things look bad, but there is hope thanks to a free transfer or six that I made earlier last season for players whose contracts were expiring... see below...

 

Transfers In

Marko Kolsi - MC/MR, Finnish, 22 - Free from TOP Oss (Dutch second tier) - Valued at £350,000 - Our golden goose. His value has been shooting up since his arrival, it was initially £100,000. He immediately became the club's 'favoured personnel'. He has a minimum fee release clause of £750,000. If a club bid that, it would wipe out the debts... until next month. He scored on his debut, dribbling round a defender to the edge of the area and squeezing a shot past the dumbfounded keeper. Has been good so far.

Gavin McCallum - AMR/AML, Canadian/English, 20 - Free from Yeovil (English League One) - Valued at £10,000 - Bring much needed ability and depth on the wings.

Vladimir - DC/DL, Brazilian/Italian, 30 - Free from Catanzaro (Italian Serie C2/C) - Valued at £12,000 - I thought he would be last resort DL cover, but he's been THAT GUY... That annoying bugger who gets himself in the way of every cross and shot, you can't get it past him. His tackling is nothing special, but who needs to tackle when you can just charge down every ball screaming like a maniac?

Frédéric Déhu - DC/SW, French, 34 - Free from Levante (Spanish La Liga) - Valued at £4,000 - An experienced old head who has 5 international appearances and spent a season at Barcelona. Can be used as a sweeper if our slow centre-backs need help.

Cédric Rey - DL/WBL, French, 23 - Free from Sochaux (French Ligue 1) - Valued at £50,000 - Makes key passes and never misses a tackle or a header.

Nicolás Amodio - DM/MC/MR, Uruguayan, 24 - Free from Napoli (Italian Serie A) - Valued at £7,000 - Makes key passes every game and wins his tackles.

Samir Amireche - DL/WBL/DC, Algerian/French, 35 - Free from Créteil (French Ligue 2) - Valued at £3,000 - A two-time international. Can be seen heading away every cross. The new corner taker.

Clayton - DC, Brazilian, 22 - Co-ownership bought out for free from AC Milan (Italian Serie A) - Valued at £2,000 - Was under a co-ownership deal. Basically, us getting him free means neither us nor AC Milan wanted him. He's not that bad, but prone to errors.

Gustavo Reggi - ST, Argentinian, 34 - Free from Taranto (Italian Serie C1/B) - Valued at £12,000 - I desperately tried to sign him last season when he was without a club, but he went to Taranto and scored 2 and made 1 assists in 2 starts and 6 sub appearances. Finally he's here, strong enough in the air and hopefully still has goals.

Finazzi - ST, Brazilian/Italian, 34 - Free - Valued at £5,000 - Another much needed striker in a team that needs goals.

 

Loans In

Loans were a nightmare. Most clubs rejected because we couldn't pay any of the wages. Nearly EVERY player rejected us. We finally found or got offered three:

Arnaud Lescure - DC, French, 21 - Monaco (French Ligue 2) - Valued at £100,000 - Didn't need him, but why turn down a body when Monaco are paying the wages?

Laurent Lanteri - ST, French, 22 - Monaco (French Ligue 2) - Valued at £70,000 - We needed more strikers and thought he'd be backup, but in his first start he scored 2, and he's always chasing balls and being a threat. Very eager.

Edouard Butin - ST, French, 19 - Sochaux (French Ligue 1) - Valued at £475,000 - Despite the value, looks the weakest of the new strikers. Did score on his first start though.

With such depth now, most of the players are on a level footing and places are up for grabs. I can rotate now, and pick players who are stronger or quicker than whoever will be marking them. See below to see if that policy has worked.

 

The Coming Season and My Future

Our fierce rivals Lecco were relegated by playoff last season, but another fierce rival Como joins our division after promotion from below. They're also in our group in the Serie C Cup group stage. The media is predicting 1st place for them (they're actually a Serie A/B club that went bankrupt) and 2nd place for us, but the board and fans just want a respectable league position.

My contract ends at the end of this season, and while at this rate I could get a renewal, it'll surely be lower than my current £1,000 per week wage. Even if the team does well, the future is uncertain, which means mine is. It's worth looking around for what's available.

Both my goalkeepers look like they're going to retire at the end of this season, most of our players are mid-30s or older, and half the squad are out of contract. Combine this with debts, and we're left with a good team leaving and not being replaced. The Varese team next season may be awful, because they can only sign free transfers who demand low wages or promote youth players, and all on short-term contracts.

 

Results

Friendlies

(Italian Serie C2/A) Varese 2 - 2 Metz (French Second League)

(Italian Serie C2/A) Varese 0 - 1 Nimes (French National (third tier))

(Italian Serie C2/C) Nocerina 3 - 1 Varese (Italian Serie C2/A)

(Italian Serie C2/A) Varese 0 - 4 Bochum (German First Division)

(Italian Serie C2/A) Varese 1 - 1 Perugia (Italian Serie C1/B)

(Italian Serie C2/A) Varese 0 - 1 AC Milan Second XI (Serie A, reserves)

The results don't really matter because friendlies are for experimenting and match fitness. The players were in good spirits despite not winning any matches, giving one or two good performances despite some madcap formations. Weakened line-up or not, when Ronaldo goes one-on-one with any keeper he's probably going to score! The need for goalscorers of our own is clear.

Serie C Cup - Group Stage

(Predicted 16th) Bassano Virtus 0 - 2 Varese (Predicted 2nd)

(Pred. 2nd) Varese 0 - 0 Como (Pred. 1st) (Fierce Rivals)

(Pred. 12th) Belluno 0 - 1 Varese (Pred. 2nd)

(Pred. 2nd) Varese 0 - 0 Sudtirol-Alto Adige (Pred. 8th)

A very Italian set of scores. No strikers scored in the first game. It was a disciplined display against Como to keep a clean sheet (remember, they're really a Serie A or B side). Two new strikers finally came in for the Belluno game, and one duly scored. In the final match, Alto Adige needed to win while we only need a draw to go through, but they played for a draw, while we didn't want to concede, so 0 - 0 was no surprise.

Serie C2/A

(Pred. 2nd) Varese 2 - 1 Valenzana (Pred. 6th)

(Pred. 4th) Cremonese 1 - 2 Varese (Pred. 2nd)

(Pred. 2nd) Varese 3 - 1 Ravenna (Pred. 3rd)

(7th) Nuorese 1 - 1 Varese (1st)

(2nd) Varese 1 - 0 Sudtirol-Alto Adige (1st)

The team seem a bit stronger and put themselves out a bit more. It's no longer a bunch of old wheezers playing in front of a fragile defence. The defender smash the ball away, the midfielders win the ball, the strikers win aerial battles. You could say they're a bit more English now.

I was even able to rest Carbone a couple of times. He's no longer the playmaker and the team is more balanced and equally threatening. Which is good, because his legs are going now.

Mid-Season Friendlies

Varese Reserves 1 - 2 Varese

(1st, Serie C2/A) Varese 0 - 0 Viterbese (1st, Serie C2/B) (3 - 4 on penalties after 5 rounds)

As the friendlies went on, the chairman asked to meet me.

He said he had something important to tell me...

Ghana 2008 African Cup of Nations Qualifying News

CAF-logo.jpg

2010 World Cup hosts South Africa failed to qualify, Guinea beating them home and away to top their group.

Tunisia sacked their Euro 2000-winning manager Roger Lemerre after they failed to qualify. Zimbabwe will instead be going to their first ever African Cup.

Equatorial Guinea qualified for their first ever African Cup, at the expense of 2006 World Cup participants Angola.

Cape Verde and Gambia also will be making their African Cup debuts.

Zambia sacked their manager Kalusha Bwalya. Ethiopia also sacked their manager.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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2007/08 - The Lows and Lows of International Management

I met with the chairman and he revealed there had been approaches for me from Zambia and Tunisia. The decision was easy, as I'll explain later. Whoever I chose, I would only be taking charge for one match this season, though the second leg of a World Cup Round 1 qualifier, so staying with Varese until at least my contract ran out wasn't an issue.

With papers quickly in order, I was able to fly out in a few hours to Tunisia for a few days to introduce myself to the squad, with the help of record appearance-holder, sometimes captain, and makeshift translator Birmingham City's Radhi Jaidi.

Tunisia's two-legged World Cup Qualifier is against rivals Morocco. That's the luck of the draw - one of the big guns has to go before qualifying really gets going. In the first leg, Tunisia escaped with a lucky 2-2 draw away after going 2-0 down and being dominated.

I initially don't want to change the team much, but after watching the match, I'll have to. The same team that played the first leg could well lose with the same performance, and there's no point in me being here if I change nothing and lose.

I change the formation and the tactics, and a few players.

Notably, the DC/DM I'm playing at RB will be making his debut, while Radhi Jaidi will be earning his 100th cap.

Ghana 2008 African Cup of Nations Qualification and South Africa 2010 World Cup Qualification First Round Second Leg

(Ranked 33rd) Tunisia 0 - 2 Morocco (Ranked 48th) (2 - 4 on agg.)

*Sigh* I've just joined and the job is already over.

Ghana 2008 African Cup of Nations Qualification and South Africa 2010 World Cup Qualification News

As well as Tunisia v Morocco, another titanic match was Egypt v Senegal. Senegal qualified for the next round 4-3 on aggregate. Egypt were 3-2 ahead on aggregate, but away goals from Moussa Sow in the 77th minute and the 90th minute of the second leg saw Senegal through and Egypt knocked out of both World Cup and African Cup of Nations qualifying.

So now let's look at team, which has instantly become a rebuilding job:

tunisia-hd-logo.png

Tunisia

Reasons For Choosing

- Tunisia had the tougher second leg than Zambia but, of the two, Tunisia were far more likely to reach the World Cup finals. So much for that; Tunisia are out and Zambia have a winnable group.

- Tunisia offered more money (let's say double what I earn, so £2,000 per week) and a long-term contract regardless of what result I got in the second leg.

- They have the better players and resources

- Living in Tunisia would be more comfortable than Zambia if it came to that

- Convenience. They're right next door!

pFTjNBe.png

So staying with Varese isn't a problem.

 

Stadium

They apparently play in various stadiums, but they seem to play most if not all their games at the 'Stade du 7 Novembre' in Rades, near Tunis.

It has a capacity of 60,000. 57,000 more than I'm used to...

Stade-Rades.jpg

1325768514.jpg

No pressure.

 

History

Tunisia are definitely one of the big names of African football.

Their first international match was a 2-1 loss at home to Algeria in 1957.

They've appeared in 4 World Cups. In 1978 they did well, becoming the first African team to win a World Cup match by beating Mexico, as well as drawing with West Germany, but they have never got past the group stages and only drew one match in each of their other World Cups of 1998, 2002 and 2006. They also managed a 2-0 win against Australia in the 2005 Confederations Cup.

They have appeared in every African Cup of Nations since hosting in 1994. In 2004, as hosts again, they won it for the first time. However they will not be appearing in the 2008 Cup, because they failed to qualify.

They always hire foreign, particularly French, but I will be their first English manager.

The player with most appearances is Radhi Jaidi, now with 100, and he's still going.

The record top scorer is Francileudo Silva dos Santos, a naturalised Brazilian, with 24 goals in 36 games including the Morocco games, and he is also still playing.

Their rivals are Morocco.

 

A Long-Term Plan

With this result, It'll now be 3 years before Tunisia have another competitive match (2012 African Cup of Nations Qualifying), because World Cup qualification also acts as African Cup of Nations qualifying when the years of the two cups are the same (i.e. 2010). With Tunisia expected to qualify for African Cups, you could argue their next proper game really won't be for at least four-and-a-half years.

This makes it a bit clearer why I was picked for the job. There was a big risk Tunisia would lose their home game anyway, and what big manager would take over a team with no proper fixtures for years?

My job is to build a new team which won't include players who are at their peak age. Jaidi will be nearly 37 in the 2012 African Cup, Santos will be nearly 33. Half of each team from either leg may be retired by then.

 

Preparations

I bring in Zeljko Petrovic as my assistant, a young manager, assistant and coach who lasted not even 2 months in his only management job, at Boavista, in 2006. I also bring in two former internationals as coaches. The theme of this team clearly is giving the new generation a chance: players, staff and manager.

I'm able to arrange 4 friendlies for 2008: at home to Germany and Egypt, and away to New Zealand and Japan. I pick beatable but big teams - Japan you may have read had a disaster while Germany may well not qualify for Euro 2008. It's easy to arrange, as the 2010 World Cup is in South Africa so teams want to play in Africa to prepare.

Speaking of friendlies, a month later we play away to Faroe Islands. A nice warm-up for me. Our opponents haven't scored in their last 6 games, and haven't won in 6 years, so I go attacking and play a 3-5-2 with wing backs.

I don't make extreme changes, a few players are over 30, but in the starting line-up there are 3 debuts and an average age of 25 and given the ease of opposition I drop Jaidi and Santos for this game.

 

Friendly

(139th in FIFA rankings) Faroe Islands 2 - 1 Tunisia (33rd in FIFA rankings)

THE FOURTH WALL IS BROKEN.

The game trolls me by giving me a lead in 5 minutes, and then snatches it away with an equaliser, a sending off, a second goal conceded, and then highlights of every player running through on goal and skying their shots. To confirm the conspiracy, and as I predicted, the game shows a final highlight of one of my strikers, the top scorer Santos, running through one on one yet again... and hitting the bar.

In contrast, the Under-21s and Under-19s won 8-0 and 2-0.

So far my new job in international management has resulted in the most depressing time of my career in just two games. It tears away the world cup, 4 to 5 years of meaningful football, and now it destroys my dignity.

In the post-match interviews I deflect any potential blame and place them on the players, a backhanded compliment to ex-manager Roger Lemerre.

"They have failed to qualify for the African Cup, they have failed to qualify for the World Cup, they deprive their country of years of football, and now they fail to even beat the Faroe Islands. We have a lot of work to do in building a new team."

Knowing that this will follow me for the rest of my career kills me. Whether I fail as a manager or whether I win the Treble, it will always be mentioned that I lost to the Faroe Islands.

 

Next time... the final day drama of Euro 2008 Qualifying

Edited by git2thachoppa

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Austria/Switzerland 2008 European Championship Qualifying



61a6c280c6.16655249_std.png

Group D

1) Republic of Ireland 29pts
2) Wales 22

3) Germany 20*
4) Czech Republic 20*
5) Slovakia 17
6) Cyprus 10
7) San Marino 1
*Head-to-head: Germany 4 - 3 Czech Republic

What a shock!

72146249-steve-staunton-of-republic-of-ireland-gettyimages.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=OCUJ5gVf7YdJQI2Xhkc2QMIWYYdSYu4UncxvUDOjg7qLa7buUuyZsAtPRM7lmnXtwxE9iwQr3cvcm%2BPhcd0ZfA%3D%3D

Steve Staunton's Republic of Ireland team surprisingly dominated the group, beating the Germans twice. It wasn't Robbie Keane who was their hero though (he's only managed 4 goals for Tottenham in the past year, so isn't getting picked), it's Kevin Doyle, who's the third-highest scorer in qualifying with 11, usually being helped by third-highest assister Aiden McGeady (7).

On the last day, Wales had 21 points, the Czech Republic 20, Germany 19. Germany were at home to Wales in a huge decider, while the Czechs had to avoid slipping up away to a battling Cyprus. Wales and Germany realistically both had to win, while the Czechs had to win and hope Wales didn't.

003EE562000004B0-3073340-image-a-14_1431076615050.jpg

Would you believe it? Wales clung on for dear life to keep out Germany in a 0-0 draw, but Cyprus beat the Czechs, so Wales qualified. Wales reach their first ever European Championship and 2nd ever tournament (the other being the 1958 World Cup). It was like the Welsh version of 'Mike Bassett: England Manager'.

2D363A5600000578-3265786-image-a-1_1444348991525.jpg

Needless to say, Joachim Low was sacked. He was near the precipice after a 3-0 loss at Slovakia was followed by a tight 2-1 win over Cyprus after a last minute winner, and then a loss away to the Czechs. They seemed to recover, only to draw in Wales and lose in Ireland. Still, they would've qualified had they scored just one goal in that last match. Bernd Schuster, who was sacked by Getafe at the end of last season, replaces Low.

Group A

Poland 29
Belgium 27

Serbia 25*
Portugal 25*
Finland 22
Armenia 11**
Kazakhstan 11**
Azerbaijan 4
*Serbia 1 - 1 Portugal, Serbia +16 GD, Portugal +11 GD
**Armenia 2 - 2 Kazakhstan, Armenia -16 GD, Kazakhstan -17 GD

Poland qualified early, and it was between Portugal, Serbia, Belgium (all on 24 points) and Finland (21) before the final match to take 2nd place and the only other qualifying spot. Belgium won their game, all the other teams drew, so it was Belgium who were rewarded.

218.jpg

2006 World Cup semi-finalists Portugal were erratic, dropping points to every team except Azerbaijan. The final game summed up their experience: needing a win to possibly qualify, they were drawing 1-1 at home to Finland when they conceded a last-minute goal, then scored a last-second equaliser to draw 2-2. Luiz Felipe Scolari's contract wasn't renewed, the Portuguese F.A. thinking he had taken them as far as he could. Carlos Carvalhal is his replacement, a man who has lasted only a few months in his last two jobs.

Serbia sacked Javier Clemente, who failed to take advantage with embarrassing draws away to Azerbaijan and Armenia. Those 4 dropped points would've seen them through.

_44325214_hdgson203ap.jpg

Finland were a match for all the bigger teams, getting 7 draws out of 8 matches against them, and the Finland F.A. were eager to extend Roy Hodgson's contract, but he resigned with a desire to move on to a new project.

Armenia and Kazakhstan were happy with their campaigns, with the Kazakhs even believing they're on course for qualification soon.

Azerbaijan's manager came in 2005 declaring he would restructure the team, invest in youth, and make Azerbaijan a force. After 1 win, 1 draw and 12 losses, he resigned.

Group E

England 34
Russia 23

Croatia 22
Israel 16*
FYR Macedonia 16*
Estonia 7
Andorra 0
*Israel 5 - 2 FYR Macedonia

A boring group.

England won every single game to qualify early, before finally dropping any points.

PM_McClaren2_wideweb__470x327,0.jpg

In the final game, with Russia likely to beat Andorra, Croatia needed to draw with Steve McClaren's Super England to also qualify. They were instead thrashed 3-0 on a rainy day in London, the English news media doctoring images of McClaren under his umbrella to make him look like a cool 1930s gangster and causing a rise in the sales of red-and-blue England brollies.

Slaven+Bilic+Best+EURO+2008+Day+14+iuB_OBtCWOJl.jpg

Meanwhile, Slaven Bilic was sacked as Croatia failed to qualify for a tournament for the first time in 8 years.

Andorra hemorrhaged goals, conceding 6 goals in 7 of their matches and 9 goals in 2 others. That's in EACH match, not total.

Group C

Turkey 31
Hungary 23

Norway 22
Greece 14
Moldova 12
Bosnia 11
Malta 2

Turkey were far ahead of the rest in an otherwise poor but competitive group.

Norway and, believe it or not, Hungary ultimately battled for the 2nd spot. Assuming Norway beat Malta in their last game, Hungary therefore needed to beat Greece at home to qualify, which they did relatively comfortably 3-1 (though thanks to saves by Sunderland goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly), ending over two decades without a tournament.

Greece had some awful results, enough to have lesser men sacked, but Otto Rehhagel is a demigod there. However, he retired at the end of the campaign.

 

Group B

Italy 31
France 25

Ukraine 19*
Scotland 19*
Georgia 15
Lithuania 11
Faroe Islands 1
*Ukraine 3 - 2 Scotland

The two World cup finalists, Italy and France, qualified with ease. World champs Italy only conceded 3 goals while scoring the most goals out of all the teams taking part in qualifying.

Gordon1309SDM_468x552.jpg

Scotland had an ok tournament, highlighted with a draw at home to world champs Italy and leading France 1-0 in Paris, going 2-1 behind in the last 5 minutes, only for Barry Ferguson to score an injury time equaliser. Despite those results, Alex McLeish resigned stating he wanted to manage in the Premier League, immediately becoming a villain. He was replaced by Crewe manager Alan Irvine.

Georgia achieved an historic 3-2 win against France, as well as a 5-3 win over Ukraine when they went behind 3 times before scoring 3 goals in 6 minutes. A memorable campaign.

Faroe Islands may not have scored in most of their games, but achieved a 1-1 draw against Ukraine, as well as a 2-1 friendly win against Tunisia...

Group G

Holland 25
Romania 21

Belarus 20
Bulgaria 19*
Slovenia 19*
Albania 7
Luxembourg 5
*Bulgaria 7 - 2 Slovenia

Netherlands had a few hiccups but qualified with realtive ease, though were still left a bit embarrassed by a 0-0 draw in Albania and only a 1-0 win in Luxembourg.

This left Slovenia (19 points), Romania (18), Belarus (17) and Bulgaria (16) battling it out for the final spot on the last day. Romania qualified thanks to an 85th minute winner by Gabriel Tamas.

Belarus were 5 minutes away from qualifying for their first ever tournament, so they had a great campaign, which was punctuated with a shock 3-2 win over the Netherlands on the final day, going 3-0 ahead after 35 minutes. It was late goals at both ends that they were known for though, such as going 1-0 down to Romania with 12 minutes to go and winning 2-1, or immediately going 1-0 down against Dimitar Berbatov's Bulgaria only to score in the 58th, 76th, 88th and 90th minutes to win 4-1. If only they hadn't thrown away that two-goal lead in Albania... in the last minute...

Hristo Stoichkov went from legend to villain after his tempestuous reign finally came to an end. He fell out with players, including captain Stiliyan Petrov, so badly that they retired from international football, and oversaw embarrassing draws against Luxembourg and Albania.

Otto Baric picked up some notable results for Albania before retiring.

Luxembourg had lost every Qualifying match since Euro 1996 qualifying (that's 5 whole campaigns), but this time they started with just a 1-0 loss to the Netherlands and went on to gain draws against Slovenia and Bulgaria and even beat Albania.

Group F

Denmark 31
Spain 24
*
Sweden 24*
Iceland 16
Latvia 14
Northern Ireland 8
Liechenstein 4
*Spain 1 - 1 Sweden, Spain +15 GD, Sweden +9 GD

It was Denmark, not Spain, that eased through qualifying. Spain only qualified on goal difference.

Lars Lagerback will look at their 0-0 draw away to Liechtenstein and 0-0 draw at home to Northern Ireland 4 days later as what cost them. The news media get on Lager's back but the F. A. keep faith for at least one more campaign...

Iceland's highlight was beating Spain 2-1.
 

Team of Qualifying

-------------------------------------Stephan Andersen (Denmark)-----------------------------------

--------Andrea Barzagli (Italy)--------Martin Laursen (Denmark)----Alessandro Nesta (Italy)-----------

Massimo Oddo (Italy)--Steven Gerrard (England)--Frank Lampard (England)--Stewart Downing (England)

-------------------------Nihat (Turkey)---------------Florent Malouda (France)----------------------

------------------------------------Miroslav Klose (Germany)-------------------

Subs: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy) (GK), Zan Gokhan (Turkey), John Terry (England), Thomas Kahlenberg (Denmark), Dirk Kuyt (Netherlands), Ruud van Nistelrooy (Netherlands), Kevin Doyle (Republic of Ireland)
 

Team of Qualifying (1 player per team)

------------------------------------Dimitar Ivankov (Bulgaria)-----------------------------------------

Andrea Barzagli (Italy)--Martin Laursen (Denmark)--Arkadiusz Glowacki (Poland)--John Arne Riise (Norway)

------------Steven Gerrard (England)---Ryan Giggs (Wales)-----Florent Malouda (France)-----------------

------------------------------------------Nihat (Turkey)---------------------------------------------

------------Ruud van Nistelrooy (Netherlands)--------Miroslav Klose (Germany)-------------------------
 

Top scorers

1) Alexandr Kerzhakov (Russia) - 13

2) Steffen Iversen (Norway) - 12

3) Kevin Doyle (Republic of Ireland) - 11
 

Top Assists

=1) Yury Zhirkov (Russia) - 9

=1) Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany) - 9

3) Aiden McGeady (Republic of Ireland) - 7
 

Group Stage Draw

Group A

Switzerland
England
Spain
Poland
 

Group B

Austria
Netherlands
Republic of Ireland
Romania
 

Group C

Italy
Wales
Turkey
Belgium
 

Group D

France
Hungary
Denmark
Russia

Edited by git2thachoppa

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endtime   

Claudio Ranieri lost to Faroe Islands too, one successful season later and nobody remembers it, so I think you'll be fine ;)

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endtime said:
Claudio Ranieri lost to Faroe Islands too, one successful season later and nobody remembers it, so I think you'll be fine ;)

The reason I know about Ranieri and the Faroe Islands is because everyone goes on about it!

2007/08 Review Part 1 - Varese

Results and Performance

As you may have gathered from results in the last entry, we were title challengers this season. So let's see how things went:

Pre-Season Friendlies

(Italian Serie C2/A) Varese 2 - 2 Metz (French Second League)

(Italian Serie C2/A) Varese 0 - 1 Nimes (French National (third tier))

(Italian Serie C2/C) Nocerina 3 - 1 Varese (Italian Serie C2/A)

(Italian Serie C2/A) Varese 0 - 4 Bochum (German First Division)

(Italian Serie C2/A) Varese 1 - 1 Perugia (Italian Serie C1/B)

(Italian Serie C2/A) Varese 0 - 1 AC Milan Second XI (Serie A, reserves)

October Friendlies

Varese Reserves 1 - 2 Varese

(1st, Serie C2/A) Varese 0 - 0 Viterbese (1st, Serie C2/B) (3 - 4 on penalties after 5 rounds)

Serie C Cup - Group Stage

(Predicted 16th) Bassano Virtus 0 - 2 Varese (Predicted 2nd)

(Pred. 2nd) Varese 0 - 0 Como (Pred. 1st) (Fierce Rivals)

(Pred. 12th) Belluno 0 - 1 Varese (Pred. 2nd)

(Pred. 2nd) Varese 0 - 0 Sudtirol-Alto Adige (Pred. 8th)

We topped our group to qualify for the knockout rounds. Good start!

Serie C2/A

(Pred. 2nd) Varese 2 - 1 Valenzana (Pred. 6th)

(Pred. 4th) Cremonese 1 - 2 Varese (Pred. 2nd)

(Pred. 2nd) Varese 3 - 1 Ravenna (Pred. 3rd)

(7th) Nuorese 1 - 1 Varese (1st)

(2nd) Varese 1 - 0 Sudtirol-Alto Adige (1st)

(18th) Fano 2 - 3 Varese (1st)

(1st) Varese 0 - 0 Pergocrema (5th)

Serie C Cup - First Qualifying Phase First Leg

(Serie C2/A, 5th) Pergocrema 0 - 2 Varese (Serie C2/A, 1st)

Serie C2/A

(8th) Olbia 1 - 1 Varese (1st)

Serie C Cup - First Qualifying Phase Second Leg

(Serie C2/A, 2nd) Varese 1 - 0 Pergocrema (7th) (3-0 on agg.)

Serie C Cup - Second Qualifying Phase First Leg

(Serie C2/A, 2nd) Varese 1 - 0 Avellino (Serie C1/B, 9th)

We drop to 2nd in the league for a couple of weeks only due to having a game in hand because of our cup games.

Serie C2/A

(2nd) Varese 4 - 0 Portosummaga (18th)

Serie C Cup - Second Qualifying Phase Second Leg

(Serie C1/B, 12th) Avellino 2 - 0 Varese (Serie C2/A, 2nd) (2-1 on agg.)

Serie C2/A

(1st) Sanremese 1 - 1 Varese (2nd)

(13th) Belluno 0 - 2 Varese (2nd)

(1st) Varese 1 - 0 Biellese (9th)

(Fierce Rivals) (6th) Como 2 - 3 Varese (1st)

Our 12-match unbeaten run was put to the ultimate test, and we went 2 goals behind in the first 9 minutes. I was tempted to take off the keeper there and then, the Como fans were yukking it up thinking our run was finally over. Then we scored 3 before the first half was even finished, and in the whole match the defence played their heart out and the keeper made several good saves. A draw would've been a good result away in a local derby to a team which is in effect a Serie B, if not a Serie A side.

(1st) Varese 0 - 0 Cuneo (15th)

(17th) Carpenedolo 0 - 1 Varese (1st)

(1st) Varese 0 - 0 Legnano (12th)

(7th) Bassano Virtus 3 - 3 Varese (1st)

(2nd) Valenzana 1 - 1 Varese (1st)

(1st) Varese 1 - 0 Cremonese (13th)

(5th) Ravenna 0 - 0 Varese (1st)

(1st) Varese 1 - 1 Nuorese (6th)

We drop to 2nd with our lead eaten away by 6 draws in the last 8 matches, that's 12 dropped points. At this point I realise we need to be far riskier and and attacking. If we keep drawing, we won't win the title. We must sacrifice the odd draw (and our undefeated streak) to pick up wins.

(7th) Alto Adige 1 - 0 Varese (2nd)

And immediately, we lose for the first time in our 22nd league match. I had ended up with only about 2 defenders as we chased a win.

There's no major panic, just frustration, as our rivals regularly drop points, we're just drawing too much. Even if we only qualify for the playoffs, we can be confident in beating everyone over two legs.

(2nd) Varese 4 - 0 Fano (14th)

(11th) Pergocrema 3 - 0 Varese (2nd)

I can't deal with Pergocrema's physical strength and flat 3-5-2 formation. A previous match with us at home had them dominating with about 20 shots. Next time I'll just play an ultra-defensive 5-3-2 long ball or something.

(2nd) Varese 2 - 0 Belluno (16th)

(2nd) Varese 0 - 0 Olbia (12th)

(18th) Portosummaga 0 - 3 Varese (2nd)

(2nd) Varese 2 - 0 Sanremese (1st)

This wasn't just a 6-pointer, but a 7-pointer. With our last encounter ending 1-1, whoever won this match would have the head-to-head advantage and effectively an extra point, with goal difference (which had been equal all season anyway) becoming completely irrelevant. (How it should be!)

And with that win we go 5 points ahead (well, 6 because of that head-to-head record).

(15th) Biellese 2 - 3 Varese (1st)

(1st) Varese 0 - 1 Como (7th) (Fierce Rivals)

(8th) Cuneo 0 - 1 Varese (1st)

(1st) Varese 0 - 0 Carpenedolo (17th)

(1st) Varese 3 - 1 Bassano Virtus (11th)

With one match to go our lead is cut to 2. We needed to get a draw or for our rivals Como to do us a favour at home to Sanremese.

(12th) Legnano 1 - 2 Varese (1st)

We went 1-0 behind, immediately after they had a man sent off and immediately before half time. At the end of the half, I'm worried, until I discover the score in the Sanremese game: 4-0 to Como.

The pressure is off, but I tell the players that now we HAVE to win. And that's what we do, the winner scored in the 84th minute. The keeper praises my team talk, and the fans and board celebrate as we lift the trophy and go back into Serie C1 four years after going bankrupt and having to start anew in Serie D. I also win Serie C2/A Manager of the Year.

To finish off the season is the 'Serie C2 Super Cup', where the winners of the three leagues play each other once. Shame I didn't know about that before I released all the retirees and terminated the loans. So instead I'll use it as a chance for a few other players to get games, including a youth goalkeeper, seeing as we now have no senior keepers...

Serie C2 Super Cup

(69 points) Varese 0 - 1 Castelnuovo (76 points)

(58 points) Nocerina 1 - 1 Varese (69 points)

Final table:

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January Transfers

Karim Abdoul Sylla - AMR, Guinean, 27 - Free from Hasselt (Belgian Third Division) - Valued at £85,000 - Played 6 games and made no impact. Has stupid hair.

