The busy December period is upon us, with some good performance and a little luck hopefully we can nail down top spot in our Champions League group and also stay top of the Premier League. Also in the last part, I said we would need to be well beaten by Spartak to lose top place, well… that isn’t true. Just losing would be enough, which I didn’t realize till it was too late. We have the Manager of the Month award to start the month, unfortunately, we came 2nd behind Wenger. Continue reading
Welcome back to the Man Utd “challenge” today will go through September but before we start there are some things I forgot to mention in part 1. Continue reading
It’s that time again, Football Manager has been released and like last year my first save will be with the club I support, Man Utd. Unlike last year, however, I will actually play the save longer than a couple of in game months. Continue reading
After Mark Noble laid a beat down on Albania, *cough* with help from my own tactical changes *cough*, we find ourselves up against a much sterner oppositions, a team with two world cup’s to their name, one more than us! That cannot stand! Theirs are older so count for less I guess, but ours is getting a bit dusty, that’s why they hired yours truly – that and lack of other suitable candidates.
Expectations back home are raising a bit, although ITV have got Henderson on their panel and I’ve heard he’s been talking a lot of smack about me, so I’ve been mostly watching BBC. Mark Noble did little to handle national expectations, appearing on Good Morning Britain singing “Vindaloo” with a bunch of school kids from Bethnal Green lower, ending with picking up the smallest child, looking him straight in the eyes and saying “I’m gunna bring it home for you little Johnny” before crying and shouting “come on England at the camera”, sufficient to say his 20 leadership is a blessing and a curse.
Back to the hard stuff. Managing England. Having a quick look at the Uruguay team isn’t doing too much to help my nerves…
A look at the Uruguay team reveals something straight away… strikers ain’t bad. Cavani and Suarez can go without any introduction. Outside of those two, Gimenez and Godin form a solid partnership in central defence. Outside of those two areas, I think we are stronger, but those are two particularly important areas, especially if they play direct and bypass their pretty weak midfield. However, it’s not like we have a strong midfield.
Looking at the competition stats, Cavani is joint-second top goalscorer with four goals, one more than our top scorer Rashford. De Arrascaeta of Uruguay tops the assists, he isn’t in the above and seems to play either central attacking midfield or left wing, so I am braced for a change of formation from Uruguay.
With the USA somehow beating Germany in the quarter-finals, have our chances of bringing it home improved? Or have our chances of embarrassingly being eliminated by America?
That being said, we pull through against Uruguay today, I would love the USA, show ’em who’s boss (us, we are, in case you didn’t get that from our weak displays).
Anyway, getting ahead of myself here is the team for today’s game:
I know, not the 4-2-3-1! I feel I have to go with something different given our underperformance, but there is more thought here than that – just a little more though. Given our attacking full-backs, I figured a four at the back formation would leave our two centre-backs too exposed to Cavani and Suarez, with this, we should have an extra man, at the cost of the wide areas. For that reason, we will need a big game from both Rose and Clyne. I am hoping at the other end Alli and Kane can occupy the two centre backs whilst Lallana causes trouble for the two deep-lying midfielders. Oh, and I am hoping Noble nets an hat-trick (maybe even a double hat-trick).
I guess all we can do is see how this pans out. I think the gamble is warranted given how our tactics have faired recently, needing in-game adjustments, here’s hoping this is strong from the off. Might even surprise them…
Obviously, Uruguay aren’t playing the tactic we saw earlier, instead, they are running with this 4-4-2 narrow diamond shape. It should allow us to do better out wide, but the attacking trident may cause our back three some problems, it may be worth dropping Noble back into the space, and moving Lallana further back also, but we will see.
20′ – Not too much has happened. Uruguay have edged possession, I think it may be worthwhile to switch to counter to ensure some solidity.
29′ – England work a good crossing opportunity for Clyne, unfortunately, Kane heads wide.
38′ – Stones gives a silly foul away on the edge of the box, picking up a yellow card. The free kick has a little too much on it – just over.
41′ – Suarez works a shooting opportunity but Hart gets down to save.
The in-game commentator described the half as tepid, and I’m inclined to agree. We need something else, we just aren’t creating enough. To try to remedy this I am going to lean on what we did last time out: push higher, press harder, play slightly narrower to exploit the wings also. We will be sticking on counter. If there is no real change, I will be looking to get Rashford on, I will have a look at the team, maybe change the shape again when this happens.
With all that said, team-talk over, we will be getting back out there for the second half… let’s hope we win it ey?
53′ – We get in down the right-hand side as a sliding pass from Alli finds Clyne, he crosses deep to Kane, who’s headed is straight at the keeper.
54′ – A nice passing move from England finds Alli free, unfortunately, his shot is easily saved.
58′ – Stones is tired and isn’t having the best of games, Kane just picked up a knock. Double change? For now, Jones will come on for Stones, let’s see how Kane handles the knock.
66′ – Kane doesn’t seem to be recovering all too well, Rashford will take his place.
71′ – Not even on for that long and Rashford finds space behind the Uruguay defence, Lallana finds him, but for the third time this game we fire straight at the keeper. Better signs though.
73′ – After a long passing move starting all the way from Jones, Alli finds Rashford, free again, but he fires straight at the keeper… again.
85′ – An excellent Cavani through ball finds Suarez, free behind the England defence after a deep run, he is one-on-one with Hart, goes for the chip and…. OVER! And wide… wover.
87′ – Just before that move, Smalling picked up a twisted ankle and will have to come off. This means we will have to change shape. Oxlade-Chamberlain is on for him and we switch to the ol’ 4-2-3-1.