Notable January Loans In

January was easier for loans, and I brought in 6 players. 2 never played, but the rest were vital.

Emanuele Orlandi - AMC/MC, Italian, 20 - AC Milan (Italian Serie A) - Valued at £1.2m - We had 3 good CMs but he played every game and made the team a bit more dynamic. He scored the winner himself against Carpenedolo with a mazy run.

Matthieu Sans - WBL, French, 19 - Monaco (French Ligue 2) - Valued at £55,000 - Used as a left attacking midfielder, he got 4 goals and 1 assist in 11 games, and now we're his favourite club.

Fabio Borriello - DC, Italian, 22 - AC Milan (Italian Serie A) - Valued at £375,000 - He's not much of a tackler but was supremely dominant in the air. Important when I started picking players for their threat in set pieces.

Loic Benoit - DR, French, 19 - Saint-Etienne (French Ligue 1) - Valued at £220,000 - Managed 2 assists in 8 games!

Transfers Out

Vladimir - DC/DL - Giulianova (Italian Serie B) - £6,000 - Even though he was good, we had players in his position and he's 31, so he left after only half a season!

Egbedi - ST - Released - Finally lost my patience; he would go on long runs without scoring.

Retirees

Gianluca Berti - GK - Aged 41 - First-choice keeper who played every game, but he wasn't amazing and promotion to the next level means his time is up. (Annoyingly, he's decided to become a physio and scout with his Judging Ability and Judging Potential attributes at 1 each and Physiotherapy at 9... while his Coaching Goalkeepers is 20...)

Daniele Balli - GK - Aged 40 - It's the deputy's time to go too.

Finazzi - ST - Aged 34 - Ended up getting 11 goals in 17(5) league games, asked to reconsider.

Francesco Galeoto - DR - Aged 36 - Surprisingly got a run in the team after good performances, but Serie C1 might be too big a step.

Christian Terni - DC - Aged 36 - Played no games this season.

 

Tactics

In my first full season, I learned that Italy must be the most stressful country to manage in. Everyone's trying for 1-0 or 0-0, and combined with the lower quality of passing and particularly finishing, that makes matches stressful to watch when you need wins. Every match is a case of getting the first goal then defending deep and counter attacking. I initially was instilling my 'English' ways of trying to increase a lead and play positively, but this made us concede too often. So I was assimilated into the Italian way - when we took the lead, whether it be the 1st or 90th minute, we would sit back and counter-attack - and this was far more successful. It was harder when we didn't score, particularly at home as it was the opponents who were parking the bus; we actually scored more away than at home. Those home draws could've been costly.

The formation didn't change - a 4-4-2 diamond, 4-1-3-2 or 4-2-4 depending how you look at it. However, we were able to put the ball in the air more this season due to having physically fitter and stronger players.

But oh how I wish there was a 'DON'T PASS IT BACK TO THE KEEPER YOU SON OF A BITCH' button to tick. Every time Berti kicked it it could go straight to an opposition striker. He even conceded a goal after taking a free kick and hitting it straight at a striker, who scored easily.

 

Squad Review

Transfer windows see a mad scramble for free transfers and Serie A reserves on loan, so it's luck and timing that decides what players you end up with and which positions get what quality as you bid for every player. But there are plenty of positions to fill.

Goalkeepers: We only used one goalkeeper all season (Berti). Despite conceding only 24 in 34 games, he wasn't a star keeper. Both senior keepers are retiring.

Defence: Very old (mid-30s), but what they lacked in pace they made up for in strength and experience. It certainly helped loaning in a couple of defenders with pace though, namely Arnaud Lescure and later Fabio Borriello.

Central midfield: There are 3 top players in central midfield. Nicolás Amodio and Rosario La Marca should be ok in Serie C1. Marko Kolsi too, if the sought after starlet isn't taken away.

Wingers: Talisman Benito Carbone played less of a role this season, partly due to injuries (probably contributing to us drawing instead of winning some games). He was being rested for games anyway and the team did fine without him, but he was subbed on more at the end of the season where his leadership and set pieces were needed. He still managed 5 goals and 5 assists in 18(8) games. Next season, at 37, will be his last for Varese.

No one else really stood out on the wings. There were a few good performances, but nothing to suggest there are any superstars yet.

Strikers: We finally had goalscorers up front, most of the time. Two loans came in: Edouard Butin worked so hard in training that the assistant manager was overjoyed with him, but he didn't score in 10(9) games and was so uninvolved he only had about 5 shots the whole season! The other loan signing, Laurent Lanteri, had a far better record (8 in 18(14)) and is available on a free, but he lacks the strength to be consistent, let alone in Serie C1, so he's not been signed.

We only have two permanent strikers, and they're old: Gustavo Reggi was regularly injured but played well, Finazzi was top scorer with 11 goals in 20(5) games. Finazzi is retiring, Reggi is staying for one more season at least. Both will be 35 next season, but we have a good looking young striker coming in the summer, and another who scored 18 in 36 Serie C1 games last season.

 

Staff

One of my coaches, Ludovic Pollet, who I signed as coach while he was about to retire, got an incredible offer in November: to go from being a Serie C2 coach to a Serie A assistant manager with Lazio. I promote our goalkeeping coach to assistant on a nice long contract.

Volfango Patarca came in at the end of last season as scout. He's well known in Italy for being head of youth during Lazio's successful Sven Goran Eriksson years and discovering the likes of Alessandro Nesta, Luigi Di Biagio, Paolo Di Canio and Marco Di Vaio.

Samir Shaker was one of the new coaches to come in. Despite being infamous for being banned for a year after spitting at a ref in the 1986 World Cup, the Iraqi seems popular.

Noel Blake, an experienced English player and formerly Stoke City youth coach, joins as fitness coach. He's a big *******, so he'll work on the players' strength well.

Giovanni Invernizzi, despite his Serie A playing experience, doesn't get his contract renewed as coach.

 

Finances

The board has invested £1.5m into the club the past two seasons just to keep the debt down. It seems the only way this club will make money is to be successful on the pitch. The wage bill is only around £30,000 per week, but the club loses over a million a season.

Marko Kolsi is the only player valued at six figures, which is steadily reaching his minimum fee release clause of £750,000. The money will be nice for the club, but would last only half a season.

 

My Future

In April I was offered a new contract: the same wage, yearly rolling contract. I accepted. Let's see how the Serie C1 season goes! I'm not sure how my reputation is, how high up the leagues I could get a job, so it's hard to tell where I'd go next if things go bad here, or where a job offer might come.

As for Tunisia, it's a marriage of convenience: they're not in competition for 4 years, I'm nearby and looking for experience. Who knows how things will go?

Edited by git2thachoppa

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2007/08 Review Part 2 - Club Football

 

Summer 2007 Transfer Window - Selected Transfers

David Beckham - Real Madrid to Inter Milan - Free (his L. A. Galaxy move fell through I guess)

Miroslav Klose - Werder Bremen to Inter Milan - £17m

Mancini - Roma to Real Madrid - £16m

Adriano - Inter Milan to Lazio - £15.25m

Wesley Sneijder - Ajax to Real Madrid - £15m

Jesus Navas - Sevilla to Roma - £14.5m

Julio Baptista - Real Madrid to Arsenal - £13m

Eric Abidal - Lazio to Real Madrid - £12.5m

Kim Kallstrom - Lyon to Ajax - £12.5m

Darren Bent - Charlton to Valencia - £7.5m

Vedran Corluka - Barcelona to Roma - £4.1m

Pedro - Barcelona - Released

Chelsea sold Mikel, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Alex, and only signed a 15-year-old. On a free.

 

January 2008 Transfer Window - Selected Transfers

Esteban Cambiasso - Inter Milan to AC Milan - £27.5m

Xabi Alonso - Liverpool to AC Milan - £27m

Jonathan de Guzman - Feyenoord to Tottenham Hotspur - £13m

Fernando Belluschi - River Plate to Sevilla - £11.5m

Abou Diaby - Arsenal to Porto - £9.5m

Papa Bouba Diop - Fulham to Chelsea - £9.25m

Jefferson Farfan - PSV to Real Madrid - £8m

Ronaldo (the Brazilian one) - AC Milan to Palermo - £2.2m

David Luiz - Vitoria to Club Brugge - £1.7m

Jonathan Woodgate - Real Madrid to Chelsea - £875k

 

2007/08 Awards

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Arsenal's Thierry Henry won the World Player of the Year award a second year in a row, he scored 58 goals and made 18 assists in 66(1) club games and scored 9 in 11 internationals. Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt came 2nd, Fiorentina's Luca Toni 3rd.

He also won the Ballon d'Or (European Footballer of the Year). Luca Toni and Chelsea's Didier Drogba were 2nd and 3rd.

 

European cups

Champions League

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On a rainy day in Moscow... er, I mean a windy day in Goteborg... Chelsea stopped Man Utd becoming the first team to retain the Champions League with a 2-1 win in another all-English final. Jose Mourinho achieved Roman Abramovich's ultimate goal.

Alex Ferguson took a lot of flak with his decision making. After taking a 1-0 lead, Man Utd uncharacteristically sat back to defend the lead. 2 minutes into the second half, he made a double substitution: Off came Klasnic, who made the assist, and Heinze, who was playing well. On came Kieran Richardson and Gerard Piqué. One minute later, Makélélé equalised from a corner and then Chelsea dominated the rest of the half, even after Shevchenko scored 10 minutes later.

It was to be Sir Alex's final match, with he and (Eric Harrison) retiring.

Dinamo Minsk went through three qualifying rounds and Besiktas to reach their first ever group stage. Though they finished bottom, they still came away with a win against Lazio (with 10 men!), a draw against Bayern Munich and two draws against Lyon.

UEFA Cup

Wigan Athletic, winners of last season's League Cup to qualify for this year's UEFA Cup, had an incomparable debut European campaign and their biggest ever season as they reached the final. They beat Malmo to qualify for the group stage, topped their group (including comfortable wins against last year's Champions League surprise package AEK and at Dinamo Moscow) and eased through the knockout rounds (including a 3-0 home win against Fiorentina in the quarter-finals and overturning a 3-2 semi-final first leg away loss to Borussia Dortmund by thrashing them 4-0 at home).

They faced Werder Bremen in the final, but conceded in the 2nd minute and were 3-0 down after 22 minutes. In the final minute, Lee McCulloch gave the ball to Henri Camara to finish and the fans finally got a goal to celebrate after a brilliant campaign. 4-1 the final score.

Aab were another team with a dream campaign, to a lesser extent. They had to go through FC Lahti, Roda JC, Levski Sofia and Paris Saint-Germain just to reach the group stage. They then topped the group, beating Schalke away, Spartak Moscow and Real Zaragoza, before being knocked out only on away goals by Palermo.

 

England

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Premier League

It was a crazy season, with the 'Big 3' being smashed to pieces. Aston Villa, Blackburn, Bolton and Manchester City all topped the table at some point, and not just at the start of the season, so it was open for anyone to win.

Arsenal eventually won with a couple of games to spare, but only topped the table after 31 games and only won with 74 points and 10 losses. They have a quality spine of Kolo Toure, Fabregas and two-time World Player of the Year Thierry Henry, who destroyed the record for most goals in a season with 37 goals in 37 games. He scored 50 goals all season. 50 GOALS.

It's hard to say if Liverpool improved under Ottmar Hitzfeld, but they finished 2nd, albiet with one less point than last season!

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Man City looked like they could be the one to pull away and win, but they only won 1 of their last 7 games. They still finished 3rd thanks to that final day win, and Stuart Pearce is a hero. He's done this only spending £350,000 this season and losing Sylvain Distin and Giorgios Samaras to Bayern Munich and Inter Milan respectively, and last season's top assister DaMarcus Beasley who had been on loan. With him already in charge of the England Under-21s, he's been touted as the next England manager. If he does take charge, expect callups for 18-year-old goal machine Daniel Sturridge, Joey Barton and young star Micah Richards.

To think, Alex Ferguson spent years trying to find a new Roy Keane, and Joey Barton was at City all along.

Chelsea may have won the Champions League, but they finished 4th (granted only 6 points separate 2nd and 6th). Jose Mourinho's transfer policy is being called into question. He made no real signings in the summer but sold John Obi Mikel, Alex and Pablo (who he only signed last season), and for a measly £14.5m together. In January he bought Papa Bouba Diop and Woodgate. While Woodgate for less than a million was seen as a good deal for any other club (and Diop for £9.25m was certainly not), they haven't been great so far and more should be expected of megarich Chelsea.

Man Utd's 3-0 loss away to Derby County on the final day and failure in the final 45 minutes of the Champions League final means they'll play in the UEFA Cup next season, as they finished 5th.

Everton improved after replacing Moyes with Boothroyd last season, finishing 7th this season. Fans weren't complaining when they signed Clarence Seedorf on loan. He only played 10 games, but got 3 goals and 2 assists.

West Ham suffered the curse of UEFA Cup participation in a major way as they were relegated back to the Championship on the final day. Despite reaching the F.A. Cup final last season and only being knocked out by Lazio in the UEFA Cup, Alan Curbishley was sacked in March and replaced with Hugo Sánchez (the failed Mexico manager of an earlier entry), who failed to save them. If you're wondering how that can happen with Tevez and Mascherano, well Mascherano has been on loan to Liverpool the past 2 seasons, while Tevez was injured for 5 months total and only got 3 goals in 14. The bidding wars begin! The big money transfers of Shaun Wright-Phillips and Tranquillo Barnetta for a total £19.25m will be seen as flops.

Peter Beardsley lasted until February as Newcastle United manager. Unfortunately for him, the club gained a new chairman, who sacked him after two more matches and with the club in the bottom half, and replaced him immediately with Rennes manager Henning Berg, who then lost the League Cup final and nearly saw his team get relegated.

Cups

F.A. Cup

Tottenham beat Man Utd on penalties, after a 0-0 draw where Kieran Richardson missed a penalty in normal time.

Conference side Dagenham & Redbridge were the giantkillers, reaching the 4th round with wins over League One Luton and Kidderminster, before losing 1-0 to Championship Watford. Quite a few Conference sides beat League One sides.

League Cup

Portsmouth beat Newcastle United 2-1 after extra time to win their first League Cup and debut in the UEFA Cup next season. Can they 'do a Wigan'?

Championship Milwall beat Premier League Everton and Manchester City on their way to the quarter-finals.

Football League and Non-League

Ian Holloway did the incredible and lead Plymouth Argyle to the Championship title and the Premier League. They won the League Two title in 2002, won the League One title two years later, and it only took them four years to win this one. A new signing, a Brazilian named Giancarlo, got 23 goals and 13 assists in 36 games and a huge average rating of 7.75.

Roy Keane's Sunderland go up via the playoffs after two seasons. They finished 6th but trounced West Brom 6-1 in one leg, and beat Ipswich 4-0 in the final.

After back-to-back promotions, Southend United were 2 points from promotion to the Premier League last season. This season, they were well relegated, despite bringing in David Platt in November.

Neil Warnock's 8 years at Sheffield United came to an end. They were challenging for a playoff place after being relegated, but the club evidently thought they should be challenging for automatic places. He was replaced with Stuart McCall, a man who has gone through the ranks of the club from player, coach, assistant manager, and now is his time in the spotlight as manager.

Ex-Everton manager David Moyes returned to Preston North End.

Roy Hodgson returned to club management with Leicester City.

Dennis Wise, after relegating Leeds United, almost got Ipswich promoted, but they lost the playoff final 4-0.

Leeds United finished 11 points ahead of the rest to win League One and go straight back into the Championship. Steve Bruce, a Man Utd legend, may not have been the most popular appointment, but that's a good start!

Their 'big club' brethren Nottingham Forest also got promoted.

The third-oldest professional football team in the world, Wrexham, were relegated from League Two, ending their 87-year stay in the Football League.

Morecambe and Rochdale had the greatest League 2 relegation 'playoff' since probably 1999 and Jimmy Glass. It was a battle between the Football League newcomers and the League 2 mainstays. Both on 45 points, they played each other on the final day in a loser-gets-relegated match.

'The most boring club in England', Rochdale, lost 4-0 and were finally relegated from the Football League after over 3 decades of midtable League Two obscurity. They didn't even bother to sack the manager.

Aldershot Town finally came back to the Football League since being reborn in 1992. They ran away with the Conference title, 14 points ahead.

Chris Waddle returned to management after nearly a decade, taking charge of Conference side Rushden & Diamonds. He had an immediate effect and they just missed out on the playoff places.

(Speaking of Waddle and Diamonds, Glenn Hoddle also came back into management in October 2007, taking charge of Perth Glory FC in Australia.)

 

Spain

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Barcelona won the title for a 4th time in a row, though it was a little tighter than last year. In the end they won by 1 point.

Javier Aguirre became a true villain. The Atletico Madrid manager led the team to 4th last season and this year they were challenging for the title and reached the Spanish Cup final. So he left for Roma 4 days before the final, against Real Madrid, in April.

On the day he left, Atletico lost at Barcelona and then lost the Spanish Cup final 4-3. They actually went unbeaten for the rest of the season though, finishing 2nd.

Real Madrid may have won that Spanish Cup against Atletico and thrashed Barcelona 5-1 in the Super Cup, but they finished 3rd behind Barcelona and now Atletico. Is Fabio Capello's time up?

Rafa Benitez had a positive impact on his return to Valencia, they even topped the table for a few weeks. They finished 4th. His most notable signing was Darren Bent from relegated Charlton, and he was the club's second-highest scorer and assister with 9 goals and 7 assists in 28 games.

Samuel Eto'o was by far player of the season last time, but this season the pool of talent particularly in attack is incredible. Take your pick from: Eto'o, Aguero, Torres, Robinho, Ronaldinho, David Villa, Sneijder, Llorente, Kanouté, Nihat, Van Nistelrooy, Milito, Messi, van der Vaart, Higuaín, Darren Bent...

 

Germany

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Bert Van Marwijk's Dortmund broke into the top 3 and ended Bayern's dominance for a season by winning the league by a point, despite bringing in no new first team players for 2 seasons.

Thomas Doll's Bayern make do with 2nd and no trophies, but he did take them to the semis of the Champions League.

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Jurgen Klopp continued to improve Mainz. After taking them to the Bundesliga for the first time ever in 2004, they have now finished in the UEFA Cup spots in 6th. This guy is going to go far. Mainz' Hungarian striker Imre Szabics was easily the club's top scorer with 20 goals, but Klopp will have to find a new man to score as he's moving on a free to Parma.

Joachim Low returned to management after his utter failure with Germany, taking charge of Koln.

 

Italy

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Serie A

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Inter Milan nearly threw it away at the end, failing to win any of their last 5 matches, but they were top nearly all season and won the title by 2 points.

Similarly, Sampdoria improved significantly under Marcello Lippi and were 2nd nearly all season, and very nearly nicked the title.

Defending champs Lazio finished 20 points behind Inter, in 6th.

Juventus' first season back in Serie A ended with 9th, finishing 3 points away from the UEFA Cup or even Intertoto Cup after losing their last 2 games.

Last season's Young Player of the Year, Udinese's Asamoah Gyan, had an even better season and was arguably the best player in the league, scoring 8 more goals than the 15 he got last time, lifting Udinese 4 places higher to 4th and into the Champions League.

 

France

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Lyon won their 6th title in 7 seasons after Paris Saint-Germain threw it away.

PSG were top of the table for the second half of the season, but dropped to 2nd with two games to go and no wins in the last 5 games.

Last year's champions Lille finished all the way down in 10th, but won a consolation League Cup by beating Lyon and thus will still enjoy UEFA Cup football next season.

Louis Van Gaal showed slightly more loyalty than Javier Aguirre. He left Marseille AFTER winning the French Cup, their first trophy in over a decade, moving to Real Betis with 3 matches in the league to go. They brought in French legend Jean-Pierre Papin and he kept them in the UEFA Cup places.

 

Scotland

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Rangers won the title again. They were top all season, though they only won by 12 points this time...

Nicklas Bentdner, on loan at Rangers from Arsenal, decimated the league with 33 goals in 33 matches (14 more than the second-highest scorer), along with 4 goals in 4 cups matches and 9 goals in 12 Champions League and UEFA Cup matches.

Celtic arguably improved finishing 2nd, and 19 points ahead of the rest. They also won their 4th Scottish Cup in 5 years, but lost the League Cup 2-0 to Hibs.

When Alex McLeish resigned as Scotland manager he had planned to manage in England, but the team he spent all but 3 games of his career at came calling in March: Aberdeen. He only managed one win and one draw in 7 games though, and that was against the bottom two sides.

 

Netherlands

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PSV won a league and cup double with their fourth title in a row, despite selling young sensation and former Player of the Year Jefferson Farfán to Real Madrid in January.

Ajax were 3 points behind them in 2nd, and the top two were again well ahead of the rest.

Feyenoord were well behind again, finishing 4th and 14 points behind Ajax. But, due to the league's madcap playoff system to decide European qualification, Feyenoord will enter the Champions League and Ajax the UEFA Cup, after they beat Ajax in 2 legs.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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2007/08 Review Part 3 - International Football

Ghana 2008 Africa Cup of Nations



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Ivory Coast went one place better than 2006 and won their second African Cup, beating Senegal 2-1 after Bonaventure Kalou equalised in the 85th minute and Didier Drogba scored the winner in extra time.

Holders Egypt had a disaster, failing to win a single game. Egypt needed to win in their final game, took the lead, then a mistake, then a long-range curler and finally an own goal meant they lost 3-1 to Gambia, with star striker Zidan missing several sitters. Their African Cup-winning manager Hassan Shehata, who also oversaw elimination from World Cup qualifying, was sacked.

Nigeria sacked their manager after their worst performance since 1986 (excluding 1996 when they withdrew and 1998 when they were banned). They reached the quarters, but you have high standards when you've reached the semis every two years for two decades.

Gambia were the surprise package in their debut tournament, going all the way to the semi-finals before finally losing a game, to the Ivory Coast. As well as matching Togo, Zimbabwe and Cameroon (before beating them on penalties), they beat holders Egypt 3-1!

Hosts Ghana reached the semis for the first time since 1982, but manager Claude Le Roy turned down a contract extension.

 

2008 OFC Nations Cup



OFCcup.png

new-zealand.jpg

In the least competitive International tournament around, New Zealand won the first of what may well be an eternal streak of tournament victories in the post-Australia era.

Tahiti will be pleased though, they won all their games bar the ones they played against New Zealand, and in the final only lost to them 2-0 over two games.

Solomon Islands and Fiji, who should be two of the better teams, failed to qualify for the group stage with only 1 win each in their 4 games. Solomon Islands suffered embarrassing draws to American Samoa and Samoa.

Cook Islands were the surprise team, qualifying for the group stage.

American Samoa, famous for being destroyed by Australia 32-0, were delighted - not only did they only concede 7 goals in 4 games, they picked up 2 points and 1 clean sheet!

Tahiti's Marama Vahirua filled his boots. He debuted for his country in the tournament, and in 7 games he scored 13 goals and made 7 assists!
 

Retirements

Despite Euro 2008 coming up, Luis Aragonés stepped down as Spain manager and announced his retirement, citing personal reasons. His replacement to take Spain through Euro 2008 is Quique Sánchez Flores, who was sacked by Valencia at the end of last season after finishing mid-table.

After his failure in Croatia, Slaven Bilic has declared he isn't cut out to be manager and retired from management.

Alfio Basile has retired and thus stepped down as Argentina manager. Gerardo Martino of Newell's replaces him.

Still to come... Euro 2008!

Edited by git2thachoppa

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Austria/Switzerland 2008 European Championships



uefa_euro2008.jpg

[video=youtube_share;03PXDvIBAMQ]

[video=youtube_share;bM56j4PPAPY]

(Oh geez, the TV intros were boring that year, they were supposed to hype you up!)

The favourites are the obvious teams, but with Germany and Portugal failing to qualify, England fans are rabid in their belief that this is their year. They got a good group draw, the teams that knocked them out of 2006, 2004, 2000 (to an extent), 1996 and 1990 won't be in the way, and they won every qualifying game except one draw after they qualified. A more reserved mind will tell you that, to win, England will have to beat either the Netherlands or the Irish, then both World Cup finalists. Good luck with that!

Match Days 1 & 2

Group B

Austria 1 - 1 Romania

In a sedate opener of few chances, Banel Nicolita gave Romania the lead just before half time, but Thomas Prager equalised for Austria immediately after. Not a bad start for the co-hosts.

Republic of Ireland 0 - 1 Netherlands

Netherlands just bested R.o.I., van der Vaart managing to knock one in.

Netherlands 2 - 1 Romania

Netherlands had the better of the match, but Romania took the lead officially through a Giovanni van Bronckhorst own goal when he attempted and failed to stop a shot going into an open goal. Rafael van der Vaart's penalty 5 minutes later equalised. With 15 minutes to go, manager Marco van Basten took advantage of their incredible attacking depth, taking off strikers Kuyt and van Persie and bringing on Ryan Babel and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. In the last minute of stoppage time, a Romania goal kick was immediately turned into attack, with Babel delivering the final pass to Huntelaar, who scored the winner. Netherlands are through to the quarter-finals!

Austria 1 - 2 Republic of Ireland

A free kick routine with Ian Harte gave Paul McShane his first Ireland goal before half time. Sanel Juljic equalised with 10 minutes to go, but Kevin Doyle ran into the area and got a shot past Alex Manninger, who rushed out too far, in the last minute to break Austrian hearts.

Group D

Hungary 1 - 1 France

France dominated with their 3-5-2 formation, but took 78 minutes to take the lead through Ben Arfa. A free kick in stoppage time from László Bodnár gave him his first goal and Hungary an incredible result against the World Cup finalists. Zoltán Gera suffers a groin strain, so Hungary have to do without him for at least the next two matches.

Russia 3 - 0 Denmark

Denmark easily qualified ahead of Spain, but their patented 4-2-3-1 formation failed them as they never really had a chance. It was schoolboy defending that gave Alexandr Kerzhakov, Sergey Ignashevich and debuting sub Ivan Taranov the goals.

Denmark 2 - 3 Hungary

Zsolt Low gave Hungary the lead with a rocket, only for Daniel Jensen to finish a Danish attack straight from kick-off. Jesper Gronkjaer gave them the lead 4 minutes later dribbling past several Hungarians. Denmark's Thomas Sorensen, their only fit keeper in the tournament so far with star of qualifying Stephan Andersen and their other keeper injured, made an error and Péter Bajzát scored the equaliser. He then scored the winner a few minutes later. Incredible!

France 0 - 1 Russia

Dmitry Sychev scored the early goal, but it was goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev and his 7 saves that won them a huge 3 points that saw them through to the quarter-finals.

Group A

Poland 2 - 0 Spain

A disastrous first match for new Spain manager Quique Sanchez Flores. Not only did they lose to Ebi Smolarek's first half goals, but never looked like scoring even when Poland had Marcin Baszczynski sent off.

Switzerland 0 - 2 England

An easy game for England against the co-hosts, but they needed two dead balls: a sensational lobbed Stewart Downing free kick off the crossbar and Frank Lampard penalty (after Michael Owen got one of his questionable penalty area fouls). Andrew Johnson only lasted 5 minutes as a sub before suffering a back injury which ends his tournament.

Switzerland 0 - 1 Poland

Switzerland dominated but rarely threatened, and it was Poland's one shot on target, from Maciej Zurawski, that decided this.

Spain 1 - 0 England

Thanks partly to Iker Casillas and wayward finishing from England, Gerard Piqué's header was enough.

Group C

Belgium 1 - 0 Wales

Anthony Vanden Borre won an even game, beating Welsh keeper Lewis Price to a cross. An injury ends young Steven Defour's tournament.

Italy 1 - 0 Turkey

Italy were the better side, but still needed Buffon to make a few saves. Vincenzo Iaquinita scored, and Zan Gokhan got sent off for kicking out at Luca Toni. That's bad news for Turkey, because he's their rock in defence.

Turkey 2 - 0 Belgium

Nihat scored twice, one in stoppage time with the Belgian keeper forward for a throw-in in desperation for an equaliser.

Wales 2 - 2 Italy

The Italians couldn't handle Craig Davies, who knows their game as he has played in Italy for a few years now. It took him only 4 minutes to score, and Wales looked like they might score a few. So it was strange to see him as one of two players subbed off at half time. Craig Bellamy, one of the subs, got sent off for an elbow only 10 minutes later, but Iaquinita was sent off just 4 minutes later to even it out. Totti was brought on as Italy changed shape and he immediately scored an equaliser. David Edwards, who made his debut in the last game against Belgium, headed in a Bale corner. Luca Toni scored in the 90th minute after a shot rebounded off the crossbar. Hard luck for Wales, who had the better of the world champions.

Match Day 3

Group B

A Republic of Ireland win would see them join the Netherlands in the quarter-finals, but is that even possible without Kevin Doyle, who is suspended after two bookings? Hosts Austria will be hoping Netherlands play a second-string, because they need what would be an historic win against them to possibly qualify on goal difference. Romania need to beat the Republic of Ireland.

Austria lost to the Netherlands 2-0, who took no prisoners, playing a full-strength side and getting 22 shots, half of them on target, while Austria had 40% possession and 1 shot, off target. Van der Vaart is out for the rest of the tournament with injury though, unless he can recover in time for a potential final.

It was a nervy match for R.o.Ireland, and Romania dominated the first half. But when R.o.Ireland's David Connolly got sent off for an elbow, it was the 10 men who looked most likely to score. There were close chances at both ends, but it finished 0-0, which sees R.o.Ireland though.

Group A

Spain beating Switzerland would make things interesting because, if England beat Poland, then goal difference will decide which two out of Poland, England and Spain go into the quarter-finals. Similarly, if the hosts beat Spain and Poland beat England, goal difference decides between Switzerland, England and Spain who joins Poland in the next round.

England played wonderful flowing football, as shown by their first goal: Gary Neville simply held onto the ball in his right back position, then passed to keeper Robinson, who passed to centre back Terry, who passed to central midfielder Micah Richards, who passed it on to Owen, who sprayed it left for Downing to run onto as everyone moved forward, and he cross-passed it to Rooney in the box to finish. Owen made it 2-0, and then Miroslaw Sznaucner got a second yellow. A Gerrard penalty, and then a Crouch header at the end, made it 4-0.

Poland's goal difference took a horrible hit, and with Spain taking a similarly timed 2-0 lead through David Villa and Vicente, hosts Switzerland looked out. Charles-André Doudin, who made his debut a couple of games earlier in the tournament, got one back for the Swiss when disaster struck. When someone describes to you a player who's a mix of Zidane and Beckham, you probably have a skillful player in your head. In fact this describes Valon Behrami, who made his debut in the tournament and is a 'stupid boy' who got sent off for headbutting and cost his team the game. Fabregas immediately made it 3-1. Hakan Yakin actually got one back again for the Swiss with minutes to go, but it ended 3-2, and Spain beat Poland to the quarters on goal difference. So you could say that two red cards knocked the Poles out. Eliminated with two victories.

Group C

If Wales beat Turkey they have a good chance of qualifying, otherwise they're out, and they have to do it without Bellamy who would be suspended until the final. None of the teams are safe or out, so all of them will need to look for a win, and Belgium have to do it without their suspended captain Koen Daerden.

Incredibly, Belgium beat Italy 1-0 thanks to Stein Huysegems' goal. But Anthony Vanden Borre is out for the tournament thanks to an injury.

Anything other than a 1-0 Wales win would knock Italy out, and in such a case it would be down to drawing of lots to decide between Italy and Wales.

Wales took an early lead against Turkey, thanks to Robert Earnshaw, and things were looking up. Belozoglu Emre equalised with a free kick, and then James Collins poked in an own goal. Wales needed 2 goals. Earnshaw got another one only a few minutes later, but as the match went on, Turkey dominated more, and Wales never got a chance to get a winner. 2-2, Wales are out, and so are the World champions!

Group D

Russia are through, Denmark are out - Thomas Sorensen is having a nightmare with 6 conceded in 2 matches; such a shame that Andersen got injured. Hungary just need to draw with already-qualified Russia to knock France out, and that's if France even beat Denmark. In fact, Hungary will top the group if they win!

A Jon Dahl Tomasson own goal and a Thierry Henry goal after just 6 minutes ended the contest between France and Denmark, 2-0. But it wouldn't mean anything if Hungary matched their opponents, the group leaders Russia.

Roland Juhász scored just before half time to make it 1-0 to Hungary. But the last 5 minutes got nervy with France winning and then Ignashevich equalising for Russia with a free kick. They held on though, and now both World Cup finalists are out, while Hungary's tournament continues!

Final Group Standings

Group A

1) England - 6 (+5 GD)
2) Spain - 6 (0 GD)

------------------
3) Poland - 6 (-1 GD)
4) Switzerland - 0

Group B

1) Netherlands - 9
2) Republic of Ireland - 4
-------------------------------
3) Romania - 2
4) Austria - 1

Group C

1) Belgium - 6
2) Turkey - 4 (+1 GD)
---------------------------
3) Italy - 4 (0 GD)
4) Wales - 2

Group D

1) Russia - 7
2) Hungary - 5
-------------------
3) France - 4
4) Denmark - 0


Quarter-Finals

Republic of Ireland 1 - 1 England (3-4 on penalties)

England were perhaps the more threatening, but an Ian Harte penalty gave Ireland the lead in the 67th minute. Lampard immediately equalised and England camped in Ireland's half. Ireland held on and it went to those dreaded penalties. Both teams scored their first but, true to form, England blinked first with Given saving Rooney's penalty. Richard Dunne had his saved at 3-3 and it went to sudden death. Gareth Barry scored his, Paul Robinson saved Steven Reid's, and England finally won a quarter-final penalty shootout and reached a semi for the first time since 1996! Gerrard will be suspended for the semi-final against Turkey or Russia though.

Turkey 2 - 0 Russia

Sanli Tuncay scored from a tight angle and Emre scored the best goal of the tournament so far with a shot well outside the area and over the keeper.

Belgium 2 - 0 Hungary (after extra time)

Hungary failed to sneak a win, only keeping it 0-0 for 113 minutes until Huysegems scored. Karel Geraerts finished them off a few minutes later with a free kick.

Spain 0 - 1 Netherlands

It was a close encounter that was decided by Ruud van Nistelrooy's first half strike, and top defending by Netherlands. They are heavy favourites now. Their quality in attacking depth was already astonishing (van Nistelrooy, van der Vaart, van Persie, Robben, Sneijder, Huntelaar, Kuyt, Babel) but their defence has conceded only 1 goal this tournament, to go with the 3 in 11 qualifying games (they conceded 3 in their last qualifier when they'd already qualified).

Semi-finals

England 1 - 0 Turkey

In a boring match, Turkey had a couple of chances, England had a couple more, but neither looked much like scoring. A header by captain John Terry from Downing's corner was the winner.

Netherlands 3 - 0 Belgium

No surprises, even without Ruud van Nistelrooy who won't make the final. Belgium never got into the game. Kuyt and Robben put Netherlands 2-0 up in 32 minutes, Giovanni van Bronckhorst scored a free kick at the end.

The cup is Netherlands' to lose.

Final

England v Netherlands

Netherlands have won every game, only conceding against Romania. England lost to Spain, who Netherlands beat, and needed penalties against Republic of Ireland.

Both teams playing 4-4-2.

No changes for England. They're without Gerrard again, on the bench with a bruised leg this time, so Joe Cole keeps his place on the right. Manager Steve McClaren dropped Micah Richards from central midfield for Owen Hargreaves in the quarters, but then dropped Rio Ferdinand at centre-back and put Richards there for the semis, and he's stuck with that line-up today. All the other players have started every game: Robinson, Neville, Richards, Terry ©, A. Cole, J. Cole, Lampard, Hargreaves, Downing, Rooney, Owen.

Van Nistelrooy fails to come back from injury, but van der Vaart is controversially rushed back from a groin strain and starting, despite their attacking depth. The attackers all seem to cycle positions between winger, central midfielder, striker. You could say it's total football. Here's how they start though: van der Sar, de Jong, Boulahrouz, Mathijsen, van Bronckhorst, de Guzman, Sneijder, van der Vaart, Robben, Kuyt ©, van Persie.

First half: The match is there for the taking for both sides, but Netherlands go into half-time with an early 1-0 lead from Kuyt. Hargreaves is brought off at half-time and on comes Gerrard.

Second half: Robin van Persie scores midway into the second half, and England don't really trouble Netherlands. It's another efficient performance from Netherlands.

Wesley+Sneijder+Robin+Van+Persie+Netherlands+TvoL2GMfQAWl.jpg

Final score: England 0 - 2 Netherlands

===========================================================================

Euro 2008 Champions



NETHERLANDS

===========================================================================

Best Player Award: Joris Mathijsen (Netherlands)

Golden Boot: Dirk Kuyt (Netherlands) - 3 goals. (10 players were joint second with 2 goals...)

Team of the tournament

--------------------------------------Edwin van der Sar (Netherlands)---------------------------------

--------------Daniel Van Buyten (Belgium)--Péter Máté (Hungary)--Cristian Chivu (Romania)---------

Paul McShane (R.o.I.)----------------------------------------------------Joris Mathijsen (Netherlands)

Arjen Robben (Netherlands)-------------Mirel Radol (Romania)-------Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Netherlands)

-------------------Dirk Kuyt (Netherlands)---------------Robert Earnshaw (Wales)---------------------

Managerial Casualties

Roberto Donadoni was sacked by Italy after getting just one win with the world champions. He was replaced with Luciano Foschi. If you haven't heard of him, that's because he's a Serie D and C manager who left Treviso to take the job, a club he just got promoted to Serie B...

Spain sacked Quique Sánchez Flores for an uninspiring quarter-final finish. He was replaced by José Ángel Ziganda, who was sacked after taking Osasuna from 4th to relegation in two seasons...

France sacked resident psychopath Raymond Domenech, after he only managed one win with the World Cup finalists. They made a far more realistic signing than the above countries, bringing in PSG's Paul Le Guen after he took PSG so close to the title.

Denmark sacked Morten Olsen and replaced him with the legendary, but inexperienced, John Jensen.

Austria, Switzerland, Poland and Romania also look for new managers at the end of the tournament.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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Happy to provide screenshots. I suspect nothing particularly eventful will be happening in my own career yet, and who knows how long it'll last so make the most of it. This is a bit of experiment as I've loaded every player and league. I was trying to figure how much was too much when setting up the game, then I thought well I may as well load it all and if it dies I'll know it's too much! :lol:

As long as it lasts until the 2014 Spanish World Cup, because that'll be when I start creating faux Match of the Day intro videos (as the hosts will be different and the real intros too specific). I've already done a rough version, and I can say it definitely helps the immersion!

loklokno123 said:
recall lots of memories while reading

You asked for Bale in your original post, if you still want him here he is:

sBMHtFa.png

He's a left back and competent or unconvincing at left wing back, left midfield, centre back and right back. He did just as well last season in the Premier League than in the Championship; he made 7 assists in 26 games, I suspect from set pieces. Blackburn, Watford and Celtic had their eye on him in the transfer window, but haven't gone for him yet.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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Did you buy it on steam?

i have roughly played fm07 when i was a child and i knew nothing about tactics at that time.

but i got addicted and knew how to play in fm08

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2008/09 Review Part 1 - Varese & Tunisia

Varese

Results

Pre-Season Friendlies

(Italian Serie C2/B) Manfredonia 1 - 1 Varese (Italian Serie C1/A)
(Italian Serie C2/B) Rieti 1 - 2 Varese (Italian Serie C1/A)
(Italian Serie C1/A) Varese 0 - 2 Cagliari (Italian Serie B)
(Italian Serie C1/A) Varese 1 - 4 Modena (Italian Serie B) (Rivals)
(Italian Serie C1/A) Varese 2 - 0 AC Milan XI (Italian Serie A, second XI)
(Italian Serie C1/A) Varese 2 - 0 Lanciano (Italian Serie C2/B)
(Italian Serie B) Giulianova 2 - 0 Varese (Italian Serie C1/A)

Italian Cup - First Qualifying Round

(Serie C1/A) Varese 0 - 2 Piacenza (Serie A)

Serie C1/A

(Predicted 3rd) Venezia 1 - 1 Varese (Predicted 8th)
(Pred. 9th) Pro Patria 1 - 0 Varese (Pred. 8th) (Rivals)
(Pred. 8th) Varese 2 - 3 Pavia (Pred. 6th)
(15th) Varese 2 - 1 Triestina (2nd)
(10th) Reggiana 1 - 2 Varese (12th)
(8th) Varese 1 - 1 Monza (17th)
(18th) Massese 1 - 0 Varese (8th)

All of our goals are being conceded by set pieces; there's nothing I can really do, they're playing well otherwise.

(6th) Castelnuovo 0 - 0 Varese (13th)
(13th) Varese 1 - 0 Lumezzane (3rd)

This was my 100th game... apparently...

(7th) Varese 1 - 0 San Marino (1st)

3 points against the league leaders and favourites, with a 16-year-old sweeper and back-up goalkeeper, means confidence is sky high.

Serie C Cup - First Qualifying Phase, First Leg

(10th, C2/A) Como 2 - 1 Varese (5th, C1/A) (Rivals)

Serie C1/A

(6th) Varese 1 - 2 Ravenna (15th)

Serie C Cup - First Qualifying Phase, Second Leg

(7th, C1/A) Varese 0 - 1 Como (9th, C2/A) (Rivals)

Varese 1 - 3 Como on agg.

Embarrassing.

Serie C1/A

(15th) Novara 1 - 0 Varese (7th)
(14th) Citadella 1 - 0 Varese (12th) (Rivals)

Formation change from 3-5-2 to diamond 4-4-2.

(13th) Varese 3 - 1 Pizzighettone (9th)
(10th) Varese 2 - 1 Spezia (3rd)
(10th) Varese 0 - 0 Lucchese (12th)
(6th) Pistoiese 1 - 0 Varese (9th)
(12th) Varese 0 - 0 Pro Patria (10th) (Rivals)

Winter Break Friendly

Varese U20s 0 - 0 Varese (3 - 2 on penalties)

Serie C1/A
(13th) Pavia 2 - 0 Varese (12th)
(14th) Varese 1 - 2 Venezia (4th)
(1st) Triestina 2 - 1 Varese (14th)
(14th) Varese 2 - 1 Reggiana (7th)
(14th) Varese 3 - 0 Massese (15th)
(8th) Lumezzane 0 - 1 Varese (13th)
(17th) Monza 2 - 0 Varese (10th)
(13th) Varese 0 - 1 Castelnuovo (6th)
(5th) San Marino 2 - 0 Varese (13th)

Tactic change to long balls / target man.

(13th) Varese 3 - 0 Novara (12th)
(18th) Ravenna 0 - 0 Varese (11th)
(12th) Varese 1 - 0 Cittadella (7th) (Rivals)
(15th) Pizzighettone 1 - 0 Varese (11th)
(11th) Varese 1 - 0 Pistoiese (14th)

Safety was confirmed, so the remaining two games were used to try other players.

(9th) Lucchese 3 - 0 Varese (11th)
(1st) Spezia 1 - 0 Varese (11th)

 

Final Table

t6xU124.png
 

Tactics

Going into a tougher league, I changed from the attacking 4-4-2 diamond of last season to a 3-5-2, so we would have 5 or 6 in defence and take advantage of our strength in central midfield. A sweeper was used to cover as most of our centre-backs were old and slow. This changed to a 4-4-2 diamond after 5 losses in a row, at last making use of our wide midfielders, which immediately paid off.

However only one striker was scoring. I eventually had a brainwave: one of our loan strikers couldn't hit a barn door but was very strong in the air - he was our Italian Emile Heskey. So I put him back in the team and told the players to just kick the ball long to him, so he could nod it down to the good striker, or anyone else. This new tactic confirmed safety with 3 wins and 1 loss in the next 5 matches.

 

Squad Review

Due to the financial situation, a lot of players will be going and it is time for the youth signings to pay off. Luckily we were always quite safe this season, so I was able to experiment and blood some players.

Goalkeepers

Both our goalkeepers retired last season (they wouldn't have been good enough anyway), so I signed 3 first team keepers (and a couple of young ones). In the end, none of them were good enough: 5 clean sheets in 24 matches in total, with average ratings of 6.46, 6.75 and 6.29. They will not win us any points, and every team needs a solid keeper.

I found Adriano Basso as a free agent, but couldn't sign him because I had already signed one non-EU player this season.

Eventually I used one of the Under-20s keepers (Visibelli), and in 12 matches he got 6 clean sheets. I also signed an English keeper from Sheffield Wednesday who's just as young and as good, but he's not settling into Italy.

Two of the flops will be sold. The remaining one (Viviano) will have his contract renewed - he's only 23 and the staff thinks he has a future, though he's always injured. With Viviano's injury record and the youth of the other keepers, this may be a problem position that needs filling.

Defenders

Benoit (DR) and Borriello (DC) joined us again on loan and were brilliant again, Borriello making the 'subs bench' of the Serie C1/A Team of the Year. (Though Benoit lost his form after an injury.) I've managed to sign both on a free.

We have one other good DR/DC who renewed his contract at the end of the season, which allows me to let Doudou's expire despite him being very fit and able at 33.

At centre-back, the three experienced defenders (all 36 years old) are being released, but two more good defenders are coming in next season in their place.

At left-back, our main man is open to a new contract but he's not GREAT, just fine. One of the defenders coming in next season is a left-back and we had two out on loan, so I'll sell him rather than renew.

I am happy with my defence.

Midfielders

It's a bit of a mess.

The wide players didn't get a game for months until we changed formation, and they had varying success.

Sans, the wing-back, is another loanee who came back again and has signed on a free. The other wide midfielders were unspectacular and will have to be sold, which leaves us with Sans and a couple of youngsters.

Two of the three central midfielders, Kolsi (wanted to leave) and Amodio (chairman accepted offer), were sold at the end of the season, to Ligue 1 Caen and Serie B Cagliari. They had had an average season anyway and we got £250,000 total. There are already one or two replacements coming in to join the dependable La Marca, and we have a few interesting Under-20s central midfielders who have been tearing up the youth league that I've promoted for next season.

Benito Carbone retired. He played a few games and made a couple of assists. It looked like he was going to go into coaching and management but has instead left football to become a pundit.

Luca Pace, who along with Carbone and La Marca are the only original players still at the club (though they only arrived a few months before me), continues to overachieve despite looking like he should be rubbish. He's no major assister or goal machine, but he makes key passes often.

Strikers

We had only one striker who delivered: I signed Przemyslaw Trytko in the summer and without him there would be no goals. He scored half of ours.

I loaned in 3 strikers and terminated the loans of two of them. The one I kept, Nicola Dal Bosco, did everything else right (winning headers, making passes etc.) but couldn't hit the target let alone score. But keeping him for the rest of the season is what kept us safe from relegation.

After trying to partner Trytko with everyone, I used Dal Bosco as his partner but also as the target man, and told the team to hoof long balls at his head. It worked. He is the Italian Emile Heskey. He played so well that his constant misses became a funny running gag, watching all his shots bounce off the post, crossbar, a defender. He scored 1 goal in 16(5) appearances and went 1,214 minutes without scoring. 1 goal and 14 shots on target in 38 shot attempts. If he's not Heskey, then he's at least Forlan.

We salute you, Italian Heskey Forlan.

One of the other strikers I signed had a hissy fit within a few months and signed for someone else in January, so I left him out for the rest of the season.

Reggi, 35 this season, got a couple of goals in a few appearances, but his contract will be allowed to expire.

A striker is coming in for next season. He's scored 35 in the last 85 Serie C1 games for San Marino, and was on the 'subs bench' of the league's Team of the Year this season, AND entering his prime. However this means we will now only have two strikers all season, assuming we can't loan anyone or sign anyone good.

 

Staff

I brought in a few new staff, a mix of English and Italian, youth and experience, including former Italian internationals Enrico Chiesa and Diego Fuser as coaches. We're beginning to get some big names behind the scenes.

To add to the prestige, our assistant manager got a job at Fiorentina as goalkeeping coach, while West Brom took one of our scouts for their Premier League return next season.

 

Finances

The cash injections from the board continue to come. After a huge £700,000 injection at the end of the season, the club is still just under a million in debt. The wage budget has been slashed but I can get it down to that, not that it makes any difference as the club would lose money and still be in debt after selling every single player.

 

Tunisia

All matches are friendlies.

(Ranked 50th) Tunisia 0 - 1 Germany (Ranked 23rd)
Bernd Schuster's first test as the new Germany manager is passed, barely. It could've gone either way, but they scored from a swervy free kick in the 3rd minute.

(Ranked 88th) New Zealand 2 - 1 Tunisia (Ranked 50th)
They score a last-minute winner after a free kick. This job is painful.

I'm getting to know my Tunisian players more, and getting my scouts to check all the players they can has helped me make squad selections.

(Ranked 64th) Japan 0 - 2 Tunisia (Ranked 72nd)
At last, my first win. Our left wing-back didn't give their star man, Bayern Munich's Shunsuke Nakamura, a chance. The manager was forced to switch him to the other side but he still didn't get any joy. Meanwhile, 3 goals went past the oddly-named keeper Toyo-Moyo Hanck (thanks to having Japanese and Luxembourger parents), but one was disallowed.
It was bold on my part to phase out or outright drop the top appearance maker (Jaidi) and top goalscorer (Santos) due to their age, but it may be starting to pay off.

With this and the Germany result, I won't fear the sack, bar a disaster against Egypt.

(Ranked 80th) Tunisia 1 - 1 Egypt (Ranked 74th)
It was 1-0 in a tricky match, then with minutes to go the team start just losing the ball every time. Even when dropping a striker back to give the midfield more options and less panic, they still panic and hoof it to no one and giving the ball away every time they gained it, with possession going back and forth like a pinball machine. The equaliser in the very last second was inevitable; if this was a video game, I would say the rubberband AI cheated.

Like Kevin Keegan in 2000, I lose my will to continue and hand in my resignation. I can't take any more of these players' madness and the slow fixture list is frustrating when your team is playing like this. The wages won't set me up for life and isn't worth it. The only way I'd keep dealing with this was if I was managing England, because at least then I'd be a millionaire to compensate.

Tunisia are hosting the next African Nations. Could you imagine taking a team that chokes against the Faroe Islands and New Zealand into THAT?

I got to experience some big stadiums, and a bit of Japan, but none of the rest was fun. An overall bad experience

The F.A. had been careful in not saying I was the 'proper' manager and more than a caretaker, so my resignation poses no real issue publicity-wise. I'm just a guy who came in for a bit. You know the deal: mutual termination, I say I'm concentrating on Varese, they publicly thank me and announce they're hiring a permanent manager in a few days.

Record: P6 W1 D1 L4 F5 A8

 

Future Plans

Nothing can stop Varese losing money every month. There are only two ways to save the club: a buyout and new investors, or promotion to Serie A or perhaps B. Soon we will only be able to sign players with low demands, players who may not be good enough to stay in Serie C1.

The board and fans are very pleased, but the board say our performance this year was disappointing.

The first team I have I think is very good, but once players get injured there could be problems, especially with only 2 strikers. So for now I will continue, but I will have more of an eye on job vacancies. If the chairman sells Trytko or we get an injury crisis, that may be my cue to leave.

My rolling contract 'expires' in a year, and this may be my last year.

Personal bank balance

~£100,000

On 13/05/2016 at 01:35, loklokno123 said:

Did you buy it on steam?

i have roughly played fm07 when i was a child and i knew nothing about tactics at that time.

but i got addicted and knew how to play in fm08


It's not on Steam, I'm using the disc.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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2008/09 Review Part 2 - Club Football

Selected Summer Transfers

http://cache4.asset-cache.net/gc/76047560-carlos-tevez-of-manchester-united-poses-with-gettyimages.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=R4V%2FQay2ANwpmCZhkZDSEqM9UKRGpha8OOz6tOCx9kh2zORvU4omMi2tzAvveHERkxnFEeabUzHU%2BR532nk0pQ%3D%3D

Carlos Tevez - West Ham United to Manchester United - £21m
Gabriel Milito - Real Zaragoza to Chelsea - £20.5m
Pepe Reina - Liverpool to Barcelona - £15.75m
Igor Akinfeev - CSKA Moscow to Zaragoza - £13.75m
Marouane Chamakh - Bordeaux to Bayern Munich - £12m
Javier Mascherano - West Ham United to Real Madrid - £10m
Nicklas Bendtner - Arsenal to Inter Milan - Free
Theo Walcott - Arsenal to Newcastle United - Loan

 

Selected Winter Transfers

https://nhfcra-ch3302.files.1drv.com/y3mDSaw5OpS3lmugRhIdP3E6U8uDT8ZF_S77RtW0nUdOcN2v2DP7AUATcHVw23moSP0hCMURlCXqc2wlrSzc_JFMwIcJA1pR-y3z1yAJAouN8k/KLAAS-JAN%20HUNTELAAR%20CON%20LA%20MAGLIA%20DEL%20MILAN.jpg?rdrts=148865982

Wesley Sneijder - Real Madrid to AC Milan - £28m
Kim Kallstrom - Ajax to Tottenham - £21.5m
Jonathan de Guzman - Tottenham to Manchester United - £16.5m
Urby Emanuelson - Ajax to Juventus - £11.5m
Mikel Arteta - Ajax to Real Madrid - £11.25m
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar - Ajax to AC Milan - £10.25m
Giovanni dos Santos - Barcelona to Fiorentina - £8.5m
Pepe - Barcelona to Inter Milan - £8.25m

 

2008/09 Awards

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Arsenal and France's Thierry Henry won the World Footballer of the Year for an unprecedented third time in a row. He continues to average a goal a game, playing around 60 times a season... Inter Milan's German striker Miroslav Klose came second, Spain and Valencia's David Villa third.

Henry also won the Ballon d'Or (European Footballer of the Year) for the second time in a row, with Italy and Fiorentina's Luca Toni coming second and Spain and Atlético Madrid's Fernando Torres coming third.

 

European Cups

https://www.psv.nl/upload/45e07321-46d9-4208-ab08-a7315014c403_image8382550065508230581.jpg

PSV won the Champions League out of nowhere, after only reaching the group stages last year. Ronald Koeman's team beat Real Madrid 1-0 after peppering their goal with chance after chance and getting a last minute goal. They even beat them twice in the group stage.

Defending champions Chelsea didn't even reach the knockout stages, finishing below Porto and Atlético Madrid. Somewhat embarassingly, they won the UEFA Cup instead. But the silver lining is they did so by beating Liverpool in the semis and then winning away to Borussia Dortmund in the final (in Dortmund), 1-0.

Sporting CP reached the quarters of the Champions League before being knocked out by the eventual champions.

Portsmouth's European debut, in the UEFA Cup, included a win against Schalke and a draw at Ajax. They reached the second knockout round before losing on penalties to Anderlecht.

 

England

England.jpg

Premier League

Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur made for an exciting Premier League season, but Tottenham went inevitably Spursy, in the end losing out to not only the title but 2nd place (thanks to Chelsea's superior goal difference).

In the penultimate weekend, Spurs and Arsenal played what would surely be a title decider. This is what happened:

QAD1Usf.png

So Spurs would win the title if they won their last two matches in the final week, even if Arsenal won theirs on the final day. Instead, this happened:

SAKu6x5.png

And then a 3-0 loss at Reading. Overall a great season for them, but Spursy...

http://images.cdn.fourfourtwo.com/sites/fourfourtwo.com/files/styles/inline-image/public/keane_0.jpg?itok=VltoARvj

The major story at the start of the season was: who would replace Sir Alex? Manchester United and Sunderland had long, drawn-out negotiations, and Carlos Quieroz took charge for United's first 3 games. Eventually, a swap deal was announced with Roy Keane unveiled as the new Man Utd manager while Carlos Quieroz left United to take over Keane's old Sunderland job. Roy ended his first season with the F.A. Cup trophy and finishing fourth in the final Champions League spot, 9 points ahead of Liverpool. An improvement and a good start. Meanwhile, Carlos Quieroz easily achieved midtable with his relegation candidates.

Liverpool are again going nowhere, finishing with less points than last season again, not even in the top 4, and getting knocked out in the Champions League qualifiers. Hitzfeld is becoming unpopular, this performance coming after selling fan favourite Reina to Barcelona (though Scott Carson has done very well in his place) and buying exciting players like Nigel Reo-Coker and Jermaine Jenas.

Man City's owners harshly sacked Stuart Pearce despite him taking them to third last season, though they didn't reach the Champions League group stage this season. They said a new approach was needed after they were knocked out of the UEFA Cup and lost 6-0 at Man Utd. His replacement, Chelsea assistant Steve Clarke, didn't start much better than Pearce finished, the games just got more boring. They finished a more sensible 7th this time.

Bolton sacked Sam Allardyce after nearly a decade when they finished 15th and came under "fan pressure" to get rid.

Newcastle United improved massively under Henning Berg, with him winning the League Cup and taking them to 4th after 30 games. But he left to manage Villarreal in March, and they lost 6 of their final 8 games. Finished 6th.

Plymouth finished their debut season bottom.


F.A. Cup

Tottenham's Spursyness continued as they lost the final to Manchester United 1-0, after Rooney scored in the 2nd minute.

The quarter-finals had three Championship teams in it, but they all lost. Hull and Norwich got wins against Chelsea and Arsenal to get there though.


League Cup

Spurs lost this one too. That's right, they could've won the domestic Treble, but lost at the final hurdle each time. Newcastle won 3-1 in extra time.
 

Football League and Non-League

West Ham came straight back up to the Premier League, despite inevitably losing Tevez to Man Utd and Mascherano to Real Madrid, and even losing manager Hugo Sanchez to Hannover 96 in February. The controversial Hristo Stoichkov replaced him and had no problems.

Dave Jones' Cardiff will be the first Welsh side to ever play in the Premier League next season after winning promotion in 2nd place.

Roy Hodgson's first season at Leicester ended with the relegation candidates finishing 4th, but losing the playoff final to West Brom.

Charlton sacked Alan Pardew only a few weeks into the season, as they somehow managed to bring in Sven-Goran Eriksson despite not being a rich club. Maybe they have attractive secretaries? Sven successfully steered Charlton from a predicted 2nd place to 15th.

Ipswich sacked Dennis Wise after a few months with them bottom of the Championship. Mick McCarthy came in and they still finished bottom. A huge shock for a promotion-chasing club.

Dennis Wise rejoined Millwall and saved them from relegation to League One.

Bradford City's descent continues; they finished bottom of League One.

Port Vale are the latest old club to be relegated from the football league.

Woking won the Conference playoffs to reach the football league for the first time ever.

Meanwhile, not content with spending 3 decades in the mid-table of League Two, Rochdale finished their first season of non-league football in mid-table...

Macclesfield Town, two seasons ago in League Two, were relegated from the Conference.

 

Germany

Germany.jpg

http://media.gettyimages.com/photos/supporters-of-berlin-celebrate-with-the-cup-after-their-team-winning-picture-id169052488?s=594x594

With a Spursy title-chasing Spurs, there had to be 'a Leicester' somewhere, and this is the closest. Hertha Berlin, more a top-half or mid-table side, won the league with just 2 losses and 7 points ahead of Bayern Munich. Falko Gotz' name will be etched in German history. It will be interesting to see how they do next season, as several players are being watched or actually want to leave! Their player of the season, Ashkan Dejagah, is joining Werder Bremen on a free.

2 years after being promoted, Koln finished 5th and enter the UEFA Cup. Joachim Low is slightly rebuilding his reputation.

Mainz heartlessly sacked Jurgen Klopp despite 8 years of getting them promoted from the second division and easily establishing them in the Bundesliga. His replacement, playing legend Jurgen Kohler (105 caps), didn't really improve things there.

Klopp quickly got a job at Wolfsburg, but they were in 3 months they were relegated. However he did win the German Cup with them, beating Division 2 RW Essen in the final, who themselves beat Bayern Munich and three other Bundesliga sides to get there.

Yet somehow, Thomas Doll still has a job at Bayern Munich. His one big buy, £12m for Marouane Chamakh, was a huge flop.

Werder Bremen's Thomas Schaaf finally left the club he had been at his entire life as a player, coach and then manager, for 37 years, to replace the sacked Zico at Fenerbahce.

 

Spain

Spain.jpg

Barcelona won a 5th title in a row, Frank Rijkaard has a job for life, but their lead this time was 0 points and one goal in goal difference. The gap can't really get any smaller than that! Like in England, they were battling it out with Rafa Benitez' Valencia and they played against each other with just a few weeks to go, with a head-to-head record used as a tiebreaker before goal difference. Barcelona won 5-1, and that effectively ended the race.

How is Fabio Capello clinging onto his Real Madrid job? They finished one place lower and with fewer points for yet another season, and below Atlético Madrid again who also beat them 4-1 on agg. in the Spanish Cup semis before beating Valencia in the Spanish Cup final. The only thing in his favour is being so close to La Decima. Is Real's obsession that bad?

23-year-old Rafael Sóbis came good for Real Betis, with 37 goals and 10 assists in 38(2) games, helping them improve on last year's 16th-place finish with a 5th-place finish and a return to UEFA Cup football next season.

Manuel Pellegrini was sacked as Villareal manager with the team in mid-table. Newcastle United's Henning Berg came in and improved results.

 

Italy

Italy.jpg

Inter Milan destroyed Serie A even worse than last season: they only suffered 2 losses, reached top before half the season was gone and remained there, winning the title on the 1st of April and eventually by 24 points, by far scoring the most, conceding the least, and have over double the goal difference of everyone else. After bringing in Miroslav Klose last season, they got Nicklas Bendtner free ('signing of the season') and bought Gabriel Heinze and Barcelona's Pepe. You partner that with the likes of Zlatan, Patrick Vieira and the rest and they look unstoppable. Roberto Mancini will look to go one further than the Champions League semis next year.

Conversely, Sampdoria collapsed after a strong 2nd place finish under Marcello Lippi last season. Lippi was sacked in January with the club near the relegation zone. Club favourite Gianluca Vialli came in and, after initial improvement, they stuttered again. They barely escaped relegation.

Juventus finished 2nd and, ignoring the giant point gap, it's fair to say they've now (easily) recovered from their Serie B demotion a few years ago.

AC Milan sacked Carlo Ancelotti in March as they weren't improving. He was replaced with Mauro Tassotti and they only finished 7th. A significant consolation was winning the Italian Cup by beating Inter Milan.

 

Netherlands

Netherlands.jpg

Ajax broke PSV's dominance and even won the title by 10 points, despite selling half their team in 8 days in the winter transfer window selling Huntelaar, Heitinga, Arteta, Kallstrom and Emanuelson to AC Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Tottenham and Juventus for a total £54.5m. They were all doing incredibly well.

Eventual European champions PSV finished 16 points behind in third, with Feyenoord of course in second. But because PSV won the Champions League, and they beat Feyenoord in the 'European place playoffs' anyway, they qualify for it and Feyenoord don't. PSV also won a cup double by winning the Dutch Cup on penalties against second-tier Willem II.

 

Scotland

Scotland.jpg

Celtic's faith in Gordon Strachan was repaid as they finally beat Rangers to the title on the third time of asking, despite losing to them with 3 matches to go.

Now it is Rangers who will have to seek consolation in beating Celtic for the Cup.

Hearts are looking to make a top 3 of Celtic, Rangers and themselves. They finished 3rd and 12 points ahead of 4th, combined with a run to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup.

And would you believe it? East Stirling WON the Scottish Third Division. Their time constantly at the bottom of the bottom division is clearly over!

(There are no photos of East Stirling winning anything ever to use in this section.)

 

France

France.jpg

Lyon won their 7th title in 8 seasons with no real problems, despite buying ZERO players. Fred scored 50 goals in 50 games (plus 1 sub), and his 39 league goals even beats Henry to the European Golden Boot. They reached the semis of the Champions League so they'll be one to keep watching in Europe.

Jean-Pierre Papin made Marseille their closest rivals, but the runner-up still finished 8 points behind, with third-placed Nantes a further 9 points behind.

The psychotic Raymond Domenech returned to football with Bordeaux, and didn't do anything of note.

Nice won the French Cup, which means they finished one place above the relegation zone but have qualified for the UEFA Cup.

Monaco got relegated straight back down again.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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2008/09 Review Part 3 - International Football

 

South Africa 2009 Confederations Cup

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Brazil won as England had every penalty saved as a great run was ended 3-0 on penalties, after a 0-0 draw in 120 minutes.

England were actually favourites for the final after beating hosts South Africa, fellow Africans Ivory Coast, and U.S.A. all 3-0, while also improving on their Euro 2008 final result by drawing 0-0 against the Netherlands. They dominated Brazil in the first half, but Brazil later got more chances as a tactical battle between the beloved Steve McClaren and Dunga ensued. Scott Carson made several top saves to deny the Brazilian flair and was clear Man of the Match - 6 caps, 6 clean sheets now.

Hosts South Africa had a disaster, losing 1-0 to Ivory Coast and the Netherlands as well as 3-0 to England. While an incredibly tough group, only the 17-year-old goalkeeper Jeffrey Freese performed: in his first 3 caps he faced 24 shots on target and only let in 5. The team is showing no improvement on failing to make the 2008 African Cup, with the World Cup a year away. The manager was sacked.

Marco Van Basten was sensationally sacked by the Netherlands one year after winning them Euro 2008. A 0-0 draw with England, a loss to Ivory Coast and only a 1-0 win against South Africa clearly spooked the F.A., despite them topping their qualifying group. They replaced him with Louis Van Gaal.
 

2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup

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mexico-wins-again.jpg

Mexico recovered from the Hugo Sánchez disaster of the Gold Cup and Copa America of 2 years ago to win this year under Daniel Guzmán, winning the final easily 3-0.

El Salvador reached the final for the first time since 1981, after a smash-and-grab 1-0 win against third-placed U.S.A. in the semis (almost beating them 1-0 in the group stage, but for a stoppage time Donavan equaliser).

Youth Tournaments

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Argentina trounced Germany 5-0 in the final of the men's football at the Olympics in Beijing. Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuaín was the star, getting the most goals (11) and assists (3) in 6 games.

Another team to watch in the near future will be Spain, as their Under-21s and Under-19s both won their European Championships in 2009.

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South Africa 2010 World Cup qualifiers

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_g-Ylxb54NUc/TC_6uPXn95I/AAAAAAAAJpI/KxgSbsH9YAg/s1600/FIFA

 

CAF

Simply, the winner of each group qualifies for the World Cup.

However, the World Cup qualifiers also act as African Cup of Nations qualifiers, which complicates things given the hosts and previous winners qualify automatically for one tournament but participate for another. Let's keep it simple: the top 3 in each group and the three best 4th-placed teams will join hosts Tunisia for the 2010 African Cup of Nations.

First Round

2004 and 2006 African champions Tunisia and Egypt were knocked out early over two legs, losing 4-2 to Morocco and 4-3 to Senegal respectively. Tunisia still qualify for the African Nations as hosts.

Second Round

Group 1

Incredibly, Sierra Leone will make their debut, after avoiding a loss against second-placed Uganda on the final day.

Uganda will still be appearing in the African Nations, for the first time in 32 years. Zambia also made it.

Group 2

Ghana topped their group.

Algeria just sneaked African Cup qualification by getting 4th place, behind DR Congo. Ivory Coast were bitterly disappointed to get 2nd, after a strong African Cup win in 2008 and reaching the semis of the Confederations Cup beating the European champions and the hosts.

Group 3

Nigeria qualified with ease unbeaten, winning all but one of their matches, with Morocco 10 points behind and losing 5-0 at home and 3-1 away to the Nigerians. Burkina Faso and Mali made the African Nations.

Group 4

Cameroon similarly qualified unbeaten with Senegal far behind, and Togo even further finishing under Guinea in 4th.

 

UEFA

The group winners qualify automatically, the runner-ups are sorted to decide who has to go through the playoffs.

Group 1

Portugal 25pts
Denmark 22
Cyprus 18
Slovakia 12*
Austria 12*
Faroe Islands 0
*Head-to-head: Slovakia 3 - 1 Austria

Portugal nearly threw it away again, but it was Denmark who choked. They faced each other in a group decider on the final day, with Denmark needing a 2-goal win at home to qualify. The Danes did take a 2-0 lead in 47 minutes, but Ronaldo and Postiga hit back to achieve the draw.

The Cyprus manager was one match away from the sack last tournament, but they had a great campaign with wins against Denmark, Slovakia twice, and a 5-1 win against Austria.

Despite that result, and failing to make even their usual third place finish, Austria are backing their manager Kurt Jara.

Group 2

Netherlands 25
Turkey 22
Israel 16
Iceland 12
Moldova 8
San Marino 1

Netherlands, the Euro 2008 winners, qualified with ease again despite a change of manager after the Confederations Cup.

Dropping points against Israel meant a final day win against the already qualified Netherlands was meaningless for Turkey.

Avram Grant retired after it became clear Israel would fail to qualify with 4 games to go.

Group 3

Norway 23
Scotland 20
Croatia 18
Sweden 13
FYR Macedonia 10
Andorra 0

Norway finally qualified for their first tournament in 10 years.

Scotland had a memorable campaign, with wins including 7-0 vs. Macedonia and 3-0 vs. Croatia. 6-0 vs. Andorra was also good, but they topped that with a 15-0 win in the home match scoring with every shot on target - their biggest ever win and Andorra's biggest ever loss, while Kris Boyd broke one or two more records by scoring 7 in that one. He also now has 21 goals after 13 caps and was joint top scorer in qualifying with 13 goals (tied with Netherlands' Dirk Kuyt).

It was heartbreak hotel for Croatia again; for the second campaign in a row they failed to get the result needed on the final day against a British side. But Elvis (Scoria) remains the manager.

The Swdeish F.A.'s faith in Lagerback is not repaid at all. Sweden only got wins against Andorra and one against Scotland, and their campaign ended with an embarrassing 4-1 loss to their neighbours Norway.

Believe it or not, Andorra's performance is getting worse and they sacked their manager.

Group 4

Germany 25
Finland 19
Switzerland 15
Montenegro 11
Armenia 8
Latvia 5

Bernd Schuster got Germany back to normal after the Joachim Low debacle.

Finland incredibly secured second with a game to spare, despite 3 draw in their final games, and even beat Germany.

Switzerland dropped too many points, including a 3-1 loss to Finland and going down 4-1 to Macedonia after 54 minutes, eventually losing 4-3. The manager clings on to the job.

Montenegro's debut ended respectably with that great Switzerland win, drawing Finland twice, and nearly rescuing a point from 3-0 down in Germany. However, the F.A. let their manager's contract expire and will look for a new manager to improve them further.

Group 5

Belgium 23
Russia 19
Czech Republic 18
Wales 12
Northern Ireland 7
Malta 2

Euro semi-finalists Belgium had little trouble topping the group.

The Euro quarter-finalists had a harder time. Russia needed to beat the Czechs away to take 2nd. A back-and-forth game was 2-2 until, in the 85th minute, a cross came off Czech defender Tomás Húbschman and gave the Russians a 3-2 win and Húbschman nightmares.

Wales had a bad campaign, with a win at home to Russia being immediately followed by a draw away to Malta to start them off. John Toshack offered his resignation at the end after only a 1-1 draw in Northern Ireland. Dean Saunders took the job, his first ever managerial role.

Northern Ireland were in a group with 3 Euro finalists and the Czechs, so no surprise they had a hard time of it. But can Lawrie Sanchez improve things again? The F.A. aren't pulling the trigger yet...

Group 6

Italy 24
Republic of Ireland 19
Greece 14
Albania 13
Kazakhstan 11
Azerbaijan 4

Italy were unstoppable, but Euro quater-finalists Republic of Ireland had terrible slip-ups with losses away to Kazakhstan and Greece. It shows how awful the group is that they still got second easily.

Greece have not improved post-Rehhagel.

Kazakhstan had another good campaign, with a win against Republic of Ireland and draw against Italy.

Group 7

Ukraine 23
France 22

Bulgaria 18
Bosnia & Herzegovina 12
Lithuania 7
Luxembourg 3

A huge improvement from Ukraine, the highlight being a 3-0 win at home to France despite being a man down for 20 minutes. But it took an 83rd minute winner away to Lithuania on the final day for them to seal qualification.

France had to make do with 2nd, but qualified automatically as the best runner-up, on goal difference, after a 4-0 win on the final day at home to Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Luxembourg gained more happy memories with a 1-0 win over Lithuania and in a friendly against Estonia, then scoring 4 matches in a row against world champs France, Bulgaria (twice!), Bosnia & Herzegovina, and group winners Ukraine.

Group 8

Spain 23
Belarus 20
Serbia 16
Georgia 14
Slovenia 12
Liechtenstein 0

Spain had no real trouble.

Belarus had another entertaining and surprising run with some late goals at both ends, but their most impressive result was completing a double over Serbia including a 4-1 win away from home. And they've made the playoffs!

Georgia had another great campaign, with a 5-0 win at home to Slovenia as well as a win and draw to Serbia.

Group 9

England 20
Poland 13*
Hungary 13*
Romania 8
Estonia 1
*Poland 4 - 3 Hungary

Euro finalists England cruised through qualifying, only conceding away to Hungary in their first 4 matches. But after trying Scott Carson in the Confederations Cup and a previous qualifier, achieving a run of 6 clean sheets in 6 games, Steve McClaren put Paul Robinson back in and they conceded 5 in the next 2 matches before bringing back Carson.

Poland and Hungary effectively played a playoff for the playoffs in Budapest in the Poles' penultimate match. Poland made it 2-1 with a few minutes to go but Hungary immediately equalised to keep one point ahead. With Poland achieving a 1-1 draw at home to England in their final game, Hungary needed to match that at Wembley, but they were brushed aside 2-0. No dream run this time.

Romania only managed to beat Estonia, but the F.A. refuse to sack their manager.

Estonia were in a group made up enitrely of Euro 2008 finalists, and their awful run included a loss to Luxembourg in a friendly.

Runner-up rankings

France +9GD, 16pts
Turkey +7, 16
Denmark +5, 16
Scotland +10, 14
Belarus +3, 14
Republic of Ireland +6, 13
Finland +2, 13
Russia +2, 13
Poland 0, 13

Playoffs (on agg.)

Poland 1 - 2 Belarus
Denmark 1 - 3 Russia
Scotland 1 - 1 Republic of Ireland (away goals)
Finland 1 - 4 Turkey

Belarus qualify for the first time ever!

Scotland's 12-year wait is over!

Nihat scored every one of Turkey's goals.

 

CONCACAF

Third Round Hexagonal

Mexico and U.S.A. were as usual the top two. Mexico dominated the final group stage, their only blip a loss away to U.S.A, who lagged slightly behind.

Costa Rica and Honduras struggled, and it quickly became clear the battle for the final automatic place would be between surprise package Jamaica and bigger surprise package Guatemala, and indeed they were level on points for the final 3 games, Jamaica with superior goal difference. Guatemala got a huge 3-1 win away to U.S.A. on the final day. But Jamaica scored 2 in 2 minutes late in their match away to Costa Rica, to come from 1-0 down and win 2-1, and thus finished 3rd on goal difference. Guatemala must go through one more opponent to qualify, a South American one. Good luck...

 

AFC

Third Round

Group A

Australia immediately benefitted from abandoning Oceania and joining Asia. They were one of the first teams to qualify, topping their group. Saudi Arabia getting the other spot simultaneously.

Qatar hosted Uzbekistan in the final match of the group stage to decide who would get 3rd and into the playoff. With Qatar needing to win... A Ghanaian scored the winner in stoppage time to make it 2-1 to Qatar!

Group B

Iran went the whole campaign unbeaten to qualify, with South Korea just behind them.

Japan had a disaster of an Asian cup in 2006/07 and were doing no better now. A last minute Japanese equaliser at home to Iran, after initially throwing away a lead, kept them close enough to North Korea to take it to the final day. Japan needed a win against the South Koreans and for North Korea to predictably lose at home to Iran. They got an impressive 3-0 win at home to South Korea, but North Korea got the 1-1 draw and made the playoffs. Japan are a national team in transition, but this is one hell of a transition.

Playoff

To decide who would progress to one more playoff, against an Oceanian team.

A 1-0 loss at home to ten-man Qatar got worse for North Korea in the second leg in Doha, where Qatar won 6-0.

So North Korea ultimately only managed one win in the final round (at home to Japan) and the manager's whereabouts are currently unknown.

 

CONMEBOL

Colombia topped the group 9 points ahead of Brazil.

5 teams fought over the final 3 automatic spots and 1 playoff spot on the final day. Brazil and Chile made it with wins, Argentina drew 1-1 with Peru to scrape through and join them, but Uruguay beat Colombia to leapfrog surprise package and Copa America finalists Peru and get the playoff spot (for the 4th time in a row) by 1 point.

Venezuela started the campaign with new manager Noel Sanvicente's team failing to score in TEN games in a row, but they finished with a 5-match unbeaten run including a win at home to Argentina.

 

OFC

New Zealand and Tahiti played a two-legged playoff to decide who would face the winners of the Asian playoff. New Zealand won 6-1 on aggregate.

 

AFC - OFC Playoff

In the 88th minute of the second leg, New Zealand winning 1-0 at home and on aggregate, Ali Nasser Saleh scored the equaliser and Qatar won on away goals to qualify for the World Cup for the first time!

http://media.nj.com/nj_soccer/photo/9092746-large.jpg  

 

COMNEBOL - CONCACAF Playoff

Guatemala were plucky and Uruguay had to make do with a 3-2 win at home. In the second leg, needing a win, Guatemala 'scored' early but it was ruled offside, and they failed to get one official shot for most of the game.

But in the 92nd minute, Claudio Josué Albizuris pounced on a saved shot to go down in football history. Yes, Guatemala got through Uruguay to qualify!

A tournament of last minute goals and upsets. Incredible to watch.

 

South Africa 2010 World Cup Finals - Group Draw

Group A
Italy
Scotland
Jamaica
Sierra Leone

Group B
Argentina
Spain
South Africa
Qatar

Group C
Germany
Portugal
Ghana
Saudi Arabia

Group D
England
Mexico
Chile
Norway

Group E
Turkey
Ukraine
Cameroon
Iran

Group F
Netherlands
South Korea
Nigeria
Belarus

Group G
France
Colombia
Russia
Guatemala

Group H
Brazil
Belgium
U.S.A.
Australia

Edited by git2thachoppa

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2009/10 Review Part 1 - Varese

Results

Pre-Season Friendlies - Making a big name friend

I don't know what the chairman or owner did, but we were challenged to two big friendlies this season.

(Italian Serie C1/A) Varese 2 - 1 Crotone (Italian Serie B)
(Dutch second tier) Helmond 2 - 1 Varese (Italian Serie C1/A)

Naturally, one striker gets injured in each friendly. We now have no first team strikers, and I experiment with strikerless formations.

(Italian Serie C1/A) Varese 0 - 1 Feyenoord (Dutch Eredivisie)
(Italian Serie C1/A) Varese 0 - 2 Barcelona (Spanish La Liga)
I got to see Reina, Xavi, Thiago Motta and Deco up close, but it was new kid Alexandre Pato who caught attention. He dribbled round all my defenders several times for fun.
I also met Frank Rijkaard, who's aiming to take Barcelona to a record-breaking 6th La Liga in a row. It turns out we get along very well, and he gave some sage advice about tactics, players and what I should do with myself in the near future. He particularly told me not to be afraid to attack rather than worrying about defence first. His advice would be pertinent for the season ahead.


(Italian Serie C2/B) Foggia 2 - 2 Varese (Italian Serie C1/A)
(Italian Serie C1/A) Varese 1 - 0 Vicenza (Italian Serie B)

Serie C1/A

(Predicted 5th) Venezia 2 - 1 Varese (Predicted 8th)
(Predicted 8th) Varese 0 - 1 Carrarese (Predicted 13th)
(Predicted 8th) Varese 1 - 0 Pro Patria (Predicted 12th) (Rivals)
(14th) Pergocrema 0 - 1 Varese (10th)
(8th) Varese 0 - 0 Triestina (16th)
(13th) Modena 0 - 0 Varese (10th) (Rivals)
(10th) Varese 1 - 2 Bologna (5th)
A stupid boy got sent off after 22 minutes, and we conceded 2 minutes later. But after that, we dominated. One of our strikers (Tamin) hasn't scored in his first 7 games and 20 shots. He missed all 4 of his today. If he hadn't been misfiring, or indeed if we had 11 men, this would've been an easy win.

(14th) Monza 1 - 2 Varese (11th)
At half time a 0-0 draw looked the minimum we could get, so I talked to the misfiring Tamin and told him now was his time. 10 minutes later he scored. 10 minutes after that he scored again. We cruised.

(13th) Castelnuovo 1 - 1 Varese (10th)
(10th) Varese 3 - 1 Lumezzane (15th)
(7th) Varese 0 - 0 Novara (12th)
Played against 10 men for an hour, with a 3-2-2-3 vs their 3-3-2-1 (ie. 8 defenders) and we had not one shot on target.

Serie C Cup 1st Round 1st Leg

(7th, C1/A) Varese 1 - 1 Como (7th, C2/A) (Rivals)

Serie C1/A

(9th) Pizzighettone 3 - 2 Varese (7th)
We take a lead in 40 seconds and are 2-1 up with 4 minutes to go, but lose.

With these last few performances, I think I've taken the club as far as it can and as far as I want, so I consider resigning. However I decide to stay (after testing my reputation by resigning and applying for jobs, only to find I can't even get a Serie C2, English Conference or Scottish Third Division job, and Varese is by far the biggest job out of the handful I could get).

Serie C Cup 1st Round 2nd Leg

(6th, C2/A) Como 0 - 3 Varese (10th C1/A) (Rivals)
(Varese win 1 - 4 on agg.)
Glad I stayed.

Serie C1/A

(10th) Varese 0 - 0 San Marino (3rd)
It's becoming clear that away teams are coming here for a point. They play normally, but with the score usually 0-0 at half time they decide to take it and park the bus. For the club to progress, we need attackers who can get through all those bodies and score when they get any chance. On free transfers. And low wages.

(13th) Reggiana 2 - 1 Varese (9th)
(12th) Varese 4 - 0 Cittadella (9th) (Rivals)
(1st) Verona 2 - 2 Varese (9th)
Coming from 1-0 down away from home to the league leaders and then effectively winning the game 2-1 was great. Unfortunately the A.I. got petty and immediately equalised with all my defenders randomly pushing forward to the halfway line, totally opposing instructions and usual behaviour (or the lowest of common sense). The unmarked wingers moved into the unoccupied 40 yards of space and crossed for one of the three unmarked strikers in the area to score. Of course, given the... ahem... 'high line' my defence decided to play, that equaliser was completely offside.
If this was real life, the match would be investigated for match fixing, and the fans would be saying "what's there to investigate? You can see it!"
"Varese will take this!" said the game's commentator at full time, as if the computer was trying to convince itself that it did the right thing.


Winter Break Friendly

Varese Under-20s 0 - 1 Varese

Serie C1/A

(9th) Varese 0 - 0 Cremonese (13th)
Same old story. After 45 minutes, the away team give up and park the bus as if we're title challengers - except we're not at that level, so we can't score.

(9th) Varese 0 - 1 Venezia (6th)
(5th) Carrarese 2 - 3 Varese (12th)
Incredible. With bad form and rock bottom morale against a team that beat us earlier, I just wished the team luck. It took them 8 minutes to score with one of those weak goals. Despite an equaliser, they score again, dominating. Then my hostile captain shoves someone and gets sent off.
But rather than drop someone into defence and try and counter and hope for luck, we play 3 defenders instead of 4 and I tell the players to get in their face, push up, close them down, play the ball fast. 3 minutes later, a striker who has yet to score his first goal for the club scores the equaliser. We dominate the rest of the game and win, our creative attacking midfielder also getting his first goal.

(12th) Pro Patria 0 - 2 Varese (11th) (Rivals)
(8th) Varese 1 - 1 Pergocrema (16th)
(17th) Triestina 1 - 2 Varese (9th)
(1st) Bologna 1 - 0 Varese (7th)
(9th) Varese 0 - 0 Monza (10th)
(10th) Varese 1 - 1 Modena (5th) (Rivals)
(18th) Lumezzane 1 - 0 Varese (10th)
Dominated by the bottom team.

(12th) Varese 0 - 1 Castelnuovo (17th)
Again no real chances. What the hell is going on?

5 games without a win, and just 1 goal, I need to change something. So I play mind games for the next match, and pick based on morale rather than ability and form.


(14th) Novara 0 - 2 Varese (12th)
The players were happier than expected, so I ended up only making one outfield change who was the best midfield performer on the day. I also started one of the youth keepers, who didn't have to save a shot anyway.
The match was also notable for me substituting the keeper. It was more of my psychology: I wanted one of our regular keepers on the bench to improve his morale, so I hoped he would get to make a save, which he did.


Italian Serie C Cup - Quarter-Final First Leg

(10th, C1/A) Varese 3 - 0 Pisa (13th, C1/B) (Rivals)

Serie C1/A

(10th) Varese 2 - 0 Pizzighettone (12th)

Italian Serie C Cup - Quarter-Final Second Leg

(15th, C1/B) Pisa 0 - 2 Varese (9th, C1/A) (Rivals)
(Varese win 5-0 on agg.)

Serie C1/A

(3rd) San Marino 0 - 0 Varese (9th)

Italian Serie C Cup - Semi-Final, First Leg

(1st, C1/A) Bologna 1 - 0 Varese (9th, C1/A)
Forgetting to set one player instruction means a 0-0 performance ends 1-0.

Serie C1/A

(10th) Varese 0 - 0 Verona (2nd)

Italian Serie C Cup - Semi-Final, Second Leg

(10th, C1/A) Varese 1 - 1 Bologna (1st, C1/A)
(Bologna win 2-1 on agg.)
Luckily, the 1-0 loss didn't matter due to the away goals rule.

That was a nice cup run, thrashing two rivals before barely losing out to the best team in our league. And if you pretend the 1-0 was a 0-0, we went out undefeated.


(10th) Varese 1 - 1 Reggiana (9th)
(7th) Cittadella 0 - 2 Varese (10th) (Rivals)
(9th) Cremonese 0 - 0 Varese (8th)


Final League Table

m7DySq7.png

We finished bang on the media prediction of 8th, and stayed clear of relegation and were comfortably mid-table, as the board and fans wanted. Yet the board again say they're disappointed by the league position...

Most pleasing was our performances against all our rivals: no losses and some big wins to keep everyone happy.


Tactics and squad

With the squad trimmed down and a team of my own players, I think I should show you them properly.

Tactics

The squad is centre-midfield heavy, so for pretty much the whole season I used a narrow 4-3-1-2. The middle CM is defensive, one other is attacking, and the other fills inbetween or joins attack and defence. I thought it would lead to vulnerability on the flanks, but the 2 outside central midfielders pick up the opposition wingers.

-----9--10----
-------8-------
--11--6--7---
3---5---4---2
-------1-------

First XI

GK: Brando Visibelli - 20 years old, Italian - 20(1) appearances, 10 clean sheets, 15 conceded, 1 Man of the Match award, 6.76 average rating - He got a run, lost his place, then regained it.

RB: Loic Benoit - 21, French - 21(1) app, 6.95 rating - Not as good as pre-injury last season, but gained form toward the end of the season

LB: Carlo Balducci - 23, Italian - 22(5) app, 1 assist, 7.15 rating - Vice Captain - After an alright loan in the division below, I wasn't sure how he'd be putting him in the team this season. I needn't have worried.

CB: Fabio Borriello - 23, Italian - 35 app, 1 goal, 4 MotM, 7.20 rating - Dominant in the air and nice physical attributes, and (I don't just mean his good looks).

CB:  Fabio Lebran - 22, Italian - 35 app, 6 goals, 1 ast, 7 MotM, 7.11 rating - Captain - The new signing got a yellow card in his first 3 friendlies, so I have to tell him to ease off tackles by default.

CM: Magnus Fagerli-Spanthus - 19, Norwegian - 22(5) app, 1 gl, 4 ast, 1 MotM, 6.93 rating - Promoted to the first team this season and did well, strong in the air and on the ground and a good passer.

CM: Rosario La Marca - 29, Italian - 38(1) app, 4 ast, 2 MotM, 7.13 rating - One of the two constants through the seasons and still going, the defensive midfielder started every game except the last league game (he was one yellow from suspension, so came on as sub), one cup game, and one friendly (again sub). Is on the 'subs bench' of the Serie C1/A Team of the Year.

CM: Luca Pace - 25, Italian - 20(6) app, 1 gl, 1 ast, 6.62 rating - The other of the two mainstays, he has improved and made more key passes this season. Can play anywhere in midfield but seemed to do best in the midfield three.

AM: Jaime Aquino ('Jaime') - 30, Brazilian - 32(1) app, 2 gls, 8 ast, 1 MotM, 7.03 rating - Offered to us on deadline day. That worked out nicely! His contract expires in 2011, when he'll be 32, and he's not interested in renewing anyway. Will I be forced to sell him?

ST: Babi Tamin - 20, Italian - 34(2) app, 13 gls, 2 ast, 3 MotM, 6.94 rating - With only 2 strikers, he was signed in August, didn't score until his 8th game, then went on a bit of a spree. With all 3 strikers similar, he played the most mainly because he's the only left-footed striker so I can put him on the left side.

ST: Przemyslaw Trytko - 22, Polish - 26(11) app, 10 gls, 3 ast, 3 MotM, 6.78 rating - Last season's saviour struggled more this season.

Subs

GK: Emiliano Viviano - 23, Italian - 19 app, 9 clean sheets, 13 conceded, 1 MotM, 6.79 rating - Battling it out with Visibelli for the #1 jersey, both are pretty even but presumably Viviano will start to claim it more as he's a few years older. The most familiar name to readers due to being a real-life international, Serie A keeper and former Arsenal loanee.

DR/C: Luca Ceccarelli - 26, Italian - 21 app, 7.14 rating - He was actually first-choice right-back, but he requested a transfer and the board were always going to accept any 6-figure bid for him. Despite coming into great form and being very solid, there was already a great right-back coming in the summer and we had Benoit, so it was a workable loss.

DL/C: Roberto Di Maio - 27, Italian - 19(4) app, 1 gl, 1 ast, 6.83 rating - Signed after a couple of good seasons in this league, but didn't really perform. I even have to tell him to go in hard otherwise he avoids tackling altogether. Will likely be sold if a profit can be made.

DL/C: Alessandro Delazzari - 21, Italian - 7(2) app, 6.44 rating - A left-back who I've trained to centre-back as well. Performed poorly on loan in a division below last season, but didn't do badly after promotion to the first team squad. Has all the attributes to be brilliant.

WBL: Matthieu Sans - 21, French - 6(8) app, 1 gl, 1 ast, 6.86 rating - Got into the first team at the end of March as a central midfielder after he made his mark as a sub by regularly making key passes in such little game time.

MC: Massimiliano Marsili - 22, Italian - 17(3) app, 2 gls, 4 ast, 1 MotM, 7.15 rating - May seem strange seeing 6.x average ratings in the first team and a 7.x on the bench (if that), but he wasn't that spectacular. He would only make one key pass a game and miss most tackles.

MC: Desmond N'Zé Kouassi - 20, Senegalese (Wiki says he's actually Ghanaian) - 11(2) app, 1 gl, 6 ast, 7.08 rating - Broke his pelvis in December and was out for nearly the rest of the season, maybe that cost us a promotion playoff place. By the time he came back, he couldn't get back in and was unfit. Hopefully he keep going with those assists.

ST: Giovanni Abate - 28, Italian - 16(18) app, 4 gls, 2 ast, 6.62 rating - Memory says he scored more, but 4 goals isn't a good return for a player who scored 35 in 3 league seasons before I signed him. Another question of whether to cash in or not, given I would need to sign at least 1 more striker.

GK: Aaron Jameson - 19, English - 1 app, 1 clean sheet
MC: Fausto Carbone - 18, Italian - 5(6) app
AMR/L: Gavin McCallum - 22, Canadian - 7(6) app, 2 ast
AMR: Federico Comini - 22, Argentine - 3(9) app, 1gl, 1 ast
AMC: Mirko Eramo - 20, Italian - 3(8) app


First Team Transfers

In - 11 players - Free
Out - 9 players - £500,000
Released - 5 players

Notable Staff

One scout left to join Premier League West Bromwich Albion.

Carl Hoddle, brother of Glenn Hoddle, joined at the end of the season to replace him.


Notable Friends
- Frank Rijkaard (Barcelona manager)

Personal bank balance
~£150,000

Future plans

Last season I said this season would be my last, but it turns out I can't even get a job in the division below.

But the club's finances are still in the red, and the wage bill has gone down even further. It means not only is it impossible to sign any free transfers, but contracts can't be renewed, so at least 4 players will be gone by the end of the season. 2 strikers (Tamin, Trytko) and one midfielder (N'Ze) are valued around a million. Selling one clears the debt for now, selling 2 or 3 makes it healthier, and that might free up wages, but the team will struggle and it may only be a temporary solution.

Our home form was the problem this season, because the strikers weren't freely scoring and we only had Jaime to really unlock the bus-parked defences, rather than a few attackers. In fact we had the best away form in the league, but the third-worst home form - we drew half our home games. Though even if we had won most of those draws, we wouldn't have been automatically promoted. Playoffs, who knows, but I wouldn't have bet my life on winning them.

So with no money, and watching everyone else sign up the free transfers because of our wage restrictions, I have to get great attackers, yet while having to cash in on one or two of the strikers we already have (plus hopefully a few goalkeepers, as three prospects are promoted from the under-20s next season to give us 5 keepers!)

(I do manage to sign one alright-looking attacker, a former loanee AMC, as well as a brilliant right/centre-back and a ridiculously strong and powerful central midfielder).

But as I prepare for the next season, something happens to me that transcends football and makes news around the world... which you'll learn after a round-up of the season in the rest of the world, and of course the World Cup!

Edited by git2thachoppa

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2009/10 Review Part 2 - Club Football

Summer transfers

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2008/05/27/article-1022235-0165454500000578-399_468x514.jpg
2B86C5A600000578-3204591-image-m-17_1440
http://cache3.asset-cache.net/gc/91191986-javier-mascherano-of-liverpool-fc-poses-gettyimages.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=X7WJLa88Cweo9HktRLaNXo94YEV%2FTRlHQu1G22SJ86cjYWzb%2FRDX0nw1BT91ohkQnYkZRO1Gkzo0fUi%2FX%2FcIww%3D%3D

Stewart Downing - Aston Villa to Roma - £24.5m
Sergio Ramos - Real Madrid to Chelsea - £20m
Joaquin - PSV to Juventus - £18.75m
Gerard Piqué - Manchester United to Barcelona - £17.25m
Jérémy Toulalan - Lyon to Atlético - £16.25m
Lucas Leiva - Porto to Fiorentina - £15.5m
Fernando Gago - Real Zaragoza to Werder Bremen £15m
Javier Mascherano - Real Madrid to Liverpool - £14m
Joao Moutinho - Sporting CP to Barcelona - £12.75m
Alexandre Pato - Internacional to Barcelona - £10m
John Obi Mikel - PSV to Manchester United - £7.5m
Michael Owen - Newcastle United to Lazio - Free

Winter transfers

Xabi Prieto - Bayern Munich to Lazio - £15.5m
Igor Akinfeev - Real Zaragoza to Arsenal - £15m
Emmanuel Eboué - Roma to Arsenal - £13.75m
Oscar Ustari - Lille to Inter Milan - £13.75m
Andrés Guardado - Bayern Munich to Blackburn Rovers - £11.25m
Sulley Muntari - Paris Saint-Germain to Lyon - £11m
Turan Arda - Galatasaray to Bayern Munich - £10m


2009/10 Awards

Familiarity breeds contempt, and Thierry Henry not only didn't win World Footballer of the Year for a record 4th time in a row, he didn't even make the top 3, but his strike partner Carlos Vela did.

Lyon's Brazilian striker Fred won it, with an impressive record including a 50-goal haul in the 2008/09 season.
Valencia's Spanish striker David Villa was 2nd. Arsenal's Mexican attacker Carlos Vela came 3rd, but surely none of them were quite on the level of Henry.

Henry also didn't win the Ballon d'Or (European Footballer of the Year) though he at least came 2nd, behind Fred. Betis' Brazilian striker Rafael Sobis came 3rd.


European Cups

http://p5.img.cctvpic.com/program/newsupdate/20120520/images/1337468577316_1337468577316_r.jpg

Chelsea won their second Champions League in 3 years, beating 10-man Bayern Munich 1-0 after extra time. Manchester United were 7 minutes away from reaching the final and a repeat of the 1999 final, but Chelsea scored the two goals they needed to squeeze through.

An English team reached the final of the UEFA Cup for the 3rd year in a row, but Newcastle United lost on penalties to Benfica.

Hibernian were notable in reaching the UEFA Cup quarter-finals, beating Nice and Tottenham on the way.
England


England

England.jpg

Premier League

Arsenal won for the 3rd year in a row, with a couple of games to spare. Chelsea and Man Utd completed the Big 3.

Funnily enough, with 2 Champions Leagues in 3 years but no Premier Leagues since 2005, José Mouinho's task must now be to establish Chelsea as the best club domestically.

Portsmouth finished 3 points off of a Champions League place, behind Liverpool, throwing away a 2-0 lead at Old Trafford after beating Liverpool in the penultimate game.

Image result for pako ayestaran liverpool

Liverpool manager Ottmar Hitzfeld remained under pressure, with fans even protesting in November with the club 5th. Of course, they then beat Arsenal 3-0. Yet Hitzfeld was sacked soon after despite that result continuing a run of 5 matches with a clean sheet, and his last match being a win against Everton. Pako Ayestarán was promoted to manager.

Spursy Spurs didn't challenge for the title and were in fact midtable for half the season before pushing on and getting 6th.

West Brom's return to the Premier League ended a fantastic 8th, one place from the Euro Vase.

Man City sacked Steve Clarke after a year, finishing even worse than last year in 10th and losing his players' confidence. But it's too early to laugh at them, because they landed a huge replacement: PSV's Champions League winning manager Ronald Koeman.


F.A. Cup

Chelsea won a double by beating Bolton 2-0.

Conference sides Dagenham & Redbridge and Fisher Athletic reached the third round. D & R beat a non-league side, then thrashed a League Two team, beat a League One side away, then only lost away 1-0 to Premier League Cardiff thanks to a controversial stoppage time winner.

League Cup

Arsenal also won a double by beating Championship side Hull City 2-0.

Hull had another good cup run this season, going through every round to get to the final, beating Man City, Tottenham and Everton on the way.


Football League and Non-League

David Moyes' Preston North End are back in the top division after half a century away, finishing 2nd in the Championship.

Roy Hodgson's Leicester City squeezed into the playoffs again, on goal difference over Dennis Wise's Milwall, and won the playoffs this time.

Alan Curbishley moved sideways and left Norwich to join promotion rivals Derby County. Norwich improved after he left, Derby got a bit worse after he joined. Derby finished one point above Norwich, in 8th, but both clubs were 7 places lower than they planned. Good work, Curbs.

Sven-Goran Eriksson left Charlton Atheltic in August (so he wasn't even there for one year) to rejoin a club he last managed in the early 80s: IFK Goteborg. Les Ferdinand took over for his first job in management.

Steve Bruce left Leeds in April, making the gut-wrenchingly difficult choice of leaving cold, rainy Northern England for Los Angeles to manage L. A. Galaxy. They're a perfect fit...

Fulham are falling apart after relegation from the Premier League in 2008: debt, two new chairmen in one year, and sacking Chris Coleman and bringing in Iain Dowie only made them worse - they finished 6 points above relegation.

Plymouth Argyle, relegated after one season the Premier League, almost got relegated again but Alan Pardew took over from Ian Holloway midway through the season and they got a big home win on the final day to avoid a double relegation.

QPR had barely escaped relegation for 4 seasons in a row, but finally got relegated to League One this season.

Mick McCarthy left Ipswich midway through the season with them top of League One to become the latest well known English manager to join the MLS, joining Chicago Fire. Bryan Robson replaced him and they never left top spot bar one game.

Scunthorpe United were promoted to the Championship for the first time in nearly half a century, and Hartlepool United (like Leicester) got into the lowest playoff place and won it to get promotion there for the first time ever.

Trevor Francis returned to management after 7 years away, taking over Blackpool with them already doomed to finish bottom of League One before even entering April.

Bradford finished midtable of League Two, just like they did the seasons after relegation from the Premier League (2002) and from the Championship (2005)...

Woking's first season in the Football League ended with them missing out on the playoffs by goal difference.

Grimsby Town were relegated from the Football League for the first time in nearly a century, 19 points from safety with a measly 28 points and 4 wins in 46 games.

Dagenham & Redbridge combined a run to the 3rd round of the F.A. Cup with promotion to the Football League for the first time ever via the playoffs.

 

Spain

Spain.jpg

Image result for frank rijkaard leaves

It was the end of an era as Barcelona won the title for a record-breaking 6th time in a row with a game to spare, but ultimately 1 point above Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid. Frank Rijkaard said at the end that it was time to move on after 7 years, 6 straight league titles, a Champions League and more. He will take charge of AC Milan next season. Former Barcelona player and coach Hristo Stoichkov replaces him.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid fans rejoiced. Not because they won anything, but because Fabio Capello finally retired. Despite finishing below Atlético (and of course Barcelona) for the 3rd year in a row, and now having their own 'most La Ligas in a row' record broken, the president stuck by him. Real have now gone 7 years (i.e. since Rijkaard became Barcelona manager) without winning the league or Champions League. But the Real fans weren't ecstatic that his replacement was the lesser known Marcelino García Toral, who thus leaves his current glamourous job: Bolton.

As expected with Rafa Benitez teams, Valencia lost it after a good first couple of seasons, finishing 16 points behind top in 6th, the last UEFA Cup place.

Espanyol were relegated for the first time I think ever, on goal difference.

 

Scotland

Scotland.jpg

http://i3.dailyrecord.co.uk/incoming/article875029.ece/ALTERNATES/s615/hearts-scottish-cup-win-in-2006-image-1-779785624.jpg


It happened!

25 years after Alex Ferguson's Aberdeen, the Big 2 were truly broken, with Hearts of Midlothian winning the SPL by 7 points. After a steady rise, the highly praised Romanov Revolution is complete... at least until they win the Champions League. They didn't have the best performing players, but somehow the team whole was better than the sum of their parts.

Rangers and Celtic were 2nd and 3rd, with Hibs way back in 4th - 17 points behind Celtic, 28 behind Hearts.

So Celtic aren't even in the Champions League this time, and lost the Scottish Cup final 3-1 to Motherwell, but Gordon Strachan has Capello-levels of backing.

The other end of the table was almost as incredible: with Scottish Cup winners Motherwell losing on the final day, Morton just needed a draw to escape relegation. But in stoppage time, with the score 1-1, their opponents scored with a goal that was miles offside and relegated them. The threat of legal proceedings are looming, but there's nothing they can do - it's part of the game.

The call for 'video technology' (what us 21st century people know as 'a tv') is rabid, with Sepp Blatter forced to make a statement telling them to come back with more money and women first.

After being sacked a year ago by Motherwell, one-club man and Dundee United legend Maurice Malpas returned and kept them comfortably safe.

East Stirling suffered horrendous nosebleeds in the Second Division and were relegated bottom.

 

Netherlands

Netherlands.jpg

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This was to be the end of the Koeman Brothers era, with Ronald leaving PSV and Erwin leaving Feyenoord for next season. Ronald won the final battle, his 2009 European Champions PSV eased to the title, 14 points ahead of Erwin's second-placed Feyenoord.

Ronald leaves PSV to join Man City and Henning Berg will take charge, while Erwin leaves for Fenerbahce and is replaced by Falko Gotz, the man who took Hertha Berlin all the way to the Bundesliga title last season. Showing managers like me how quickly you can move up the ladder... though being a former international with 100 caps helps...

Defending champions Ajax suffered a delayed reaction to their incredible firesale in January 2009 and finished 23 points behind PSV, way back in 5th. Though the madcap Dutch playoff system again flipped things around; Ajax go into the Champions League while Feyenoord are in the UEFA Cup, a reversal of what happened in 2008! Ajax changed managers in March, which allowed them to beat PSV on penalties then FC Twente in extra time to win the Dutch Cup.

 

France

France.jpg

Marseille only really needed a draw to win the title, but they lost 4-0, meaning Lens' final-day win clinched them the title.

Lyon didn't even get in the Champions League, finishing 4th.

Glenn Hoddle ditched his Perth Glory side on the cusp of glory, already having won the Australian Cup, to join Lorient. He was unable to save them from relegation on goal difference to Ligue 2.

 

Germany

Germany.jpg

After a whopping two seasons of failure, Bayern Munich finally finished above first to win the title again, comfortably. Combined with a Champions League final and a League Cup win, perhaps Thomas Doll's apointment will pay off long term after all.

Hertha Berlin were unable to repeat the heroics of last season after losing a few players, finishing 20 points behind them in 7th, a UEFA Cup place. They did win the German Cup at least.

After a good start last season, Koln sacked Joachim Low after just a few months this season. They then improved, but still finished just 5 points above relegation, in 14th. Low later joined Hamburg, so he rebuilt his reputation somewhat.

Italy

Italy.jpg

Inter Milan won comfortably yet again, 3rd time in a row. Though this time they suffered 3 losses and 'only' won by 13 points.

Sampdoria were a real yo-yo club, finishing 2nd two seasons ago, then 17th, Gianluca Vialli's first full season in charge ended with a 2nd place finish again.

Meanwhile, AC Milan and Lazio continue to drop down the table together, finishing 11th and 12th respectively.

Lazio's free transfer Michael Owen only scored 5 in 31 league starts (+ 1 sub appearance), and manager Sinisa Mihajlovic was replaced by Sunderland's Carlos Queiroz in March. Queiroz finished their cup run though, winning over two legs against Inter Milan on away goals, Michael Owen again scoring and being able to say he did something, by being joint top scorer in the cup with 7 goals in 6 games.

And as you now know, Frank Rijkaard takes over at AC Milan.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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2009/10 Review Part 3 - International Football

Nearing the African Nations, I found myself getting a couple of requests from the odd local radio show and news media, due to being a manager in Italy who recently took charge of the hosts Tunisia. I said my knowledge didn't really extend beyond Tunisia, but they worked around that. I ended up being asked the same questions:

How will hosts Tunisia do?/What is the squad like? Being next to the group of death (Cameroon, Mali, Morocco, Senegal), and in a tough group themselves, I can't see them getting past the quarters. Maybe not even out the group - they should beat Zambia, Ghana may be too difficult, so they'll have to beat Algeria. I don't know if they have the mentality to do that. How well they do depends entirely on if their strikers (likely Ali Zitouni and Amine L'Taief) are scoring.

Who is your pick? Whoever is the winner of Nigeria vs Ivory Coast, which should be the final. Nigeria's qualification was incredible (9 wins, 1 draw, 10 points ahead of 2nd) but Ivory Coast are so strong, and the defending champions have so much depth of talent which could count if this is the final. So I'll go with them, Ivory Coast.

Who's the dark horse? I don't see one emerging. Sierra Leone and Uganda have a great chance of getting out of weak groups, but I don't imagine there'll be any real upsets.

 

Tunisia 2010 African Cup of Nations

Eg7DUed.png

http://e2.365dm.com/15/02/16-9/30/ghana-ivory-coast-afcon-final-penalties_3262246.jpg?20150209073148

I may have a career in punditry.

Ivory Coast indeed met Nigeria in the final. The match itself was drab with the only real chance being set pieces, most of them Ivory Coast's. Ivory Coast retained the African Nations thanks to a Didier Drogba free kick in just 39 seconds.

And indeed hosts Tunisia finished bottom of their group, beating Zambia but losing 3-0 to Ghana and 4-1 to Algeria. So my replacement was sacked after just 3 matches, and replaced by Yousser Zouaoui, who returned for a third spell with Tunisia, despite never himself winning an African Nations match with them, even when they hosted in 1994.

World Cup debutants Sierra Leone indeedly were the closest thing to a dark horse, getting out the group stage for the first time, losing 1-0 to the eventual winners in the quarter-finals.

Burkina Faso also made it out of the groups for the first time outside of their own country.

Ghana also lost 4-1 to Algeria and also didn't make it out of the group. Togo only managed to draw with Guinea. Morocco and Mali were the casualties in the group of death.

 

Tonga 2010 OFC Nations Cup

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/7e/OFCcup.png

New Zealand sweeped aside the opposition again, beating Solomon Islands 6-2 on aggregate after going through the group stage without conceding.

Tahiti's Marama Vahirua again dominated, though was a little less impressive... with only 12 goals and 6 assists in 8 games. If he had scored just one goal more, Tahiti would've been in the final on goal difference, though the 8-0 loss to New Zealand in the last group game didn't help.

 

Next... the memorable 2010 World Cup in South Africa!

Edited by git2thachoppa

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South Africa 2010 World Cup

http://static.naturallycurly.com/images/articles/2010/06/fifa-logo-436px.gif

It is finally time for the greatest event in the world! (Like all the other greatest events in the world.)

Africa are represented by hosts South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and shock newcomers Sierra Leone. Can their players do something special and sieze this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?

Can England get over the last hurdle and win a final, after failing at the end of Euro 2008 and the 2009 Confederations Cup?

What can Sierra Leone, Qatar, Belarus, Jamaica and Uruguay-conquerors Guatemala do?

Even Scotland are here!

It's gonna be one hell of a party!

=================================================================================================================

Back by popular demand (3 tweets and a text), I'm invited back on the local radio to comment on Varese and most importantly on the World Cup, particularly how Italy (managed by a lower league manager like myself) and England (one of my nations) will do.

Italy could actually go on to win it again. I'll have my eye on a potential Italy vs Spain/Argentina in the round of 16 and Italy vs France in the semis. The semi may be harder than the final for the winners.

England have a lot of banana skins, especially for perennial chokers. They should top their group, but Chile and Mexico are very tricky. You never know, they could realistically fail to make it out the groups. 2002 was the last time they beat a big team, and to reach the final they'll have to get past a big team in every round. I'll stick to the safe option and say England get knocked out by Germany or Portugal in the second round. 0-0 and penalties probably!

But if either side meet that incredible Dutch team or Brazil... good luck.

=================================================================================================================

Now on ITV1, we join Adrian Chiles and co. in South Africa for a month of football. It's the 2010 World Cup.


Match Days 1 & 2

Group A

Jamaica 1 - 0 Scotland
Scotland had the better of the game until Damani Ralph nicked a goal on 35 minutes, then it was Jamaica who improved. Ultimately, Scotland had one shot... Off-target.

Italy 2 - 1 Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone took a shock lead on 27 minutes with a brilliant lob from the debuting Brima Koromo going over Buffon. It took 66 minutes for one of Italy's misfiring strikers to score, Alberto Gilardino getting the equaliser. A few minutes later, an Alessandro Rosina free kick right into the corner settled it. Italy hit the woodwork a couple more times but failed to increase their lead.

Jamaica 1 - 0 Italy
Dolce & Gabbana!! Can you hear me Gabbana?! Your boys took a hell of a beating! Sheffield United's Luton Shelton's name is written in Jamaican and Italian history as the scorer of the goal that beat the Italians at the World Cup!

Scotland 0 - 1 Sierra Leone
So much for an easy group. The Scots were looking good, but a free kick routine fooled them. After that, Sierra Leone actually could've increased their lead a few times, while clearing one off the line themselves.


Group B

South Africa 1 - 1 Spain
Benni McCarthy made no mistake scoring in the first half. But José Antonio Reyes pounced on a deflection in the second half to get an equaliser.

 

Argentina 2 - 0 Qatar
Fernando Belluschi headed in before half time. Then Pablo Aimar nicked a Qatari kick-off for the second half and passed to Carlos Tevez, who dribbled through and scored. Worse, Qatar's star striker got a gashed leg AND a pulled hamstring, and likely won't play any more group games.

Spain 4 - 0 Qatar
With Qatar having a man sent off for a professional foul in 10 minutes, it was easy for Torres, Reyes and co. Controversial call-up, the naturalised Argentine striker Gustavo Oberman, making his debut in this tournament, hasn't scored in his first 2 matches. And the next result eliminates Qatar for good with one game still to go...

South Africa 1 - 0 Argentina
The giants are falling! Benni McCarthy raced onto a long ball from inside S.A.'s own area, his shot was deflected, the keeper palmed it, and he hit in the rebound.


Group C

Saudi Arabia 1 - 0 Germany
Yaser Al-Qahtani scored in only 10 minutes to give the Saudis a deserved win! The Germans were awful.

Portugal 3 - 4 Ghana
Ghana play like Brazil! Deco plays like a Brazilian (well, he is one)! Both teams were punished by quick long balls and breaks. Tiago gave Portugal an early lead with Ghana playing a bit too much tiki taka, but Ghana took a 3-1 lead before the hour mark. Deco pulled it back with a wonderfully curling free kick and a straighter long range shot. But Essien pounced on a save and scored the last-minute winner after sensation Asamoah Gyan's attempt to complete a hat trick was denied. Gyan was miles offside when the ball to him was played however, and the winner shouldn't have stood.

Ghana 1 - 0 Saudi Arabia
The Saudis played it safe after a shock 3 points, but Essien punished them with a long range beauty. Going down to 10 men with 10 minutes to go didn't help them get an equaliser. There's been quite a bit of shoving and kicking in this tournament.

Germany 2 - 1 Portugal
A long range scorcher and a deflected free-kick brought Germany back to normality, despite a late Ricardo Vaz Te goal.


Group D

Chile 1 - 1 England
Steve McClaren's controversial decisions seemed to pay off, but it may have cost his team. Decision 1: Call up and select Chelsea's Giles Barnes. Earning his 3rd cap, Barnes passed to Rooney, who scored in 50 seconds. Decision 2: Change back to Paul Robinson in goal instead of fan's choice Scott Carson - in the 50th minute, a Man Utd player (Rio Ferdinand) passed back to Paul Robinson... and right into the goal. Deja vu (except not because Neville/Croatia never happened). Decision 3: Omit Lazio's Michael Owen from the squad completely. A bad decision may be a whole lot worse with Wayne Rooney playing the whole game with a knock which keeps him out of the next game. And in the final minute, Stewart Downing did a Maradona run but skied his shot. Could you imagine? 1986, Maradona... 1998, Owen... 2010, Stewart Downing.

 

Mexico 1 - 0 Norway
An easy win, Luis Ernesto Pérez pouncing on a save on 19 minutes.

Mexico 0 - 0 Chile
Mexico fail to confirm qualification and must do it on the final day.

Norway 2 - 0 England
The gamble to start a recovering Rooney failed, though no one's mentioning that Scott Carson didn't cover himself in glory in place of Paul Robinson. Luke Moore and Darren Bent came on but did nothing, with fans ranting about the exclusion of Michael Owen once more.


Group E

Iran 0 - 2 Turkey
Iran lost their star striker, Middlesbrough's Arash Borhani, to injury before half time. Two second-half goals gave the Turks the win.

Ukraine 0 - 0 Cameroon
Snooooore. Samuel Eto'o was injured for the tournament, so no goals here.

Cameroon 1 - 0 Iran
Benoit Assou-Ekotto only scored when Iran were having a player treated, a goal which knocks Iran out. This leads to the usual debate and uproar over the unfairness of the man advantage when a player needs treatment. All the pundits, media and fans forget it by the time Eastenders is on. Good old short attention spans.

Turkey 3 - 0 Ukraine
All too easy. Turkey are the first team to reach the next round.


Group F

Netherlands 3 - 1 South Korea
New man Louis Van Gaal has them playing a 4-2-3-1 rather than 2008's fluid, rotating, total football 4-4-2. It was set pieces in particular that allowed the Dutch attacking strength to show - you just can't stop the ball going in with all that talent flooding your box. They only conceded thanks to a mistake by the keeper.

Nigeria 2 - 1 Belarus
Belarus played a peculiar 1-3-4-2 sweeper formation, but with full backs and one centre-back, not three centre-backs. They had chances and took the lead immediately after half time, but Nigeria immediately equalised. A sending off with 5 minutes to go wasn't enough to stop Nigeria winning.

Nigeria 2 - 1 Netherlands
It's not just the Netherlands who have one or two good strikers! Nigeria would've been 3-0 up before half-time but a goal was disallowed.

Belarus 2 - 0 South Korea
A very early penalty and a free kick from well outside the area secured a brilliant win for Belarus and eliminates South Korea.


Group G

Colombia 4 - 0 Guatemala
Debutants Guatemala went from darlings to perhaps the most hated team in a violent match that had two Falcao goals in the first 8 minutes then 3 straight red cards (2 for Guatemala) in the next half hour.

France 2 - 0 Russia
Russia never troubled the French, who scored through Jimmy Briand and then Thierry Henry.

Russia 0 - 0 Colombia
Russia's Igor Akinfeev saved a penalty in an otherwise eventless match.

Guatemala 1 - 0 France
I don't believe it! Typical France, they underestimated their opponents. Passing it around far too blasé in defence, Willie Sims hit a loose ball first time into the net early on. But they didn't park the bus and could've increased their lead, while their keeper gained Man of the Match for keeping France out. WOW!


Group H

USA 0 - 1 Brazil
Brazil showed shades of flair, but USA will feel they were there for the taking. World Player of the Year Fred didn't even come off the bench.

Australia 0 - 0 Belgium
Both sides aimed for a draw. Belgium's Mouassa Dembélé was through in the last minute but skied his shot.

Belgium 0 - 1 USA
Despite Belgium's 11 total shots to USA's 3, USA completely dominated without either side actually threatening.

Brazil 2 - 1 Australia
Robinho scores straight from the kick-off! Australia will be kicking themselves! The Aussies had equalised, but when the ball was passed to Robinho to initiate the next kick-off, he ran all the way into the area and scored! Brazil are through!

 

Match Day 3

Group A

Jamaica need only a draw with Sierra Leone to qualify and top the group. Italy and Sierra Leone are both on 3 points with equal goal difference and goals scored, but Italy the better head-to-head. Scotland need to beat Italy and hope Sierra Leone lose by a bigger goal difference.

It was a rollercoaster of a match between Jamaica and Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone twice coming back from behind. But as they did so the second time, Iaquinta pounced on a saved shot to score the only goal of the game for Italy against Scotland. Now Sierra Leone had to score another, which would put Jamaica in danger. They did in the 73rd minute, meaning whoever scored the next goal in either match would definitely be through (except Scotland). Jamaica scored in the final minute to knock out Sierra Leone, keep themselves safe, and saving Italy too.


Group B

Hosts South Africa are effectively through. The only way they can fail is if they lose to Qatar and Spain don't lose to Argentina. They're not celebrating yet though. So really, Spain vs Argentina is winner takes all. A draw would see Spain through, but likely not as group winners.

Argentina took a first half lead. Torres was misfiring while Oberman registered his only shot on target in the tournament. Argentina pretty much stayed in their own half for the rest of the match and they just kept Spain away. Spain were out, unless Qatar provided an upset.

South Africa missed several chances, but finally took the lead in the 84th minute. They doubled it after the Qatar keeper went up for a corner. But Mousa Haroun did score the first and only ever Qatar goal at a World Cup at the end. So hosts South Africa top the group, Argentina leapfrog Spain into second.



Group C

Just as in group B, Ghana need only to draw with Germany to qualify and top their group. Germany and Saudi Arabia have 3 points with equal goal difference, but Germany are one better in 'goals scored' (though have a worse head-to-head if it comes to it). Portugal need to beat Saudi Arabia and hope Ghana beat Germany to qualify on goal difference or possibly goals scored.

Saudi Arabia seemed to dominate the second half, yet Vaz Te scored for Portugal just before half time, then forced an own goal from the second half's kick-off. He added their third a few minutes later.

But despite a draw evidently being enough for both Germany and Ghana in the second half, they both went for it and Germany twice took the lead before another late Gyan goal made it 2-2.



Group D

Mexico will qualify as long as they don't lose by more than one goal to England. Norway will qualify if they beat Chile, or if they draw and England don't win. Chile need to beat Norway to both qualify and knock out Norway. England need to beat Mexico, a team who've yet to concede, by two goals MINIMUM to qualify. Any other result and they're gone.

All the questions over Steve McClaren's decision making is asked all over again. The rotating goalkeeper situation, Rooney being risked again despite carrying a knock, Owen not even making it, and the bit-part status of Steven Gerrard who of course came on and scored England's only goal at the end for a 1-0 win (though only after a Mexican was sent off), with the necessary 2-0 win never looking like happening. England are out, Mexico are through.

Chile effectively needed to win but went 2-0 down in the second half. Despite getting one back immediately, they never really looked like scoring two more. Norway win and top the group.



Group E

Turkey have already qualified and Iran are out. The only way for Ukraine to stop Cameroon qualifying is by beating Iran and hoping Turkey beat Cameroon, making up a 4-goal difference in the process.

Iran fans at least got to celebrate a goal, with debutant Hadi Asghari scoring a late equaliser to knock Ukraine out.  Cameroon never really threatened a pedestrian Turkey in a 0-0 draw.


Group F

Belarus need to beat the Netherlands to qualify, otherwise their opponents do instead. Nigeria have qualified but need only to draw with the already-eliminated South Korea to top the group and avoid Turkey in the next round.

South Korea left with a win thanks to several saves from their keeper, meaning Nigeria go 2nd. Netherlands' Dirk Kuyt topped the goalscoring charts with his 4th and 5th goals. Though Belarus got one back, the Dutch were too much for them.


Group G

Colombia just need a draw with France, but a loss will knock France out. Guatemala need at least a draw, but Russia must beat the wildcard Guatemalans for a chance.

Franck Ribéry made up for having a penalty saved by setting up captain Patrick Vieira's long range opener. But Falcao, carrying a knock, finished a run with an equaliser from a tight angle, which kept Colombia top. Russia eased to a 2-0 win over Guatemala, but would've still needed 2 more goals to qualify.


Group H

Belgium must beat the already-qualified Brazilians and hope the U.S.A. don't win to possibly qualify. Australia need to win and hope Belgium don't win, or if they do that they don't have better goal difference. U.S.A. qualify if they win, but a draw is enough if Belgium don't win by more than a goal.

America dominated, but it was the Aussies who won 1-0. Belgium never looked like winning but had a go, Brazil won 3-2 and are the only team to win every group match.

 

Final Group Standings

Group A
Jamaica - 7
Italy - 6

-----------------------
Sierra Leone - 4
Scotland - 0


Group B
South Africa - 7
Argentina - 6
-----------------------
Spain - 4
Qatar - 0


Group C
Ghana - 7
Germany - 4
-----------------------
Portugal - 3 (+1 GD)
Saudi Arabia - 3 (-3 GD)

Group D
Norway - 6
Mexico - 4 (0 GD)

-----------------------
England - 4 (-1 GD)
Chile - 2

Group E
Turkey - 7
Cameroon - 5

-----------------------
Ukraine - 2
Iran - 1

Group F
Netherlands - 6 (+2 GD)
Nigeria - 6 (+1 GD)

-----------------------
Belarus - 3 (+0 GD)
South Korea - 3 (-3 GD)

Group G
Colombia - 5
France - 4 (+1 GD)

-----------------------
Russia - 4 (+0 GD)
Guatemala - 3

Group H

Brazil - 9
Australia - 4
-----------------------
U.S.A. - 3
Belgium - 1

 

Second Round

Argentina 2 - 0 Jamaica (AET) (0-0 FT)
Maxi Rodriguez scored the goal of the tournament with a curler that started off-target and went in, struck from nearer the centre circle than the area, He followed that up 5 minutes later with a curling free kick.

Germany 1 - 2 Norway
An improving Norway took 2 minutes to open up a dodgy Germany. Miroslav Klose came to the rescue again, but it was 2-1 to Norway by half time thanks for a Riise free kick. (I'll let you guess which Riise it was, you have a 1 in 3 chance.) You can still hear the Norwegian commentator from here.

Cameroon 2 - 1 Netherlands
Robin van Persie scored on the hour mark with a debated goal. He was offside, but you could say Kuyt passed behind him. with 10 minutes left, Pierre Achille Webó replied with a clearly offside goal, and 5 minutes later Meyong Zé intercepted Michel Vorm's goal kick and scored the winner. And suddenly, Netherlands are out!

Australia 0 - 1 Colombia
Camilo Zúniga was sent off in a minute, but Australia didn't make use of their extra man. Falcao scored the only goal.

=====================================================================================================

South Africa 1 - 1 Italy (AET) (1-1 FT) (2-4 on penalties)
A Pirlo free kick after half an hour was followed by Buffon trying to head the ball outside of his area and Benni McCarthy getting another goal after an hour. But McCarthy was one of those who missed as Italy scored all their penalties in the shootout.

Mexico 4 - 1 Ghana
Carlos Vela and co. ripped apart everyone's second team, starting with a bizarre own goal: In the 2nd minute, the keeper threw the ball to Haminu Draman, who was closed down. He panicked and tried to clear it out for a corner, only to lob it over his keeper into the goal. Ghana got one back 18 minutes later, but Mexico retook the lead within a minute of kicking off again.

Turkey 0 - 0 Nigeria (AET) (2-1 on penalties)
Nigeria missed the injured Obafemi Martins, but Turkey didn't have 1 shot on target the whole game, and 6 out of 9 penalties in the shootout didn't go in. Yobo was sent off for 2 yellows in extra time, would he have taken a penalty? Would it have mattered?

Brazil 3 - 0 France
Brazil swept away France in a reverse of the 1998 final. Kaka continued to show his class and they were 2-0 ahead after 14 minutes. Adriano made it a rout near the end.

 

Quarter-Finals

Argentina 1 - 1 Norway (AET) (1-1 FT) (3-4 on penalties)
Argentina were comfortable with a 1-0 lead, but naturalised Brazilian Dedé, making only his second appearance for his adopted nation, scored a late equaliser!

Cameroon 2 - 3 Colombia (AET) (2-2 FT)
The new de facto African 'home team' came from behind twice but couldn't do it again. Two mistakes by keeper Carlos Idriss Kameni cost them, though they had a goal in extra time ruled out for offside.

=====================================================================================================

Italy 2 - 0 Mexico
A dominating win. Another Iaquinta goal and another Pirlo free kick. But Iaquinta is out of the tournament through injury.

Turkey 0 - 2 Brazil
Daniel Carvalho came on for the injured Kaka at half time and scored in 6 minutes. Turkey threatened but Ronaldinho finished the match off with a penalty.

The semi-finals are set up so whatever the results, the final will be one of the two most successful World Cup sides vs. the underdogs. What a story!

 

Semi-Finals

Norway 1 - 1 Colombia AET (1-1 FT) (4-3 on penalties)
Falcao scored yet again, an immediate equaliser. Colombia had to play most of extra time with 10 men due to an injury to one of their substitutes. Norway scored all their penalties, and it's they who will make their shock debut in a World Cup final.

=====================================================================================================

Italy 0 - 1 Brazil

A player like Robinho had no trouble dribbling through on the break to score the only goal. Italy had 2 players sent off for violent behaviour and Pirlo went off injured, so it soon became clear Brazil had the win. But in stoppage time, Robinho got a yellow card which suspends him for the final.

 

Third Place Playoff

Italy 0 - 0 Colombia AET (2-4 on penalties)
Nothing happened, except Falcao picking up a knock right at the start and being unable to increase his lead at the top of the scoring charts. Though, unless Kaka scores 4 in the final, the trophy's his thanks to Robinho's suspension.

 

Final

Norway v Brazil

Form

After losing their opening game, Norway beat England, Chile and Germany, then beat Argentina and Colombia on penalties after 1-1 draws. They have missed only 1 of their 9 penalties.

Brazil have won every single game, including a 3-0 thrashing of France and dealing with holders Italy relatively easily. They haven't conceded in any of the knockout games.

Team News

Brazil are without top scorer Robinho who is suspended. He's scored 4 and made 2 in their 6 games. He's replaced by Mancini, who's only made one substitute appearance in the tournament, has yet to score in 13 appearances for his country, and has scored only 3 goals in the last 2 seasons for Real Madrid. While World Player of the Year Fred remains on the bench without a single game. Dunga has dropped goalkeeper Marcelo just as he did against Turkey, so Júlio César gets his second game in the tournament.

John Carew won't make it back from injury in time to play for Norway. He's been injured since the Germany game in the second round, the last match they won without penalties.

Norway play 4-2-3-1: Almenning Jarstein (c); Reginiussen, Kah, J. Anders Riise, J. Arne Riise; Stromstad, Haestad; B. Riise, Fredheim Holm, Gamst Pedersen; Dedé.

Brazil play 4-3-1-2: Júlio César; Dani Alves, Lúcio (c), Júan, Marcelo; Kaká, Thiago Motta, Adriano; Ronaldinho; Mancini, Adriano.


First half
Adriano takes 9 minutes to give Brazil the lead from a tight angle, then Mancini scores his first Brazil goal 10 minutes later. Norway only have one or two chances.

592180.jpg


Half time
Norway change shape and take off their attacking midfielder Holm and bring on Hangeland and put him in defensive midfield.


Second half
2 minutes later, Hangeland's header from a corner goes wide. Norway have a few chances, but they don't go in.

Final score: Norway 0 - 2 Brazil

http://photocdn.sohu.com/20050630/Img226135989.jpg

2010 World Cup Champions

Brazil

Awards

Golden Ball: Lúcio (Brazil)
Golden Boot: Falcao (Colombia)
Golden Glove: Rune Almenning Jarstein (Norway)
Best Young Player: Marcelo (Brazil) (the left-sided player, not the goalkeeper)
Most Entertaining Team: Brazil

(My) All-Star Team:

-------------------------------------------Nathan Coe (Australia)--------------------------------------------
--------Lúcio (Brazil)-----Jon Anders Riise (Norway)-----Fabricio Coloccini (Argentina)-----

Siboniso Gaxa (South Africa)---------------------------------------------------------Marcelo (Brazil)

--Asamoah Gyan (Ghana)-----Dirk Kuyt (Netherlands)-------------Robinho (Brazil)
-----------------------Radamel Falcao (Colombia)-------------Carlos Tevez (Argentina)------------

Notably, after not qualifying from the 2008 African Cup and losing all their Confederations Cup matches, South Africa moved up the FIFA rankings a whopping 117 places to 31st, thanks to matching Spain and Italy and beating Argentina. One of the best managerial changes ever?

 

Managerial Changes

Age Hareide resigned as manager of Norway after that incredible run to the final. A month later he would go to England to join Championship title favourites Watford.

England's Steve McClaren had already agreed to join Newcastle United after the tournament. After offering the job to me, which we'll ignore for the sake of slightly more realism, the F.A. gave it to former international (and League One Doncaster manager) Peter Beardsley. Oh and he was their unanimous first choice, of course!

Germany sacked Bernd Schuster after only one win and a second round elimination. They replace him with Jurgen Klopp. Oh yes, it's Klopp time!

Fatih Terim resigned as Turkey manager, and then took over at Wolfsburg, replacing Klopp.

After scraping qualification and with only wins against Qatar and Spain in normal time, Argentina sacked Gerardo Martino.

Carlos Carvalhal was sacked as Portugal manager after failing to get out of their group.

Guatemala's manager Hernán Darío Gómez stepped down with a historic win over France on his record.

Sierra Leone's J. J. Sherington resigned after coming close to reaching the knockout rounds with the debutants.

Belarus' Yury Puntus resigned after picking up a win.

Belgium, Iran and South Korea are looking for new managers after disappointing performances.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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The Job That Shocked The Western World

To my surprise, after the World Cup I received not 1 but 3 offers to take charge of countries that appeared in it. So I could be picky! But really I knew when the names came up where I was going next.

But this is real life, not some video game! My choices have to be ultra real, and first I had to decide if I would even take any of them or whether I would stay with the relative comfort of Varese. But I realised Varese aren't going anywhere. Even if we beat the odds and got promoted, the next season's team could be even worse thanks to the financial problems - expiring contracts can't be renewed, any good player risks being sold, and any replacements coming in will be inferior due to me only being able to sign players on low wages.

So, as long one of the job offers is good enough, it seems less of a risk to move on. Because even if I fail at the new job, I'm sure I can get another job somewhere else, one with better financial security and prospects perhaps.

One offer was Sierra Leone. After their best ever performance at an African Cup, and then nearly reaching the knockout stages of their debut World Cup, the only way is down. Plus the qualifying groups of the African Cup haven't been drawn yet, where only the group winners go to the finals, so if one big team is drawn with them the next manager probably won't even qualify. So I rejected this quickly.

The other two jobs were Asian countries. One was Saudi Arabia, who had the easier Asian Cup Qualifying group and arguably slightly better players in certain areas. Though they change managers every few months in real life, they stuck with their last one since summer 2006 (wonder why that was, eh?).

But I went with the third country.

The contract had to be tight though. Money-wise, I'll be going from £1,000 per week at Varese to a little over £20,000 per month. It's a 1-year contract currently that ends after the 2011 Asian Cup. I'm required to live in the country, but there is a clause that ends the contract in the unlikely event of domestic or international war. And as an only child with no brothers and being foreign-based, I won't be forced into the military.

Though I hadn't thought this could become global news.

IRAN'S NATIONAL FOOTBALL TEAM HIRE ENGLISH MANAGER - BBC
ENGLISH MANAGER TO MANAGE BLOODY FOREIGNERS - Sky News
IRAN, IRAN SO FAR AWAY - The Sun
IRAN HIRE FOREIGN-BASED IRANIAN - Iranian news
PRINCE OF PERSIA TO LEAD TEAM MELLI INTO NEW ERA - Iranian news

 

Football Federation Islamic Republic of Iran.png

Iran

hMaFmkm.png

 

Reasons for choosing

I figure a lot of people who have never been to Iran or know any Iranians see this and think "WHY?" or more precisely: "why would they hire you?" and "why would you want to live in Iran?"

Iran have hired one or two guys with little or no experience before, and as you'd expect usually hire someone who has at least been successful in Iran. Italy's Serie C is roughly at the level of the top Iranian league, if not better, so I'm at the right level of success.

Iran have also hired British and foreign before but, as you may have gathered, as well as being English I'm also half-Iranian anyway. Iran doesn't recognise dual-nationality, which means if you're half-Iranian outside Iran, you're 100% Iranian as soon as you enter the country. So I'm not even a foreign manager (hence the different slant the Iranian headlines took).

This means a job offer isn't unrealistic and I can accept. (Unlike the England job approach I received! :lol: )

As for why I'd accept at all, it depends on what you believe about life in the country. It's no surprise you'll hear more about the Conservative hardliners burning an American flag on the streets than the thousands during an Iran v USA game in Tehran not even booing the American anthem. Or the general vibe of a closed-off country of xenophobes ruled by an iron fist of Islam, rather than the Armenian Orthodox Christian captaining the national football team. It's no Norway, but it's not exactly a 'North Korea', or 'Syria' either.

Still, though regarded as the most 'Americanised' and pro-West country in the Middle East, and having seen plenty of other English staff and players join their league, my appointment has piqued the already incredible curiosity of the citizens. But of course I'm full Iranian right now, not English, remember.

I was tempted to choose Saudi Arabia due to their far easier group and good bunch of players, and the difficulty with my relative lack of experience, age and standing, but I felt it would make it awkward to reject Iran for a rival. Imagine having to go there for away matches or even beating Iran in the Asian Cup. Let alone that Saudi Arabia and Iran are big rivals, due to geography, religion and politics as well as football.

Plus I couldn't resist the chance to manage some famous Persian names before they retire.


Stadium

http://www.varzesh11.com/images/gallery/1693-stadium_azadi.jpg

I have upgraded fast in stadium size through my career. At Varese I was in front of a few thousand, with Tunisia they packed a 60,000-seater. Now I'm in the second-biggest stadium in the world (only now behind North Korea's 145,000-seat penis-compensator).

All 100,000 seats of the Azadi Stadium. Officially the loudest, and perhaps most intimidating, stadium in the world. I'm glad I'm on the home side.


Real Life History (up to 2006) and Game History (from 2006)

http://images.cdn.fourfourtwo.com/sites/fourfourtwo.com/files/styles/inline-image/public/team-photo_0.jpg?itok=0vohmf8c
Iran and USA share a joint team photo in response to news media hyping the match with politics and supposed mutual hatred.

Iran's first official FIFA match was in 1941, and they soon reached their peak from 1968 to 1978 with 3 Asian cups in a row followed by the 1978 World Cup debut. Then the Revolution happened in 1979 and football was neglected in favour of war. Team Melli started to show promise again from 1996, with talented players emerging and coming good, and large victories over South Korea and Saudi Arabia in the Asian Cup followed by an appearance, and respectable performance, in the 1998 World Cup.

Iran have appeared in 4 World Cups (1978, 1998, 2006 and 2010) but have only won one game - the infamous victory over USA in 1998.
Indeed, Iran are best known for bringing over-optimistic teams crashing to Earth on the big stage. As well as 1998 and that 1-1 draw with Scotland in 1978, they're perhaps best known for breaking Aussie hearts with two late goals against Terry Venables' Australia, to qualify for the 1998 World Cup in their place.

In Asia, Iran are part of a 'big 5' along with South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia and now Australia. In fact all these teams (except the Aussie newcomers) have won the Asian cup 3 times, with power shifting every decade to another team. But Iran have gone the longest without winning it, having won it thrice in a row in 1968, 1972 and 1976, twice as hosts. Despite the clear coming and going of eras, South Korea and Iran have been somewhat consistent in Asia's history.

So Iran's rivals are no doubt South Korea. They have faced each other in the quarter-finals of the last FOUR Asian Cups, since 1996, with the score at two knockouts each.


Players

Mirzapour is the undisputed #1 goalkeeper. He's 31 and has 89 caps, and is the only one to play for a relatively big club. Only 3 other active keepers have been capped, with 12 appearances between them.

The other big names of the team are the captain Nekounam, the central midfielder who is 2 away from 100 caps, and Mahdavikia and Karimi (the 'Asian Maradona'), the old attacking midfielders with 228 caps combined who can still deliver. There had been hopes for Teymourian, he has 34 caps, but he hasn't been great at Bolton and was left out of the World Cup squad.

Nosrati and Kaebi are mainstays in defence or midfield.

I miss out on the highest international scorer in football history, Ali Daei. Also on Karim Bagheri, a free-scoring midfielder who retired as a player with 47 goals in 80 international appearances, and Vahid Hashemian, a striker with 24 in 52. So the only goalscorer in the squad is Middlesbrough's Arash Borhani, who has 22 goals in 42 appearances, and who scored and assisted a lot in the Championship last season.

I'll be hoping to find more goalscorers (Iran were unthreatening at the World Cup with Borhani injured in just 42 minutes) and there'd be no harm in finding at least one notable deputy goalkeeper.


Fixtures

The next campaign is the Asian Cup in Australia in a year's time, starting with the qualifiers which are in a couple of months.

World Cup qualifying starts for us the year after, in 2012.

There is also the London 2012 Olympics, with us entering the qualifiers after the Asian Cup, so I may be in charge for that.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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Iran - July to Sept 2010 - Making My Debut

Fixtures

The next campaign is the 2011 Asian Cup in Australia, starting with its qualifiers in October. I'm only able to arrange one friendly in September and three in October before the Asian Cup finals proper, but one of those spaces is 4 days before the first qualifying game, so I'll try to arrange just 3 friendlies.

August - 1 friendly

September - 2 friendlies

October - Asian Cup Qualification

Summer 2011 - Asian Cup


Qualifying format

Qualifying groups have 4 teams, with the top two teams qualifying (as well as the best third-placed team).

The format is different to what the likes of Europe are used to: the 6 matches for each team are played hard and fast in two blocks of 3 in October, with only 2 days between each game. The first block of games is 'hosted' by one nation, and the second week 'hosted' by another nation, with hosts drawn randomly.

We are in Group F.


Group F

While Brunei should be pushovers, the other two are potentially tricky. Uzbekistan are the bridesmaids of Asia. They reached the last round of qualifying and weren't easily beaten by the other teams. Lebanon can take points from a big team on their day. Still, we're expected to win probably all our games, with potentially a few dropped points away to those two.

A quarter-final elimination to South Korea is probably the disappointing minimum expected, but as one of the Big 5 Iran will be one of the 5 favourites to win the whole thing.


Building Backroom Staff

There's only the Under-21 and Under-19 managers, who I'm happy to let stay on, and a goalkeeping coach who moves on, so I'm building an entirely new team.

I need an assistant, a wise old head. I got a call from the new AC Milan manager and old buddy old pal Frank Rijkaard, congratulating me and saying if there's any help he can give, to let him know.

"Well... I do need an assistant."

Frank laughs.

"I don't think I'm available for that!"

He says he has a dear friend who could be perfect, and after making a call of his own, he tells me Henk ten Cate is interested.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-OtEpd1Ud8g4/T58JkjD4veI/AAAAAAAAT-8/qHioBlmY6P8/s1600/1334920095231.jpg

"I was in the same position as you are at Barcelona, and he was perfect for me."

A man with two decades of managerial experience, he became assistant to the inexperienced Rijkaard and helped Barcelona to two league titles and the Champions League. In 2006 he left to manage Ajax, and chipped at PSV's dominance with a title in his third year, before being sacked a few months ago.

He's a strategist, and a great coach, and through a mutual friend he's back in employment as my assistant and foil. It's amazing what one friendly in one point of time can lead to.

With a tactical manager and assistant, I fill the coaching setup with some inspiring figures. In addition to a few other unemployed former internationals, Ali Daei (currently managing Iranian club Saipa) is happy to help as coach, but his buddy Karim Bagheri rejects. Aw. :(


The Match Of Debuts

v New Zealand (A) - 18/8/2010

The Asian Cup is in Australia, so I want to go to New Zealand to give the players a taste of the travel and climate. They're also a decent team and they drew with Qatar in both legs of their World Cup qualifying playoff (losing on away goals).


=================================================================================
Manager Names First Squad - Teymourian returns, new faces

The new Iran manager has picked his first squad, and the big news is the return of Andranik Teymourian to the squad after being dropped by the previous manager before the World Cup failure.

He also names 7 players who would make their debut should they appear against New Zealand. This includes Behrang Safari, who also qualifies for Sweden having grown up there, and has played for several big Scandinavian clubs.
=================================================================================


Squad

Goalkeepers
Ebrahim Mirzapour (Le Havre, 89 appearances)
Hasan Roudbarian (Paas, 3)
Mehdi Islami (Paas, 0)

Defenders
Mohammad Nosrati (Derby County, 62)
Hosain Kaebi (Club Brugge, 61)
Jalal Kameli-Mofrad (FC Twente, 41)
Rasoul Mirtoroghi (Bursaspor, 12)
Yahia Al-Balawi (Charleroi, 0)

Midfielders
Javad Nekounam (Borussia Dortmund, 98)
Mehdi Mahdavikia (Werder Bremen, 117)
Ali Karimi (Benfica, 111)
Andranik Teymourian (Bolton Wanderers, 34)
Alireza Vahedi Nikbakht (Troyes, 66)
Javad Kazemian (Al-Jazira, 31)
Mohammad Alavi (VfL Bochum, 20)
Mojahed Khaziravi (Foulad, 15)
Behrang Safari (Aalesunds FK, 0)
Mojtaba Jabbari (Hammarby IF, 0)
Hojatollah Zadmahmoud (Esteghlal Ahvaz, 0)
Abbas Khorasani (Sorkh-Pooshan Tehran, 0)

Strikers
Arash Borhani (Middlesbrough, 42)
Mehrdad Oladi (1. FC Koln, 8)
Faraz Fatemi (OFI Crete, 3)
Hadi Asghari (Paas, 1)
Shahin Baneahmad (Persepolis, 1)
Ferydoun Fazli (Esteghlal Ahvaz, 0)


The Team

Iran played a 3-5-2 formation at the world cup, with the manager enjoying picking a few players slightly out of position. I'm using something resembling a 4-4-2 diamond formation.

----10---9---
11----8----7
-------6-------
3---5---4---2
-------1-------

It's my first match, so I'm picking what I think is the best team.

* = change (from general World Cup first team)

1: Mirzapour - It's my first match so I won't be experimenting with any keepers today.

2: Kaebi - A staple of the right side.

3: Kameli-Mofrad - I would've debuted a young left-back, but he's too tired, so I'm moving the remaining centre-back left.

4: Nosrati - The ever-present defender.

5: Mirtoroghi - Debuted 2 years ago and has established himself into the team.

6: Nekounam - The captain is the first name on the team sheet.

7: Mahdavikia - Made 1 assist every 2 games for Rangers, and the year before made 8 in 30 Premier League games for Aston Villa. Despite being 33, he must play on the right wing and be an important part of our attacks.

11: Zadmahmoud* - A problem position, Mahdavikia was being used on the wrong side to accommodate Kaebi on the right. Rather than try to fit the 11 best players together, I'm balancing the left with a debutant.

8: Karimi - At 31, the 'Asian Maradona' isn't as penetrating as he used to be, but still the best option in the #8 position on paper, just.

9: Borhani - The only experienced goalscorer.

10: Fatemi* - Earned his 1st cap nearly a decade ago, earned his 2nd and 3rd a few months ago, the 32 year old is getting his 4th today and a first start.

With heart beating loud and fast, I walk out for my first match as Iran manager.


Friendly

(54th) New Zealand 0 - 3 Iran (59th)

To dominate such a decent team in my first match in their own country, I couldnt have wished for a better start. It gives me a lot of leeway to experiment in the next two friendlies as well.

I kept instructions short, giving them a sense of freedom. Play a type of pass and at a speed how you see fit, just get it down the right to Mahdavikia. As it turned out, he wouldn't play much of a part in the game, someone else would. Karimi went off injured after only 19 minutes, but his replacement Jabbari was New Zealand's worst nightmare, not just with all his key passes but by scoring just 20 minutes in with a long range curler. Not bad for a debut.

New Zealand never coped with our quick long balls and passes. In the second half, the ball bounced over the Kiwi keeper and Borhani tapped it into the open goal.

It was only a few minutes later that another debutant, Zadmahmoud, capped a Man of the Match display with a goal of his own.

Teymourian also made his hyped return and did well, and I was even able to bring on one of the keepers near the end. Only downside is that Karimi will miss most, if not all, the Asian Cup qualifiers.

 

Edited by git2thachoppa

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Experimental friendlies

One of my major criticisms of England (which is instead more a source of humoured ridicule by the rest of the world) is how they treat their friendlies as competitive matches, exercises in ignoring potential problems in tournaments with a random feel good win against an experimental side that never really tried.

So with my first friendly out of the way, I'll now use friendlies to try other players, and avoid that trap. Plus, with the qualifiers in a month's time, I'd like to avoid important injuries anyway.


v Japan (H) - 4/9/2010

Japan are the weakest of the Big 5, and are in danger of dropping out of it. They're the only team my Tunisia side got a win over, away from home as well. A good team to arrange a friendly with then. Japan also have Iraq in their qualifiers so probably see Iran as similar.

Player News

Mahdavikia's latest loan move is back to the Premier League with perennial relegation-escapers Reading.

Dual national Safari suffers a broken foot and is out for the season for club and country (whether that be Iran or Sweden) until 2011.

Squad

New Zealand was my debut, I didn't know what tactics I would play, and it was only the one match, so I generally picked the best 23 + 3 goalkeepers last time. Now with two matches coming, and with 3 players injured, I will use the free space to fill in areas where we are light.

Midfielders Karimi, Nikbakht and Safari are all injured. They are replaced with 3 uncapped players: Jalal Akbari (AMC, Sepahan), Dariush Almasi (DL, FC Dordrecht) and Ali Alizadeh (DL/DC/ST, Esteghlal).

First Team

----10---9---
-------8------
11-----------7
-------6-------
3---5---4---2
-------1-------

* = change

1: Islami* - If Mirzapour ever gets injured, any replacement will be a relative unknown, so I need to test keepers. This guy is an uncapped 24-year-old.

2: Kaebi - At home against a weak Japan, I stick with the more attacking full back in Kaebi.

3: Al-Balawi* - The young uncapped left-back has been putting in top performances for Charleroi since joining at the start of the year. Has scored in all of his first 3 games this season too.

4: Nosrati - All 3 capped centre-backs are equally good. Nosrati is feeling superb so I pick him.

5: Mirtoroghi - He has less caps than Kameli-Mofrad, so he stays as Nosrati's partner for his 14th cap.

6: Nekounam (c) - Dortmund asked that our captain only play for 45 minutes.

7: Kazemian* - Mahdavikia is a shoe-in, so I want to see some of this winger-cum-striker.

11: Khaziravi* - I was undecided between him and Zadmahmoud, but decided to compliment Kazemian's pace with Khaziravi's.

8: Jabbari* - Karimi's star replacement in the New Zealand match earns a start.

9: Asghari* - Borhani is our only striker so no need to start him in friendlies. First, we must find strikers who can score at all before worrying about how well they may partner Borhani. Asghari scored Iran's only goal at the World Cup, as a sub at the end of the last match, and he's owning it in Iran's league, so he deserves his first start.

10: Fatemi - Brings aerial and physical strength to the front line.

Friendly

(59th) Iran 0 - 1 Japan (94th)

With pacy wingers, I experimented with playing long balls up to them, but it didn't really work, not at first anyway. Japan were fortunate not to concede, and my players made some really cutting long balls and passes after they scored.

Despite leaving out the keeper, the goalscorer, the creator and, for the second half, the captain, they only scored from a set piece, with dangerman Nakamura successfully marked out of the game (just like when I was Tunisia manager).

There are a lot of positives and things continue to take shape.


v Iraq (A) - 8/9/2010

A relatively competitive fixture right next door.

News

Mirzapour and Kameli-Mofrad (D) leave the squad due to injury, Vahid Taleblou (GK, Esteghlal Tehran, 2 caps) comes in.

First Team

----10---9---
11----8----7
-------6-------
3---5---4---2
-------1-------

* = change

1: Islami

2: Kaebi (c)

3: Al-Balawi - He could be Iran's left-back for the next decade, so a 2nd cap will only help.

4: Nosrati - With Mofrad out, the only other choice is the uncapped Alizadeh. Better to let the central defence build their relationship and for Alizadeh to maybe come on as a sub.

5: Mirtoroghi - See 4.

6: Teymourian* - Teymourian is frustrated, stuck in Bolton's reserves, but he's done fine in the last two matches and could do with a full game. So let's see how the team does without their captain, who's getting a friendly reminder after an unimpressive 45 minutes that everyone has competition.

7: Kazemian - Could've done better, gets another chance.

11: Zadmahmoud* - Khaziravi made a lot of key passes, so Zad has to keep up.

8: Khaziravi* - Speak of the devil. He can play AMC as well. Jabbari's first two matches showed enough, so I want to see how Khaziravi does in this position.

9: Baneahmad* - Came on against Japan and had a couple of chances. Asghari wasn't great and might do better coming on as sub.

10: Oladi* - He has the attributes, but has only had a couple of appearances, usually off the bench, every year. Has yet to score for Iran.

Friendly

(107th) Iraq 2 - 0 Iran (59th)

(Really 1-0, as at the end I moved a centre-back (Nosrati) to central midfield but forgot to change the game's marking to zonal. Combined with a throw-in, this somehow led to the goalscorer being completely unmarked and ignored.)

Again the opponents took the lead through a set piece and then held on to it, though were more threatening despite being ahead, unlike Japan who just defended like it was the only thing they'll ever win. Despite being only a friendly, I was very angry with the players at half-time and full-time. They weren't good enough, never really in the game.


Conclusions

With the 3 friendlies before the Asian Cup campaign done, here's how I see the team:

We only lost 1-0 at home to a (currently bad) Big 5 team and 1-0 away to a tricky team, without starting our #1 keeper, striker, or playmaker, and also mostly without the captain. When I did try, in my first match, we won 3-0 away.

I gave 4 debuts: Al-Balawi (LB), Zadmahmoud (ML) and Jabbari (AMC) had impressive debuts and did fine after. Islami (GK) was so-so.

First-choice goalkeeper and defence is obvious.

Midfield and up front isn't as certain. Fatemi was the only striker to come out looking decent. In two hours he won headers and made passes, but didn't score. He's old and not fast though, so it would still be a worry if Borhani got injured. Perhaps an option would be to play Borhani as a lone striker, with Karimi and Jabbari together in attacking midfield in a christmas tree formation.

We should really win our qualification group easily, as the opponents will be a bit easier.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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Asian Cup Qualifiers - The First Half

Lebanon host the first set of qualifiers. Our first match is Lebanon away, then Brunei 2 days later, then Uzbekistan 2 days later. With Brunei being the pushovers, it's evident I should play my strongest team first, a second-XI against Brunei, then the strongest team again in the third match.

v Lebanon (A) - 13/10/2010

Lebanon are capable of being tricky, they can get the odd win or draw against a weaker side, but fall to the better teams. Perhaps at home they could dig in and get a draw, but a win is expected.

Player News

Al-Balawi is injured for possibly all qualifiers. Sattar Zare replaces him, since he can play left-back sort of.

Ali Karimi is still injured, so right-winger Siavash Akbarpour comes in.

Squad

Goalkeepers
Ebrahim Mirzapour (Le Havre, 90 appearances)
Hasan Roudbarian (Paas, 4)
Mehdi Islami (Paas, 2)

Defenders
Mohammad Nosrati (Derby County, 65)
Hosain Kaebi (Club Brugge, 64)
Jalal Kameli Mofrad (FC Twente, 42)
Rasoul Mirtoroghi (Bursaspor, 15)
Ali Alizadeh (Esteghlal Tehran, 0)

Midfielders
Javad Nekounam (Borussia Dortmund, 100)
Mehdi Mahdavikia (Werder Bremen, 120)
Mojtaba Jabbari (Hammarby IF, 3)
Andranik Teymourian (Bolton Wanderers, 37)
Alireza Vahedi Nikbakht (Troyes, 66)
Javad Kazemian (Al-Jazira, 34)
Mohammad Alavi (VfL Bochum, 21)
Mojahed Khaziravi (Foulad, 17)
Hojatollah Zadmahmoud (Esteghlal Ahvaz, 2)
Siavash Akbarpour (Charleroi, 8)
Abbas Khorasani (Sorkh-Pooshan Tehran, 0)
Sattar Zare (Bargh, 22)

Strikers
Arash Borhani (Middlesbrough, 45)
Faraz Fatemi (OFI Crete, 5)
Mehrdad Oladi (1. FC Koln, 10)
Hadi Asghari (Paas, 4)
Shahin Baneahmad (Persepolis, 3)

Player News

Serial injury specialist Nikbakht is pulled out the squad immediately again, after tearing his hamstring for Troyes. I replace him with Saeid Lotfi (Esteghlal Tehran, 15), a centre-back (and allegedly a central midfielder) who could also play left-back if desperate.

First Team

----10---9---
11----8----7
-------6-------
3---5---4---2
-------1-------

* = change from 'strongest XI' New Zealand line-up

1: Mirzapour
2: Kaebi - Out of form for club, in-form for Iran.
3: Alizadeh* - Al-Balawi is injured, so it's a debut for Alizadeh who has been solid for club in Iran and in the Asian Champions League.
4: Nosrati
5: Mirtoroghi
6: Nekounam (c)
7: Mahdavikia
11: Zadmahmoud
8: Jabbari* - With Karimi injured, there's no question who plays here.
9: Borhani - Has scored 5 in his last 4 Premier League games!
10: Fatemi

Asian Cup Qualifiers - Group F

(112th) Lebanon 0 - 1 Iran (46th)

We got away with it. Lebanon were the dominant team in the first half, but they got a man sent off after just 20 minutes, and we got an 88th minute goal from a free kick - an Oladi header, 13 minutes after he came on, his first Iran goal.

Our keeper had to make a couple of saves. It's an unhappy win and reminds me too much of England for comfort.

Uzbekistan's dire wastefulness meant they only beat Brunei 1-0.


v Brunei (N) - 15/10/2010

Brunei are the whipping boys.

First Team

I know against teams like this you effectively have to play 2 defenders and 8 attackers. Chances are they won't even try to get in our half.

----10---9---
11----8----7
-------6-------
3-----------2
-----5---4----
-------1-------

* = change

1: Mirzapour - Despite the opposition, changing a whole team is asking for trouble, because if Brunei have one shot and the keeper isn't up to it, that's a potential huge 1-0 loss. So for this one I'll keep the keeper in place to keep their goals at 0.
2: Kaebi (c)
3: Zare* - The uncapped Zare is the only left wing-back, so may as well.
4: Alizadeh* - Did well last match.
5: Kameli-Mofrad* - Needs a game to perk him up.
6: Alavi* - The more attacking option between him and Teymourian.
7: Kazemian*
11: Zadmahmoud - I'm not happy with his last couple of matches. He doesn't make key passes, so he'll probably be dropped.
8: Akbari* - An uncapped Iranian league player.
9: Baneahmad* - See 10.
10: Asghari* - It's time for the two young 21-year-olds to show what they have, if anything. They're perhaps equally good.

Asian Cup Qualifiers - Group F

(46th) Iran 3 - 0 Brunei (133rd)

Only 1-0 at half time, but it was a boring match as the game was over at 2-0 and we both eased off. A late penalty made it 3-0.

Asghari got a goal, Baneahmad got an assist apparently. Asghari had the slightly better game.

But in these kinds of matches it doesn't matter who plays well, rather who plays not so well. Zadmahmoud missed 1 in every 3 passes and only made 1 key pass, though he won the dubious penalty. Khaziravi, who came on in the last 10 minutes completely out of position at right wing-back, got as many key passes as him.

The supporters actually complained about the scoreline, not really taking the context of the match into consideration.

Uzbekistan failed to beat Lebanon. Both teams in the 0-0 draw had nearly identical match stats.


v Uzbekistan (N) 17/10/2016

Uzbekistan exited the group stage of the 2007 Asian Cup with a win, draw and loss. Then in World Cup qualifying they beat China by a point to get to the final group stage, but finished bottom of their group with only 1 win and 1 draw, both at home, but all were tight matches. Incidentally in their last match they lost 2-1 away to Iraq in a friendly.

A draw would be acceptable, but we're favourites to win.

First Team

----10---9---
11----8----7
-------6-------
3---5---4---2
-------1-------

* = change from Lebanon match

1: Mirzapour
2: Kaebi
3: Alizadeh
4: Nosrati
5: Mirtoroghi
6: Nekounam (c)
7: Mahdavikia
11: Khaziravi* - Zadmahmoud isn't performing how I like, so Khaziravi can establish a place.
8: Jabbari
9: Borhani
10: Fatemi


Asian Cup Qualifiers - Group F

(86th) Uzbekistan 2 - 1 Iran (46th)

2 disallowed Iran goals, player idiocy, keeper mistakes from both sides leading to goals. The score could've been anything. It's impossible to review the match. So it can **** off.

Uzbekistan's goal came from my players just backing off them, which allowed them to pass freely and shoot when they felt like it. So now the closing down option has gone from 'often' to 'if I see anyone not closing down every second they're in possession, I will kill you with my bare hands and stick your head on a pike outside the training grounds as an example".

Lebanon only managed to beat Brunei at home with a last-minute own goal.


Mid-campaign table

Uzbekistan - 7
Iran - 6

---------------------
Lebanon - 4
Brunei - 0

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2011 Asian Cup Qualifiers - Second Half

The first 3 qualifiers were hosted by Lebanon, which was cool-to-warm. But now we're in Brunei, which is near the equator so it's in the 30s. We're fortunate that our match against the weak Brunei is inbetween the two better teams, it's a fixture list that can decide who finishes where, because two XIs will be needed to cope with exhaustion.

Squad

Out: Akbari, Akbarpour
In: Karimi, Al-Balawi


v Lebanon (N) - 25/10/2010

We were lucky to beat them away, but now we are on neutral ground. And I'm still enraged about the Uzbekistan game. Anything but a win will **** everyone off.

Player News

Backup keeper Roudbarian is injured. I replace him with the uncapped 22-year-old Alireza Haghighi from Persepolis.

Kaebi gets injured. I bring in a young uncapped right back/midfielder called Mojtaba Ensafi who has had a good few games in the Iranian league but also has a few good attributes.

Zare is injured, so I bring back Akbarpour.

First Team

----10---9---
11----8----7
-------6-------
3---5---4---2
-------1-------

* = change

1: Mirzapour
2: Nosrati* - Kaebi is out of the squad. Nosrati can play at right-back, but he is a defender, not an attacker like Kaebi.
3: Alizadeh - Al-Balawi is still recovering.
4: Mirtoroghi
5: Kameli-Mofrad*
6: Nekounam (c)
7: Mahdavikia - He's in a very low mood after a mistake for his club.
11: Khaziravi
8: Karimi* - Jabbari has not played well enough to keep his place, even though Karimi isn't match fit.
9: Borhani - Scored a goal against Uzbekistan that was disallowed.
10: Fatemi - See 9.

Asian Cup Qualifiers - Group F

Iran 0 - 0 Lebanon

20 shots.Only 5 on target. Man of the Match was... my goalkeeper...?

This is the most enraged I have been in my entire career.

Given the close nature of the result away from home, this confirms we are about as good as Lebanon.

Uzbekistan thrash 10-man Brunei.


v Brunei (A) - 27/10/2010

Brunei have been close to getting a draw, but anything other than a win will still be an embarrassment.

First Team

----10---9---
11----8----7
-------6-------
3------------2
-----5---4----
-------1-------

* = change from last Brunei game

1: Mirzapour (c)
2: Ensafi* - Debut.
3: Alizadeh* - Al-Balawi should be fit for Uzebkistan.
4: Lotfi*
5: Alavi* - Can play as makeshift centre-back so I'll put him here.
6: Teymourian* - The more attacking option between him and Teymourian
7: Kazemian - Was a terror against Brunei last time.
11: Khorsani* - I might change the midfield around against Uzebkistan, so I'll give Khorsani a debut.
8: Jabbari* - He's a backup for now.
9: Baneahmad
10: Asghari

Asian Cup Qualifiers - Group F

Brunei 0 - 1 Iran

This match did not help my mood, only winning 1-0 with a late, late goal. But we've seen that this happened to the two other teams so in context it's just good that we won, and at least we beat them easy enough last time.

I was forced to bring on a few first team players relatively early rather than fully rest them, though one of them (Fatemi) got the goal.

Uzbekistan beat Lebanon, which means we both have qualified. But there are no celebrations in the locker room. Only if we comfortably beat Uzbekistan can we end on a high note.


v Uzbekistan (N) - 29/10/2010

We've both qualified, but Iran are 2nd. To at least end qualification top of the table, we'll have to win by 2 goals. Given the previous result against them, this is doable, but I'm not exactly filled with confidence right now.

Player News

Jabbari tore his calf muscle against Brunei, so Akbari comes back.

Mirzapour was injured in training, so he's unavailable. I consider Roudbarian to be the second-choice, but he was injured a few days ago. No replacement is called up this time, so it's one of the two young keepers starting tomorrow.

First Team

----10---9---
11--8---6---7
3---5---4---2
-------1-------

A trap that I've learnt is important to avoid, but easy to fall into, is not changing the tactics even though the dynamics of a squad changed.

In this example, I had been playing a 4-4-2 diamond, but the attacking central midfielder is not making any impact. In fact, looking back, I can see I've subbed off this position in the last 3 non-Brunei matches. Additionally, Alavi (a central midfielder) has been doing well when he's played, domestically and internationally.

The logical conclusion then is to play two central midfielders who will both support each other when deciding to attack and defend, but this sort of thing that can be missed. You can end up no longer playing your best 11 in its best formation, and put down poor performances to poor player form rather than unfitting tactics.

There are a few major changes as I read out the team at the end of the final meeting.

* = change from Lebanon match

1: Haghighi* - Islami has played a couple of matches, so I'll try Haghighi, who has come through the Under-21s and been called up before.
2: Nosrati - The only one in this position who isn't tired, because I rested him for this match.
3: Al-Balawi* - See 2.
4: Mirtoroghi - See 2.
5: Kameli-Mofrad - See 2.
6: Nekounam (c)
8: Alavi*
7: Karimi* - Mahdahvikia always seems to play with his back to goal, which means he never passes it into the danger area, wasting major opportunities. Hopefully Karimi will run at defences and make chances when he gets the ball, rather than waste it. The wingers need to penetrate.
11: Khaziravi - See 2.
9: Fatemi
10: Oladi*

"...and the strikers: Fatemi and Oladi. That's all, see you tomorrow."

No chance for an awkward silence as Iran's only major goalscorer is dropped. The fact is: Borhani has only scored one goal in qualifying, and in an hour against Brunei didn't do anything. Oladi has always made an impact coming on. On form, Oladi and Fatemi should be picked.

I talk with Borhani later and tell him he is in the first team if he plays well for his club. Because if he is on form for Iran, we will challenge for the Asian Cup. If he isn't, we won't. He's determined to get back in.


Asian Cup Qualifiers - Group F

Iran 2 - 0 Uzbekistan

We dominated, but could've done a bit better. Khaziravi was Man of the Match, scoring in 2 minutes. Our second was an own goal, as a defender headered a ball in his own half and it sailed backward past his keeper.

Of the changes: Oladi did fine without actually registering a shot, while Borhani came on and did ok but both his shots were off target. Karimi did exactly what was needed and was penetrating. The two central midfielders brought more stability to the side. Haghighi wasn't tested.

Lebanon beat Brunei 2-0.


Final table

Iran - 13
Uzbekistan - 13

-------------------
Lebanon - 8
Brunei - 0

(Head to head: Iran 3-2 Uzbekistan)

The job is done, but I will be worried if/when we go up against one of the Big 5.

Now I have nothing to do for nearly 9 months.


Australia 2011 Asian Cup Qualifiers

Logo-Asian-Football-Confederation_1810061003152.jpg

Japan again SCRAPED through right at the end. In a group that contained Indonesia, Myanmar and Iraq, they made it as the one best third-placed teams in qualifying on GOALS SCORED, after losing away to Indonesia on the final day, who leapfrogged them into 2nd.

India finally reached their first Asian Cup since 1984, after coming so close last time, with a shock win over World Cup finalists Qatar, which means World Cup finalists Qatar fail to qualify.

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Iran At The 2011 Asian Cup Finals

29og7kj.jpg

5 years into my career, I'm experiencing a major tournament, and Australia. Could I make a name for myself here, or is it all too soon?

As hosts and the best team in Asia, the Aussies are hot favourites. South Korea (defending champions), Saudi Arabia and ourselves are the other favourites. If Japan, scraping through qualification again, don't get out of the group stage, does that mean they're out of the 'Big 5'?

Historically, Iran get out the group stage, face South Korea in the quarter-final, and (if they get that far) finish third. The Iranian F.A. said as much - a quarter-final is the minimum. The fans, used to not winning the Asian Cup, are just sitting back and hoping for the best.

We are drawn in a group with China, Iraq and North Korea, the top 2 advance. Topping the group or coming second doesn't really matter, as the journey to champions would be equally hard, but no chance of facing rivals South Korea until the semis.

Player News

Borhani won Asian Player of the Year for his performances for Premier League Middlesbrough, but went through a 3-month dry spell before scoring on the last day of the season. He scored 18 and made 9 in 41 games.

FC Koln's Oladi moved to AZ Alkmaar on loan and scored 5 in 14. His loan was extended to the end of next season.

Kaebi left Club Brugge and joined Lille for £3.5m in January. He was put further up to the right wing and lit up Ligue 1, scoring 4 and making 5 in 17 games.

Iranian-Swede Safari suffered another major injury in his first match back, damaging his cruciate ligaments. He will be out for 7-9 months, which is the entire Swedish season and the Asian Cup.

The aging Fatemi's contract expired and he was released by his club, with no sign of finding a new one, and will arrive at the tournament with no training or match practice.

Incredibly, Zare retired entirely from football at just 29 years old. He recently earned his 23rd cap under me against Brunei.

Final 22-Man Squad

1 Ebrahim Mirzapour GK (32, Le Havre, 95 caps)
2 Mehdi Mahdavikia WBR/MR/AMR (34, Crystal Palace, 125 caps)
3 Yahia Al-Balawi DL (22, Charleroi, 3 caps)
4 Rasoul Mirtoroghi DC (27, Bursaspor, 20 caps)
5 Ali Alizadeh DC/DL/ST (30, Esteghlal Tehran, 5 caps)
6 Javad Nekounam DM/MC (30, Borussia Dortmund, 104 caps)
7 Mehrdad Oladi ST (26, AZ Alkmaar, 14 caps)
8 Ali Karimi AMC/AMR/MR (32, Sporting CP, 114 caps)
9 Arash Borhani ST (27, Middlesbrough, 50 caps)
10 Faraz Fatemi ST (33, Unattached, 10 caps)
11 Alireza Vahedi Nikbakht AML (31, Vitória F.C., 66 caps)
12 Hasan Roudbarian GK (33, Odd Grenland, 5 caps)
13 Hosain Kaebi WBR/DR/AMR (25, Lille, 67 caps)
14 Mojahed Khaziravi ML/AMC (30, Foolad, 22 caps)
15 Mohammad Alavi MC/DM (29, VfL Bochum, 24 caps)
16 Andranik Teymourian MC/DM (28, Bolton, 39 caps)
17 Hadi Asghari ST (22, Paas, 6 caps)
18 Vahid Amraei ST (22, Persepolis, uncapped)
19 Jalal Kameli-Mofrad DC/SW (30, FC Twente, 45 caps)
20 Mohammad Nosrati DC/DR/DM/MC (29, Derby County, 69 caps)
21 Alireza Haghighi GK (23, Persepolis, 1 cap)
22 Hojatollah Zadmahmoud AML (27, Esteghlal Ahvaz, 5)

A few choices I had to make was in midfield and up front.

Mahdavikia or Kazemian? Kazemian is a rung below Mahdavikia, but Mahdavikia had a poor season at Premier League Reading, though he was being played at right-back or right forward in Steve Coppell's 4-2-4 formation. He's more likely to change a game than Kazemian.

Zadmahmoud or Akbari? I felt we had a couple of players who could fill in in attacking central midfield who would do just as well as Akbari.

Up front backup? Baneahmad can score when he hits the target it seems, at club level anyway, but I'm not comfortable with his lack of physical ability. Amraei is his strike partner at club level, but I feel he gets more involved. Better to gamble than stick with mediocrity.


v China (N) - 18/7/2011

China were unbeaten in the Asian Cup 4 years ago, including draws with Australia and Saudi Arabia. They missed out on the final round of World Cup qualification in 2008 by a point, thanks to a draw and a loss against Uzbekistan, who we're evidently better than.

First Team

------7---9-----
14--15--6---8
3----4---20--13
--------1--------

1: Mirzapour
13: Kaebi
20: Nosrati
4: Mirtoroghi
3: Al-Balawi
8: Karimi
6: Nekounam (c)
15: Alavi
14: Khaziravi
9: Borhani
10: Oladi
- My regular Fatemi is 33 and showing his age even more, since he's without a club so hasn't been training or having matches. Oladi is 26 and, if both strikers are on form, Oladi would get picked. He has to hit form though.

Asian Cup - Group B

(70th) China 3 - 2 Iran (53rd)

We went down 3-0 in half an hour. Borhani yet again missed sitters. We would've won if he scored like he does in the Premier League. What is wrong with him? Oladi scored both our goals and usurps Borhani as Iran's reliable goalscorer.

Alavi got injured and probably won't be available for the remaining group games.

Iraq beat 10-man North Korea 3-0.


v North Korea (N) - 22/7/2011

Korea DPR were banned for 2007, but made the playoffs for World Cup qualification. They took 4 points off Japan. They were in the same World Cup qualifying group as Iran, and got a home draw against them, though lost 4-1 away. Korea DPR went on to lose 6-0 in the away leg of their playoff against eventual finalists Qatar. In qualifying for this tournament, they did get a draw against Saudi Arabia on neutral ground, but also against Northern Mariana islands...

First Team

-------7---9-----
14--16---6---8
3----19--4---13
----------1-------

* = change

1: Mirzapour
13: Kaebi
4: Mirtoroghi
19: Kameli-Mofrad*
- The defending against China was unacceptable. Nosrati may be the senior, but one of them has to go, and he was slightly the worse I think.
3: Al-Balawi
8: Karimi
6: Nekounam (c)
16: Teymourian*
- Injury forces a change
14: Khaziravi
9: Borhani
- This is his last chance, or he likely won't play in this tournament again. I specifically tell him this.
10: Oladi

Asian Cup - Group B

(53rd) Iran 3 - 1 North Korea (96th)

Again not a perfect performance, and England-levels of frailty. I told Borhani he needed a performance and he delivered. He scored the first, but the team let North Korea easily equalise within minutes. Borhani scored again, then an own goal from a defender's passback ala Paul Robinson against Croatia in the Euro 2008 qualifiers... er, I mean against Chile at the 2010 World Cup confirmed out victory. Oladi contributed two goals again: assists.


v Iraq (N) - 27/7/2011

We know about Iraq, after losing that away friendly with a second-string side. They didn't qualify for 2007, and couldn't get past South Korea in the second round of World Cup qualifying. In qualifying for this tournament, they beat Japan at home but could only draw 1-1 on neutral ground.

We're level on points with the better goal difference, so only a draw is needed. The most dangerous words in football...

The final group games aren't played at the same time, meaning we already know China beat North Korea 2-0 comfortably and that China qualify with 3 wins out of 3. So this is a battle for 2nd place, and a quarter final with either hosts and favourites Australia, or an India team that would be good enough to beat Australia away.

I personally would prefer Australia. It would be a no-lose situation... unless we lost 3-0...

First Team

------7----9-----
14--16---6--13
3----19---4--20
----------1-------

* = change

1: Mirzapour
20: Nosrati*
- With Kaebi playing further up, Nosrati comes back in as right-back.
4: Mirtoroghi
19: Kameli-Mofrad
3: Al-Balawi
13: Kaebi*
- Karimi has been ineffective and non-existant in the last two matches. I can't ignore Kaebi's brilliant form for Lille as a right-winger.
6: Nekounam (c)
16: Teymourian
14: Khaziravi
9: Borhani
10: Oladi


Asian Cup - Group B

(77th) Iraq 0 - 0 Iran (53rd)

The England 'Laws of Football' states that when the 'better' team need a draw against a team they should otherwise easily beat, the score shall be 0-0.

3 fouls in a minute meant Iraq went down to 10 men early, but yet again our keeper was needed to save us and the inferior team had too much of the match, though we struck the woodwork twice as our strikers misfired.


Final Group B Standings

China - 9
Iran - 4 (+1 GD)

-----------------------
Iraq - 4 (-3 GD)
North Korea - 0

Quarter-finals were a minimum, so at least I can expect a contract offer after the tournament.


Quarter Final v Australia (A) - 30/7/2011

The hosts are the strongest team in 'Asia', reaching the second round of the World Cup. They were finalists in the last Asian Cup and expect to win this time. They won all their group games against Uzbekistan, Jordan and India, and have yet to concede a goal. They beat Uzbekistan at home about as easy as we beat them on neutral ground.

A change in formation may be required just to deal with the laughable defensive frailties, but especially so against Australia who will be heavy favourites.

First Team

----7--9--18---
14-----------13
--------6------
3--19---4--20
--------1-------

After much thought, I decided on 4-3-3. Our attacking has never been good enough and chances too few, so I've decided to overload the attacking area. Khaziravi (14) must play as he's been our best player (in my opinion), so there needs to be wingers. Plus a lot of defenders (i.e. 5) to hopefully deal with the defensive problems. The ball will go to the wingers who will run with it and either draw a foul or get it into the box. I want to avoid resorting to long balls though due to aerial weakness.

* = change

1: Mirzapour
20: Nosrati
4: Mirtoroghi
19: Kameli-Mofrad
3: Al-Balawi
6: Nekounam (c)
13: Kaebi
14: Khaziravi
18: Amraei*
- A choice between young and old as the third striker. I went with young. He made his debut as sub against Iraq.
9: Borhani
10: Oladi

Australia are without their goalkeeper and Tim Cahill through injury.

The popular Persian fans have come out in even more force, and are arguably out-cheering the Aussies. It's a supercharged night, with 1997's encounter still remembered with great pain by Australia.

No doubt if Iran were to shock Australia once more, we would see a repeat of Aussie pundits crying on live TV.

Asian Cup - Quarter-Final

Australia 0 - 2 Iran

A performance to be proud of!! Who knew 4-3-3 would produce a disciplined defense?

Australia were on the attack immediately and within seconds could've led. But with deflections, saves and luck, we were going into half-time 0-0 and had increasingly more of the game, with the 5 attackers passing it around nicely. Then Oladi got wide and passed into the path of an unmarked Nekounam run, and he fired the ball into the net with the keeper's view blocked in the 43rd minute.

I felt pulling back and defending the lead would play into Australia's hands, so I mainly stuck with the tactics. But Australia pushed further, so I changed by pulling one of the strikers back into 'the hole' and had the players launch fast long balls, because the young deputy keeper was not liking the ball near him.

By this point the defence were in sync, with the Aussies being forced to long-range shots.

Consequently the keeper, making his international debut, botched a headed clearance. Borhani picked it up and just needed to get it on target for once, and he did. With 15 or so minutes left, and the Aussies still breaking through for butt-clenching moments, now was the time to defend the lead, and the rest of the match. I played a sweeper, 4 defenders and 4 wingbacks and defensive midfielders, and Borhani as an attacking midfielder, and that did it. What a result!!!


Semi-final v Indonesia - 2/8/2011

You might think this is a walkover, but Indonesia have been improving over the years and are capable of winning the match. They joint-hosted the last Asian Cup and only lost by one goal in all their matches, despite being against South Korea, Japan and dark horses Oman. They were competitive in World Cup and Asian Cup qualifying, boasting a draw against South Korea and a win over Japan.

In this Asian Cup, their 3-1 loss against the U.A.E. is their only negative; they also got a big win over Kuwait, a draw with South Korea and beat Japan.

Player News

Fatemi's career is over. He came on against Australia after the second goal but came off injured 10 minutes later with damaged cruciate ligaments. I suppose he had a nice final run.

Mirzapour gashed his head in the final seconds. He's out for the semi and likely the final or 3rd place playoff.

Mirtoroghi picked up a yellow and will miss the semi-final.

First Team

If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and 4-4-2 seemed broke anyway. I'll just tweak the 4-3-3 so it's less defensive.

----7--9--8---
14----6------2
3--19--20--13
-------21------

* = change

21: Haghighi* - The two backup keepers have strengths and weakness in different areas. I ask the staff, and they're unanimous in believing the young 1-cap wonder Haghighi should play.
13: Kaebi
20: Nosrati
19: Kameli-Mofrad
3: Al-Balawi
2: Mahdivikia*
- With Mirtoroghi suspended, Nosrati fills in, which means Kaebi is back at right-back (funnily enough it was his defensive display that shone through in the last match). Mahdivikia and Karimi are the only right-wingers to choose from.
6: Nekounam (c)
14: Khaziravi
8: Karimi*
- The last roll of the dice to get Karimi performing is to play him neither as a winger or attacker, but both. Amraei was alright, but if Karimi performs he will change the next two matches.
9: Borhani
10: Oladi

Indonesia are without one of their big names, though he hasn't had a notable tournament anyway.

Asian Cup - Semi-Final

Indonesia 1 - 1 Iran AET (1-1 FT) (2-3 on pens)

0-0 at half time, Borhani scored right from kick-off, but they hit back on the hour mark. After that, we were shut out.

Haghighi will be criticised for the goal, but was a penalty shootout hero saving 3 of the 5 penalties. I brought on Alavi to take one and he skied it. All but one of the players played 120 minutes, because all but one of the attackers were penalty takers too so I wouldn't take them off. Borhani ran through on goal in the last minute and had an awful shot, hopefully just tiredness.

The final will be played against our group opponents China.

56cfe1350081bca7f7e7b8d0a0e4d4f5.jpg


Final v China - 6/8/2011

I always suspected China might reach the final. After beating us, they destroyed Iraq 6-0 (2-0 up before Iraq had a man sent off), then easily beat North Korea 2-0 and a decent India 3-0. They beat Saudi Arabia in the semis, but only by taking a sudden lead in the 2nd minute and defending it against a wasteful attack. Which was not too dissimilar to our match. They may have won 3-2, but they took a wacky 3-0 lead after half an hour then were second-best the rest of the match, and have Borhani's inaccuracy to thank for winning (something we will now have to accept is part of his international game).

They're the only team to beat us, and we're the only team to score again them. If our defence isn't leaky, this is a game we should win.

If we win, it'll be our first Asian cup in 35 years and will make us record holders with 4 cups. Iran have never lost a final.

If China win, it'll be their first ever Asian cup. China have never won a final, losing in 1984 and 2004.

First Team

---7--9--18--
14----------13
-------6-------
3--19--4--20
-------21-------

* = change

21: Haghighi - Mirzapour is still injured. I would've played him if he just had a knock. At first I thought I was going to change backup keepers, but then remembered Haghighi making a couple of good saves so have stuck with him.
20: Nosrati
20: Mirtoroghi*
19: Kameli-Mofrad
3: Al-Balawi
6: Nekounam (c)
13: Kaebi*
- Mahdivikia did ok, but Kaebi can do better.
14: Khaziravi
18: Amraei*
- Karimi was no good in this position, though it wasn't a good game for the forwards anyway. Amraei was decent in his debut.
9: Borhani
10: Oladi

This is the line-up that beat Australia, but without goalkeeper Mirzapour who had a stunning game and made the difference.

China are without two of their defenders.


Asian Cup - Final

China 3 - 0 Iran

It wouldn't have mattered what formation or tactics I used. Their strikers are just ridiculous and will score.

China dominated at first and a change in tactics was required. We had a spell but although the ball was in danger areas, none of it resulted in actual shots. China just gradually added to their scoreline as the match went on, to make it look like they pummeled us all match when it was more just a case of we couldn't get through them and their strikers have been on form all tournament.

The team return dejected but to a sizeable gathering of fans, most of whom have never seen Iran get past the semis, with the bosses asking me to come to headquarters to discuss the new contract.

Even deputy keeper Alireza Haghighi gained a fan.

 http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2015/01/19/24D6D88800000578-2916684-image-a-40_1421673606421.jpg

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Luke Cro   

Nice to see, someone still plays FM2007 :) Is there any transfer update for the game, for this season, or seasons from 2010 onwards?

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2010/11 Review Part 1 - Club Football

Selected Summer Transfers

MAIN-Gareth-Bale.jpg

Nuri Sahin - Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea - £24.5m
David Silva - Lyon to Atlético Madrid - £14.5m
Xabi Alonso - AC Milan to Manchester United - £14.5m
Eid Youssef - Getafe to Borussia Dortmund - £12.5m
Renato Augusto - Corinthians to Olympiakos - £11.75m
Alexandre Pato - Barcelona to Juventus - £11m
Emerse Faé - Nantes to AC Milan - £10.5m
Marcelo - Real Madrid to Portsmouth - £8.5m
Theo Walcott - Arsenal to Newcastle United - £4.3m
Gareth Bale - Southampton to Arsenal - £2.5m

Selected Winter Transfers

scottparkerliverpool2011_726.jpg?width=5

Wesley Sneijder - AC Milan back to Real Madrid - £33m
Alberto Zapater - Lazio to Chelsea - £20.5m
Sulley Ali Muntari - Lyon to Aston Villa - £19.5m
Radamel Falcao - River Plate to Valencia - £19m
Riccardo Montolivo - Fiorentina to Barcelona - £18.25m
Francisco Guillermo Ochoa - Inter Milan to Manchester United - £16.75m
Ismael Aissati - Aston Villa to AC Milan - £15m
Kevin Doyle - West Ham United to Manchester United - £10.5m + Scott Parker to West Ham United


Awards

Real Madrid's Argentine attacker Gonzalo Higuain won World Player of the Year. Arsenal's young Mexican attacker Carlos Vela came second, with Inter Milan's German striker Miroslav Klose third. Just as Arsenal's opposition were beginning to look forward to the ageing and eventual decline of Thierry Henry, Vela is coming in to continue the domination.

Another Argentine, Chelsea's striker Rodrigo Palacio, won the Ballon d'Or European Football of the Year. Atlético Madrid's Spanish striker Fernando Torres and Lyon's internationally-neglected Brazilian striker Fred came 2nd and 3rd.


European Cups

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Inter Milan and Arsenal played one of the greatest European Cup finals in history, as two ridiculously strong teams worth £250m collided in a 7-goal thriller which included a 3-goal comeback, end to end football, 43 shots, and one of the great Europe-winning goals.

On the one side, Italy's dominant club looking to finally complete their rise and win their first European Cup since the back-to-back trophies in the 1960s. An Inter team containing Zlatan, Klose, Stankovic, Heinze, Malouda, Ustari, Joao Moutinho, Pepe, Maxi Rodriguez, Maicon, Walter Samuel and Arsenal's former captain Patrick Vieira and former starlet Nicklas Bendtner, led by Roberto Mancini.

On the other side, England's dominant club looking to finally complete their rise and win their first European Cup ever after losing back-to-back finals in 2006 and 2007. An Arsenal team containing Henry, Vela, Akinfeev, Gilberto Silva, Robin Van Persie, Fábregas, Kolo Touré, Gareth Bale, Gallas, Clichy and Champions League hero Adebayor.

Arsenal were 3-0 up in just over half an hour. It was 3-1 straight from kick-off after the third goal, and Inter eventually got it to 3-3 and extra time. The match was decided by a Robin Van Persie belter from long range right into the corner in the 116th minute.

Manchester United and Chelsea were in the semi-finals together for the third time in 4 years.

Real Madrid failed to get out of the group stage, so had to make do with winning the UEFA Cup.

Heart of Midlothian made the group stage for the first time ever, thanks to winning the SPL. They finished bottom below Inter Milan, PSV and Grasshopper, but all were tight games they could've won or nearly, even Inter away.

Basel topped their group above Barcelona, dangerous-at-home side Rangers, and Lens.


England

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Premier League

Arsenal absolutely dominated the entire season, thanks both to their talent and all the other teams taking points off each other in a gigantic battle for 2nd and the top 4. Arsenal were top after 4 games and never left, not losing until January against Man Utd, by which point they were still leading by double figures and probably weren't trying very hard.

Liverpool won the 'best of the rest' league by two points, finishing 18 points behind an Arsenal side that probably could've played a second-string for all of 2011.

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Newcastle United improved even more under former England manager Steve McClaren, thanks to the permanent signing of young star Theo Walcott, who got 23 goals in 29 games. Newcastle finished 3rd and in a Champions League spot.

Hot property Ronald Koeman also got Man City into a Champions League place on the final day, with Man Utd failing to win their last game.

Roy Keane's Manchester United took a step back by finishing 5th, albeit still giving strong showings in Europe. Keane solved the goalkeeping problem with van der Sar announcing it would be his last season as a player. Inter Milan's Ochoa settled in immediately, but came perhaps half a season too late. They have a really strong squad for next season, though. Rooney didn't play a single game this season and is in the reserves.

Mourinho's Chelsea had a bad season finishing in 7th, below Blackburn Rovers.

Martin Jol was sacked by Tottenham after the club went further down the table to 10th. They replaced him with Valencia manager and former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez.

David Moyes' Preston North End had a stellar first Premier League season, finishing well above relegation in 12th thanks to some shrewd signings. Top Hungarian international defender Maté, a free transfer, was their best player. Chelsea loanee Scott Sinclair played so well he was called up by England manager Beardsley and earned a debut. Another free transfer who did well was some guy called Dimitri Payet. Moyes left at the end of the season to take charge of Celtic, being replaced by Sammy Lee.

Wigan sacked Paul Jewell before Christmas, the man who took them from League One to the Premier League in 4 years then kept them there as a steadily improving midtable side.

Roy Hodgson retired after taking Leicester City from bottom of the Championship to 1 point above relegation safety in the Premier League. Steve Bruce returned from his working holiday in L.A. to take charge.

West Bromwich Albion suffered 'second-season syndrome' and were relegated in 18th despite getting 41 points. They even sacked manager Tony Mowbray for it, replacing him with David Platt.

F.A. Cup

Arsenal were on course for the treble, but Liverpool thrashed them 4-1 in the final, with Dirk Kuyt getting a hat trick.

Coventry again had a major cup run, reaching the semis before losing to their first Premier League opponents, albiet from a last minute goal.

League One Stockport County reached the quarter-finals.

League Cup

Chelsea had to make do with the League Cup, beating Middlesbrough 2-0.

Football League and Non-League

Hull City reached the Premier League for the first time ever.

Watford were the lucky team that got Norway's now legendary manager Age Hareide. He took the relegated side to 3rd in the Championship, albiet 14 points below 2nd.

Crystal Palace stuck by manager Mike Newell despite finishing 20th last season, and were rewarded with a playoff victory that typified a dramatic season. They were in the bottom half in mid-season, but rose up the table and made it into the playoffs by a point despite losing on the final day. They threw away a 2-0 lead at home in the first leg of the semi-final, then again away from home, but a red card helped them win in extra time. Then in the final, they won on penalties after a 0-0 draw.

Title hopefuls Derby County sacked Alan Curbishley in less than a year with the team somehow bottom. Terry Butcher came in and saved them, but the recently relegated side will be fearful of 'doing a Plymouth'.

Alan Pardew lasted one year at Plymouth Argyle, unable to turn around the poor finish last season. They then hired a guy no one has heard of, he lost his first 7 games and they never left bottom. Relegated bottom of the Premier League in 2009, finished one place above relegation from the Championship on the final day in 2010, bottom of the Championship in 2011.

Conference side Hereford sacked Nigel Clough, but only days later he was hired by Championship Nottingham Forest. But he couldn't save them from relegation in 6 games.

Morecambe finished their first 4 years in League Two ever top of the table.

Dagenham & Redbridge finished their first year in League Two ever in the last automatic promotion place.

Ian Rush returned to management by taking charge of Mansfield, and took them from the relegation places to midtable.

Blackpool were in the bottom half when they sacked Trevor Francis after less than a year. Steve McMahon took over and they were relegated from the Football League for the first time ever, on goal difference.

Rochdale had a positive exciting season for the first time in over 40 years as they won the Conference title.

After finishing 2nd last season, AFC Wimbledon's season ended in shock relegation from the Conference South.


Spain

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With Capello and Rijkaard gone, the tables turned and Real Madrid stormed to the title, thanks to the emergence of Higuaín with 37 league goals, double the second-highest scorer, and continued performance of Robinho. Unspectacular manager Marcelino was under major pressure, especially after getting knocked out of the Champions League group stage. But they beat Barcelona 4-0 and 3-0 while never leaving top of the table, scoring 80 and conceding only 20 in the process, as well as winning the Copa Del Rey.

Stoichkov's Barcelona only managed 3rd place behind Atlético.


Scotland

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Celtic, Rangers and reigning champions Hearts were neck and neck most of the season, and it was all decided after the league split.

Celtic beat Hearts and Rangers and won the title by 10 points, as well as beating Rangers in the cup final. Gordon Strachan left at the end of the season to take charge of Real Betis in Spain, being replaced by the successful Preston manager David Moyes.

Hearts beat Rangers to the second Champions League spot by 1 goal on goal difference, thanks to a 4-1 win over them on the penultimate day.


Netherlands

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PSV won the title for the 9th time in 12 years, 12 points ahead of Feyenoord and 30 above the non-Big 3. PSV's young Seychelles defender Michael Mancienne was again incredible.


Italy

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Inter Milan won yet again, but their lead was cut to 5 points thanks to the managerial arrivals of Frank Rijkaard to AC Milan and Carlos Queiroz to Lazio. Queiroz in particular made several strong signings, including Bolton's Nicolas Anelka on a free. However the journeyman Carlos left at the end of the season to join Olympiakos.

Alessandro Del Piero got his first job in management, at Serie B's Siena. They had been relegated from Serie B in 2009, won the Serie C1/B title the next season, and now Del Piero has come in and taken them straight back up to Serie A in the second automatic promotion spot.

In Serie C1/A, ex-Serie A manager Giuseppe Pillon took charge of my old club Varese. No signings were made, but he got rid of regular right-back Loic Benoit for FREE and had a couple of players co-owned. My regulars for the past few years Rosario La Marca and Luca Pace were dumped in the reverses as well as, incredibly, the top assister last season Jaime. Varese's finances were put in order thanks to selling the great-looking right-back I'd just signed for a whopping £1.5m. But how long until that money goes? And as feared, while the strikers did get some goals, there was never any real threat of promotion. The players didn't perform for him as they did for me, and they dropped down the table a bit to 12th.

On 15/11/2016 at 19:39, Luke Cro said:

Nice to see, someone still plays FM2007 :) Is there any transfer update for the game, for this season, or seasons from 2010 onwards?

I doubt it. Every update, badge, kit etc. has been completely wiped from the internet, even sortitoutsi and the official SI site. Only thing left is the official patches on a small handful of sites. You might get lucky, but I bet any result you find for an update or anything else for FM 2007 will lead to a dead download link.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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2010/11 Review Part 2 - International Football

Australia 2011 Asian Cup

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The Asian Cup got a new winner for the first time since 1980, after China beat Iran 3-0.

Hosts Australia started off well, but Iran broke their hearts again as they were out-thought and out-passioned 2-0 in the quarter-finals.

Indonesia had a stunning tournament, getting out the first round for the first time ever, and then some. They thrashed Kuwait and drew with South Korea before beating regular opponents Japan in the quarter-finals and taking two more big teams, Iran and Saudi Arabia, to penalties.

Initial uproar in Japan over their country's latest embarrassment died down as it turned out Indonesia were pretty good. A quarter-final exit, two wins, and a draw against Saudi Arabia, represents progress.

Second-favourites South Korea had a shocking tournament. Two 0-0 draws against U.A.E. and Indonesia meant they only needed to beat Kuwait to get through. They lost 3-0.

India had a tournament to be proud of, reaching the quarter-finals for the first time and getting 4 points, including a win over Uzbekistan.


Colombia 2011 Copa América

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Argentina's enviable attacking talent of Higuain, Aguero, Tevez, Messi and co. lifted the trophy, though it was Cambiasso that scored the only goal in the final, a 1-0 win over an ever-improving Chile.

The punchline was that it was Diego of Brazil who won the golden boot due to playing one less game.

Dunga left world champions Brazil by 'mutual consent', despite a reasonable semi-final performance and beating the hosts, but also losing to Mexico and a penalty shootout against finalists Chile.

Mexico continued to look strong with a 3rd place finish, only losing to the eventual winners after extra time.

Hosts Colombia were excited for the tournament after a 3rd place finish at the World Cup, but were stopped by the world champions at the quarter-final stage.


U.S.A. 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup

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23-year-old American Ryan Flores finished a dream debut tournament by scoring the winner in USA's 1-0 victory over Mexico. He scored a hat trick in his international debut in the 8-0 win over Panama, both goals against El Salvador after they went 1-0 behind with 10 minutes to go, then again gave the Americans the lead from 1-0 down with 2 against Guatemala.

Guatemala didn't build on their World Cup appearance. Though they beat fellow finalists Jamaica, they lost 6-0 to Canada and 7-2 to USA.

Jamaica finished bottom of their group of death, losing to both Guatemala and Canada.

It was a tournament of big scores: Mexico also got 10-0 and 9-1 victories over Cuba and Trinidad & Tobago, and St Vincent lost 4-0 and 5-0 in a rare finals appearance.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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For those who are late to the party, who don't have the memory of an Asari elephant, or just like a good recap...

5-Year Recap: 2006 - 2011

- My Career

- The Bucket List

- Club Football

- International Football

- Notable Players

- Notable Managers


My Career

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My start was in Russia, on a contract of only a few months, tasked with keeping Salyut-Energia Belgorod in the Russian second-tier with the odds against them. I was unsuccessful, the team were easily relegated, and the unambitious players made for a frustrating experience. Salyut have returned to the division a few times but been relegated each time.

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A few weeks after the sack, I got a dream job: a relatively big and long contract, in the countryside and mountains of Italy not far from Milan, managing Varese. My 4 years ended with promotion to Serie C1 and midtable security on no budget, transitioning the squad from full of over-33s to an average age of around 23. My last season saw big wins over all our local rivals, and the free signing of a player who would be sold a year later for a whopping £1.5m, clearing the debts for some time, but not forever.

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I was approached by Tunisia in the meantime, who needed someone for the second leg of a first round World Cup qualifying playoff they might lose. I was nearby, promising and foreign. So while still at Varese, I went from managing in front of a few thousand in Italy to 60,000 in Tunisia.

We lost, and then we lost away to Faroe Islands. There looked to be improvement, matching Germany (almost) and winning in Japan, but I had enough and resigned after conceding a last-second equaliser at home to Egypt. It was the final straw, I wasn't enjoying the job nor the lack of mental steel or technical ability. After I left, Tunisia would only manage to beat Zambia in the upcoming African Nations they hosted, and two years later would fail to qualify at all by finishing beneath Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso.

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In 2010, after the World Cup, I was approached by my second nationality: Iran. Despite my inexperience, and given Varese's vulnerable financial position meaning I'd hit the ceiling, I took the chance to manage some famous names and one of my countries, and make global news as an 'Englishman' in charge of Iran. Now I was in front of up to 100,000 fans at the Azadi Stadium, but they were truly on my side.

I also made first use of my connections. My friend Frank Rijkaard, who had approached Varese for a friendly with Barcelona before, connected me with his former assistant Henk ten Cate.

My first match was a friendly away to New Zealand. Nerves were eased as we trounced them 3-0.

Qualifying for the Asian Cup was unspectacular, but the Asian Cup itself was something else. My first 32 minutes at a big tournament was spent going behind 3-0 to China, before finally losing 3-2. A quarter-final to hosts and major favourites Australia seemed to be the end, but it was a repeat of the 1997 World Cup playoff as we broke their hearts again with a dramatic 2-0 away win. It was my first 'historic' moment. After a penalty shootout win in the semis, I led the team to their first final since the 1970s, but losing to China again 3-0.

It feels like my career is accelerating upwards, now I'm on the national stage, liked by the fans and my fellow countrymen, and should easily be going to my first World Cup where there will be little expectation. Beats being England manager!


The Bucket list

Now would be a good time to introduce the landmarks I'm looking forward to or hoping to gain, or just achievements that would be nice to get.

Win something - Won Serie C2/A title with Varese in 2008

Manage a club in one of the major nations - Achieved with Varese in Italy

Manage in a large stadium - Achieved with Tunisia in my first match, a deciding World Cup qualifer.

Manage Iran - My second nationality

Manage one of the Home Nations - I'm English, but being stalked and abused by the press isn't everyone's idea of a fun time. I'm 1/8th Irish, so I'm including Republic of Ireland.

Manage Manchester United - My club.

Manage Brighton & Hove Albion - My hometown club.

Manage Worthing - My actual hometown club that I don't support because they're so low down that it's impossible to, and they may never be at a level where I could consider managing them.

Manage Barcelona or Real Madrid - Like the England job, but the press are comedically nutty rather than sadistic, and the players are incredible.

Manage an Old Firm club - I prefer Celtic, because green is my favourite colour. Also: 1/8th Irish.

Manage in the MLS - A lower quality of football, thanks partly to David Beckham's L.A. Galaxy deal falling through, but there are worse things than to get paid to do football and live in New York or L.A.

Manage a host nation

Manage Japan - I do like Japan.

Manage in South Korea - There's this new Japanese immigration law that says only the international manager can be foreign. Yeah, that's it. So for club football, South Korea would be close enough!

Manage A Big Sexy International Team - Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina, maybe France, Spain or Netherlands.

Manage a stinking rich club

Get sacked - Everyone has to get sacked. I got in early, losing my first job at Salyut-Energia Belgorod in just over 3 months after failing to steer them away from relegation.

Experience an international tournament - Achieved with Iran at the 2011 Asian Cup

Experience a World Cup

Experience an Olympics

Win every continent's international competition

Gain a famous friend - Frank Rijkaard

Become a millionaire - A few million in the bank will mean I will be set up for life, and I can pick jobs without worrying about the wage. I don't need a mansion or several cars, my expenditure is relatively low.


Club football

The last 5 years saw the introduction or continuation of one dominant team in most of the major leagues. Arsenal and Inter Milan have won the last four titles, Lyon have won 8 in 10 seasons, PSV 6 in 7, as well as the normal dominance of the select few in Germany, Portugal and Belgium. However, Barcelona's 6-title run ended after the departures of Rijkaard and Capello (albeit Real Madrid being the profiteers) and the Old Firm of Scotland was broken for the first time since 1985 thanks to Hearts' Romanov Revolution in 2010, to perhaps usher in an era of a Big 3.

And a special mention to Tottenham Hotspur, who were on the verge of the Domestic Treble after beating Arsenal 6-4 and reaching the two cup finals. But fell at the very last hurdle and Spursy-d them all, winning nothing. It is known as The Spursy Treble.

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The Champions League provided real excitement, though the English have dominated with a team in the final every year for the past 7 seasons, except 2009 when PSV lifted the trophy. 2011 was a vintage year with the parallel paths of Inter Milan and Arsenal finally colliding in the most hyped up final since maybe 1999. The dominant force of England vs the dominant force of Italy. Wenger vs. Mancini. Henry vs. Zlatan. Who will win their first Champions League? An exciting end-to-end 4-3 extra time win saw Arsenal fulfill their destiny.

Champions League Winners
2011: Arsenal
2010: Chelsea
2009: PSV
2008: Chelsea
2007: Manchester United


International Football

Euro 2008 saw Netherlands easily win their second European trophy. England reached the final, even winning a penalty shootout. Belgium were semi-finalists, while Republic of Ireland and Hungary made the quarters, and Wales did well enough to qualify at all.

South Africa hosted a memorable 2010 World Cup. Brazil won, but it was the underdogs that stole the headlines. Jamaica, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Colombia, Qatar, Belarus and Guatemala all overachieved, whether it be by qualifying at all or getting as far as the semis. Guatemala beat France, Saudi Arabia beat Germany, Jamaica beat Italy, Nigeria and Cameroon both beat Netherlands and hosts South Africa got 4 points from Spain and Argentina. Most notable of all was Norway getting past the likes of England, Germany and Argentina to go all the way to the final.

Meanwhile, Portugal and especially Germany's falls are notable. Joachim Low and Felipe Scolari failed to even get them in the top two in their Euro 2008 qualifying groups, and they only won one game each in the World Cup. Germany's manager now is Jurgen Klopp.

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Also Slaven Bilic retired completely after failing to qualify for Euro 2008 with Croatia. He wasn't cut out for management.


Notable Players

Thierry Henry - Established himself as the #1 man in football, with Messi/Ronaldo-like figures. Between 2006 and 2009 he scored 100 Premier League goals, and 27 in 32 Champions League games. But as he reaches retirement age, Carlos Vela seems to have appeared ready to take his mantle and help continue Arsenal's dominance.

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Radamel Falcao - Burst on the scene in the World Cup with 6 goals helping Colombia reac h the semis, which earned him a move from River Plate to Valencia the following January, joining up with David Villa and Darren Bent.

Gonzalo Higuaín - Scored 37 in 38 La Liga games for Real Madrid in 2010/11, and is a regular European scorer. The young attacker seems to be coming of age. Argentina have a lot to look forward to thanks to the likes of Higuaín, Messi, Aguero, Tevez, Palacio et al. They won the last two Olympics, won the 2011 South American Under-20 Championship as well as the 2011 Copa América.


Notable Managers

Arsene Wenger - Four Premier Leagues in a row with a Champions League as an exclamation point. No one can doubt Arsene.

Frank Rijkaard - Took Barcelona to 6 straight league titles and a Champions League. Moved on to something new in former club AC Milan in 2010.

Ronald Koeman - The PSV manager became hot property after a surprise Champions League win, moving on to Manchester City the next year.

Age Hareide - Took Norway to the World Cup final, then joined Championship Watford and Serie A Lecce.

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Steve McClaren - The only England manager to take them to a final outside their own country. Left in worse circumstances, with England knocked out at the World Cup group stage, to join Newcastle United and take them to a Champions League spot in his first season.

José Mourinho - His aim became to make Chelsea European champions, and he did it twice in 3 years.

Roberto Mancini - Dominant Serie A title wins, but the Champions League eludes him still.

Carlos Bianchi - The highly successful South American and former Boca Juniors manager made the jump and took charge of River Plate in 2009. Then he won the Copa Libertadores and beat Chelsea and Arsenal for two Club World Cups in a row.

Edited by git2thachoppa

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Qualification for the London 2012 Olympics

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(Let's please pretend this was the actual logo.)

I agreed a new 3-year contract until August 2014. This is World Cup territory, so the bonuses are big. I'll get 0.05% of prize money for qualification and group stage exit (which will turn out to be £267,000). If I take Iran further than ever into the knockout stages, that percentage and money just gets bigger.

I also asked to take charge of the Olympic team, which saves them paying another manager and helps me do my job. I can try out the good younger names and discover players to add to the depth of the A squad.


Second Round

A two-legged knockout match decides who enters the final group stage of the qualifiers. Iran U23s were knocked out at this stage 4 years ago, on penalties to Iraq U23s. This time we play Vietnam U23s.

The squad includes a couple of first-teamers, but takes a major hit due to major Iranian club Persepolis being in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, which is on the same dates as the qualifiers we're playing. The club won't want to release such important players and I won't ask them to. So we miss out on Haghighi, the first team's backup keeper, as well as a couple of good strikers and midfielders, most of whom would've played.

Vietnam U23s 1 - 2 Iran U23s

Iran U23s 2 - 1 Vietnam U23s
(Iran win 4-2 on aggregate)

Despite going behind early in both matches, they were relatively routine wins.


Group Stage

Iran's qualifying group contains South Korea, Lebanon and Brunei. Only the top team qualifies.

South Korea have qualified for every Olympics since it became an Under-23 tournament in 1992, except the last one in 2008 due to hosts China taking an Asian spot and South Korea being 'worst group winner'.

No one else in the group has qualified at all since the change for 1992, though Iran competed 3 times during their 1960s/70s heyday.

Brunei should be 6 points, 4 against Lebanon would be good. South Korea will be the tough favourites so a home win would be great.


Iran U23s 2 - 0 Brunei U23s

Brunei were dominated technically and physically, but poor finishing stopped it being a big score. The second goal was scored in the last seconds, after a Brunei long ball was simply booted first time straight back into the attacking area, where the receiving striker ran onto goal and scored.

Lebanon help us by getting a point at home to South Korea.


Luckily, in a sense, a few key players are unavailable for the toughest game in the group: away to favourites South Korea. This is due to more fixture clashes with the Asian Champions League. Persepolis have several good Under-23 players, and I've no interest in causing friction by trying to call up players they wouldn't release anyway due to Champions League games.

I say luckily because being away to South Korea, the big favourites of the group, I'll take anything.

South Korea U23s 0 - 2 Iran U23s

Despite a team weakened by club football, an unfit captain on the bench and a debuting goalkeeper playing his first ever competitive game in football, the young players did their job perfectly. The score and circumstances suggest this is a youth version of the win in Australia last year, but this one played out differently and we had more control.

A penalty in the first minute meant we could control the game, and the Koreans were mostly reduced to pot shots. The defensive unit kept the ball out of the goal and the now lone striker had a few chances. I thought about taking him off, but kept him on just for defending set pieces, and he scored with 10 minutes to go after an assist from the substitute and captain (though I kept the armband on the central defender, to keep the defence organised). Job done.

Lebanon beat Brunei away 7-0. We host them next week and can control the group.


Iran U23s 0 - 0 Lebanon U23s

Lebanon came for a draw and clung onto it. It's a shame, but they'll be more open at home and we can get the win there.

South Korea scored a late winner in a poor 1-0 display away to Brunei.


Brunei U23s 0 - 4 Iran U23s

Another win against South Korea will see us qualify. A draw will make qualification very likely.


Iran U23s 1 - 1 South Korea U23s

A slightly offside goal gave us a late lead, then we went down to 10 men due to injury, then one of the other players had to play through a knock, then they scored in the 85th minute easily beating the makeshift crocked defence. Heartbreaking.

But while heartbreaking, we are in a strong position still thanks to the tiebreaker for equal points being head-to-head. In short, we only need a draw in the final match against Lebanon. For a loss to even matter, either Brunei have to get a surprise draw/win against South Korea, or Lebanon have to beat us by 3 goals.


Lebanon U23s 0 - 1 Iran U23s

A stupid red card and a dodgy amount of yellows before half-time wasn't enough to rig the game against us, as we took the lead in the second half, meaning Lebanon would need 4 goals. But they failed to beat a mean defence and MOTM keeper even once.

The red card means the striker, perhaps our best striker, will miss all of our group games. If he's even selected; funnily enough he turns 24 the day before the tournament.

Despite the annoyances of the last few matches, we top the group unbeaten with just that one dodgy goal conceded. After a first Asian Cup final since the golden pre-Revolution era, now I lead the team to a first Olympics since that same era, and first ever since it became an Under-23s tournament in the 1990s.


Final Group Standings

Iran - 14
------------------------
South Korea - 11
Lebanon - 8
Brunei - 0

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London 2012 Olympics

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I've come a long way. First an Asian Cup in Australia, now an Olympics in London, playing in two big stadiums.

This is not only a new experience for me and the young players, but Iran as a whole; usually it's just weightlifting and combat sports they have to look forward to at the Olympics, never football. It gives me a taster of what the next World Cup might bring.

There was a rule change starting 2008 that means the Olympics is now solely an Under-23 tournament, with no over-age players.

In our group is France, Mexico and Nigeria. The top two qualify for the quarter-finals, likely France and Mexico.

Our squad is the weakest on paper. One of the goalkeepers and right-backs are now too old to compete, so there's no depth in these areas of players I'm too familiar with. There are 4 players (2 or 3 of which would've been starters) that are injured and can't make the squad. Still, we have one goalkeeper who looks like he's reliable, and midfield is probably our strongest area. It's not really known if the defenders are strong enough or if the strikers will score the goals.

We make our way to Wembley of all places.

v France U23s - 8/8/12 @ Wembley

France reached the quarter-finals in 2008 and 1996, the only times they qualified recently. They boast a few Inter Milan players and an international attacker in Man City's Kevin Monnet-Paquet, who was judged the second best player in the world only behind Zlatan, after getting a goal every two games in the Premier League and 7 in 8 in the Champions League.

France are playing a 4-2-4 with two defensive midfielders. Maybe they were showing us respect, or they're saying 'fill up the defensive area so they definitely can't score, and leave the 4 attackers to tear them apart'. I changed my 4-4-1-1 formation slightly, pushing my wingers forward and my two central midfielders back.

Iran U23s 0 - 2 France U23s
We surprisingly dominated, but despite 8 shots in the match none were on target. Unfortunately they put their second-best-player-in-the-world star, who is also one of the fastest players in the world, up front and he scored the opener after an hour. Then near the end our striker was in the area but didn't shoot and he lost the ball, and so they scored again a few seconds later.

v Nigeria U23s - 11/8/12 @ Wembley

Nigeria have seemingly the weaker squad of our opponents, but the best pedigree, winning gold in 1996. They reached the quarter-finals in 2008, losing 3-2 to hosts China. Their squad includes Dortmund's classy central midfielder Sunny.

Nigeria's best players are in central midfield, so I'm playing a 4-4-2 diamond to avoid them. The rest of their team is mostly weak, so it's just a case of not letting the central midfielders near the ball when we're attacking.

Nigeria U23s 2 - 2 Iran U23s
Our 2-1 lead is ruined by a ridiculous 'clearance' that is nothing of the sort and is actually a brilliant pass to the opposition attacker right into the middle of the penalty area to score.

Onward to Liverpool.

v Mexico U23s - 14/8/12 @ New Anfield

Mexico have appeared 3 times, reaching the quarters once. They have a very scary squad, including Arsenal's next Thierry Henry Carlos Vela, who already has 35 goals in 37 matches for the Mexican first team. Giovanni dos Santos is another dangerous player.

Despite the frustration, we're doing better than expected and can go into the final game with a chance of reaching the quarters and believing it could be done. We have to beat Mexico to leapfrog them, at which point whether we get to the quarter-finals will depend on goal difference/scored if Nigeria shock France.

Knowing that Mexico play a 4-1-2-2-1, I toyed with tactics. My best player has been the attacking central midfielder so it needs to incorporate him. Eventually I decided on a 4-1-3-2.

They're missing two attackers through injury so that helps.

Mexico U23s 2 - 1 Iran U23s

Final Group Standings

France - 9
Mexico - 6

----------------------
Iran - 1 (-3 GD)
Nigeria - 1 (-4 GD)

The team lacked the obvious quality of Mexico and France, and Nigeria got somewhat lucky against us. But overall we finished 3rd out of 4, which is better than expected, thanks to Nigeria losing by more than a goal, 3-0 to France.

Our goalkeeper was the standout performer, 7.67 rating in the 3 matches, stopping 17 shots.

And now I know a little more about the younger players who could replace underperforming senior players in the World Cup qualifiers...

Edited by git2thachoppa

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Posted (edited)

2014 World Cup Qualifiers - Asia - Second Round

(And Friendlies)

After an Asian Cup and qualifying campaign, I know about the main names in my team. And with my Olympics run, I will know more about potential replaces.

Veterans Karimi (ineffectual) and Nosrati (prone to mistakes) are the first big name omissions from the next squad, and there are a good number of young and uncapped names getting chances for friendlies. Given the likely weakness of the opposition in qualifying, this doesn't spell the end of the older players' international careers, but getting some game time and good club performances would help them get back in the squad.

Also the tactics change due to our weak defending. Funnily enough, I'm pretty much going back to the formation the team used before I entered the job and changed things. A 3-5-2 with sweeper and wing-backs:

-----ST--ST----
------AMC-----
----MC--MC--
WB---------WB
----CB--CB----
-------SW------
-------GK-------


Friendlies

(49th) Iran 6 - 0 Palestine (113th)
Only one or two first teamers ease past an unthreatening side. Our star striker Borhani came on as sub early and got a hat-trick.

(93rd) Tunisia 2 - 1 Iran (49th)
A frustrating loss as my full strength team took the lead in the first minute and dominated, but a penalty from a refereeing error, an incorrect tactical setting (fourth wall broken) and Borhani missing several chances as usual (3 shots, 0 on target) turned it into a loss. Tunisia are worse than when I left them too

(52nd) Iran 1 - 3 Ecuador (66th)
A mix of starters and backups played this one, plus a couple of subs from my Under-23 team as the Olympic campaign from the previous post got underway. Alas, the backup keeper Roudbarian and the defence made a fantastic claim for never playing for Iran again. They did nothing. Ecuador are the second-worst team in South America, though in this year's Copa America they made the quarter-finals with 5 points from their group. Judging by player values, they're the better team, so perhaps the result is to be expected, but again this was the second-worst South American team. What if we face one at the World Cup?

(34th) Cyprus 1 - 1 Iran (49th)
Roudbarian was in great form so I called him up, and he was feeling at his best so I put him in the team. I figured if he messed up again, at his peak, I'd know never to play him again. He was man of the match.
Cyprus have been improving quickly over the years; they just missed out on a playoff place for Euro 2012. An acceptable result given it was a second-string team as well.


The final 4 friendly dates were mixed with the qualifiers, but not close enough to be a problem. Besides, with my first team mostly obvious, I use these friendlies entirely for backups to get some depth, which is still badly needed in a few positions. They're effectively B-teams as I work toward my final World Cup 23-man squad.

With the Olympic journey over, I promote a good amount of Under-23s too. In my first 'B-team' and post-Olympics squad, there are 11 players who could earn their first cap and only four players with (significantly) more than 8 appearances.

(73rd) Iran 2 - 1 Jordan (122nd)
Far more closer than it should've been, but an entertaining match that ended with an incredible Ronaldinho-esque free kick from the sub, who had earlier got an assist, to win the game.

(73rd) Iran 1 - 0 Madagascar (145th)
The only goal coming from a long ball and a save leading to an open goal. It's embarrassing that our keeper had to make several saves and that, despite dominating in their half and having all the space and danger positions to completely tear them apart, nothing really happened.

(72nd) Iran 1 - 0 Tajikistan (185th)
Yet again a tight 1-goal victory which should've been more against weaker opponent due to poor finishing. It also sees the return of Ali Karimi for a tryout, who is finally getting first team football again.

(84th) Albania 2 - 0 Iran (65th)
Albania were incredibly strong and seemed to dominate the whole game. It was 2-0 at half-time, so I changed the flanks for the second half, which led to a shot cleared off the line by their sprinting keeper, and then another hit the bar.
Albania had lost heavily away to England and Slovenia, but beat Serbia heavily at home. So our B-team is better than Serbia I guess.


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Qualifiers

Our qualfication starts in Round 2, a group stage of 4 teams each. The top team qualifies for the next round. Teams like Iran tend to qualify with ease due to the weak opposition.

The draw doesn't throw up any nasty surprises. The opponents are:

North Korea - Iran faced them in the Round 3 last time and got 4 points from them. More recently, we played them in the Asian Cup and got a routine 3-1 victory.

Singapore - After drawing 0-0 in the 2007 Asian Cup, Iran got 4 points against them in the last World Cup qualifiers. More recently, they have the peculiar record of drawing all their away Asian Cup qualifiers and comfortably losing their home ones.

Yemen - Also faced Iran (and Singapore) in the last World Cup qualifiers, losing 2-0 at home then 6-0 away.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(151st) Yemen 0 - 2 Iran (49th)
An underlying feeling of frustration that a dominant win didn't have a goal or two more.

Singapore drew 0-0 with North Korea, so already the other teams are taking points off each other.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(51st) Iran 6 - 0 North Korea (118th)
The scoring opened in just two minutes, Borhani completed his hat trick 13 minutes later, then scored 2 more in 2 minutes for 5 individual goals in half an hour. The captain Nekounam added a 6th in the corner of the goal.
Then we went in for half time.
There were fixture clashes, mainly with the Asian Champions League, so I had left out a few players who I felt we could do without. Evidently so!

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(127th) Singapore 4 - 1 Iran (53rd)
What the hell?!
In just a few minutes, their striker dived, but was caught by the ref. Then they were given a "harsh" penalty. We scored twice in a couple of minutes but only one stood, the first being offside. We dominated, balls bounced off their post, then they scored two. Chaotic defending and awful goalkeeping.
I note that they for some reason had freedom down the wings, so I will have to play wing backs rather than midfielders in the home fixture.

The first half of Round 2 ends with Singapore topping the group by a point.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

North Korea 0 - 1 Iran
In the midst of a run of tight friendly matches against crap opposition, nerves for me were high, and we went into half time 0-0. As usual there were chances and dangerous positions, but only one goal in the end. They had a man sent off, then our star striker got injured, and thankfully the ball didn't go into our net but should've gone into theirs more.

Now the group may be decided in the penultimate game, at home to Singapore.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If Singapore beat us here, we're out and it's an unthinkable disaster. A draw means we have to hope they slip up. A win puts us top, but a 3-0 win gives us the head-to-head record and effectively an extra point.

But after tepid, tight friendlies with our B teams, it doesn't help that we're without our star striker Borhani nor regular right-flanker Kaebi. Also, the veteran keeper Mirzapour is dropped. He's not 100% after injury and his performance is what put us in this situation, he continues to get older, so I play the young keeper I had in my U23s for his third cap, and hope I'm not doing a Steve McClaren (of course, no one knows what that is, because England had a good night against Croatia in this dimension).

Despite being 90 minutes from possible career suicide, I tell the players to not only win, but to undo the 4-1 and win by a lot of goals. Knowing full well this could be yet another tight 1-0 or, worse, 0-0.

Iran-South-Korea-World-Cup-qualifier-in-

Iran 3 - 0 Singapore
The team's quick passing game did wonders, as did our second-best striker, Oladi, whose dribbling ability got two super goals. In the second-half, 2-0 up, I kept attacking. 2-0 wasn't good enough. With no opening in sight, I shifted the front line from a diamond to a 1-3-1, and Oladi set up the third for his strike partner. The job was done. Everyone played well, and Singapore tried different formations and tactics to have an impact but only managed one shot on target and little possession.

One thing I've learned is perhaps I should look at the U21 and U19 results before every game. They reflect our results, even the surprise loss away to Singapore.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now we just need to match Singapore's result in the final game, at home to the worst team in the group who we beat comfortably away.

But I'm taking no risks, which means the players who lost badly in Singapore will serve a punishment by being called away from their club's league and European fixtures, which clash with what should've been a meaningless final group game. They could've stayed at home.

We can't assume we're through, there's full potential of us banging on the door, not getting through, then they nick a goal. I've seen what's just happened elsewhere in the rest of the qualifiers...

Iran 3 - 0 Yemen
Pejman Nouri, a central midfielder who'd got in the team recently to earn the final 4 of his 6 caps, had earlier announced his retirement for next month, which is a real shame as his passing was brilliant. So this was his final international game, and in the last minute his free kick scored the final goal.
Funnily enough Nosrati will probably take his spot. An error-prone defender, he seems to do very well in central midfield instead.

Singapore only managed a draw anyway, so our result didn't matter.


Final Group Standings

Iran - 15
-----------------------
Singapore - 11
North Korea - 5
Yemen - 3


Incredibly, 3 of the big 5 don't make the final qualification round, and neither do the 3 other teams that made it 4 years ago. Other than Australia and Iran, it's all new faces to take the other 2.5 spots. Easy pickings...?

Rather than facing a group of, say, South Korea, Uzbekistan and Japan, we're drawn with the less daunting Syria and Lebanon. But also the bloody Chinese.

Those bloody Chinese.

So at least we only need to finish in the top 2 this time.

I'm go... we're going to Spain, boys!

Edited by git2thachoppa

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