We were better in that second half, but still 0-0… With Oxlade-Chamberlain on, I will look to use a little more width and hopefully we can create something, anything! Well… anything Rashford won’t kick straight at the keeper. It turns out we do not appear to have the fourth sub for extra time thing yet, or at all.. which is a shame, my team are knackered, and we have quite a few yellows.
It has been a very tense game so far if that hasn’t been conveyed here, and I feel whoever scores takes this given the fatigue of both sides. Hopefully, that side is us. And let’s not with penalties yeah?
Extra-time (1st half):
92′ – Oh no…
The worst possible start, Cavani latches onto a Laxalt cross, that was allowed way too easily, Cavani finds acres of space as Jones for some reason runs away? Either way, we find ourselves 1-0 behind.
This changes everything, we are going to have to throw everything at them. Well, now I hope I’m wrong for predicting the first team to score will win…
105′ – And…
Wilshere has a Beckham moment. Picking up his second yellow with a completely needless challenge. That makes this a whole lot harder… It’s also a shame because Wilshere has been a decent player for us, I wouldn’t want him taking the fall back in England, that should be Jones and definitely not me… right guys? right?
Well… things went wrong really quickly didn’t they? We need to try to find a way back into this… We are going to give it everything we can in this last few. I’ve shifted back to the same shape we started the game with, but with two centre-backs. Oxlade-Chamberlain has come infield and can hopefully cause some chaos.
Let’s just see what happens… please… please score England… I’ll take penalties now…
Extra-time (second half):
107′ – A great shot from Lallana is well saved. It was goalbound for sure.
109′ – Uh…
A nice bit of play by Oxlade-Chamberlain allows him to find Lallana, who in turns picks out Rashford who tries his best to shoot straight at the keeper, but it finds its way in anyway! We are back in this! The problem is now, do we go for it, or do we sit back? Uruguay are buckling, let’s give it a minute or two, try to grab another… famous last words…
114′ – A cross from Rose finds Chamberlain who heads well, but the keeper is equal to it. We go straight to the other end where Suarez’s shot is saved well by Hart…
116′ – Suarez is found with a through ball by Godin, he is once again one-on-one but Hart saves. Another chance squandered by the best player on the pitch. The warning is noticed though, dropping to counter.
Full-time of extra-time
Penalties. You know the thing about England and penalties right? You must do, if not here, that should fill you in, and also give me my team talk. I’ll just show the boys this video and say don’t do that, simple.
There is one thing those teams didn’t have though… Mark Noble, the secret weapon.
Yes, that is right, Joe Hart is one of our best penalty takers, that is how screwed we are here… I don’t want him to be taking one though with 1 finishing, not sure how much of a difference that makes, but surely Danny Rose and Chamberlain are better options. Mark Noble will be leading the takers though, if he tucks away, the team might just follow suit.
And first up is Noble, he steps up, chest puffed, stern looking, a single bead of sweat rolls down his face…
And he misses! Tame penalty and the keeper saves to the right.
Suarez then steps up and scores… 1-0 Uruguay.
Rashford then steps up… come on England… and for fuck sake Rashford, he kicks it straight at the keeper… well slightly to the right… but the keeper was standing there.
Cavani steps up… 2-0 Uruguay…
Just… typical England.
And Danny Rose misses! Well… this is it for Uruguay… score this and they win and also make England a meme.
But Pereira misses, which is just tempting to get my hopes up, but I refuse.
Dele Alli steps up… AND BLOODY MISSES!
Four penalties, FOUR! missed, has anyone had that before? Jesus Christ England… maybe that team talk made them nervous.
As Dele stands there dejected, with the rest of the England team behind crying you can just about make at me, the manager, laughing at them Big Sam style for being so England. Unbelievable, four penalties missed out of four. I just… need a minute.
So, I guess that is that for World Cup 2018. Not the ending we had hoped for, but maybe the one we deserved given some of our performances out here in Russia, a quarter-final is okay. We had some highs, we built up hope, we scored some goals, probably more than England have at a World Cup in a while, but ultimately what this world cup will be remembered for is Noble making a small child cry, and us missing four bloody penalties in a shoot-out.
Anyway, it’s been a good world cup for me, and I’ve enjoyed your support both on here and on Reddit. So with that said, what do you think our next step should be? Get to Euro 2020? Quit the England gig and take a club job? Go and turn Scotland into a global super power? Let me know what you think.
Till next time (where ever that may be).
Four bloody penalties missed out of four… Even for England, this is a new low…
After scraping through against Iran, we play Senegal with everything on the line. The group is tight, with us in the driving position on four points, France and Senegal trail with two points each and Iran are on one point. This sets up a situation where any team can go through and any team can go out, including us if we lose against Senegal.
Looking at the other groups, and there are some interesting placings. DR Congo tops their group with Germany second; Mexico topped their group with Spain second; Costa Rica, USA and Japan also topped their groups, so in some ways, a second-place finish wouldn’t be too bad.
That is all academic though until after we play Cameroon, so let’s see the team for today’s game!
We go with a similar shape and tactic to that which we used against Iran, hopefully, they perform much more convincingly. Clyne misses out today through suspension so Walker steps in, Sterling replaces Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alli comes in for Barkley. Keane and Stones are fatigued, but I have more faith in them than Smalling and Jones.
So let’s get into today’s game, I’m excited to see what we can do against Cameroon (who’s capital city is… Yaoundé… had to google that one…).
Cameroon seem to be making somewhat of a statement with their starting eleven – very attacking! Coupled with a combative midfield three we could have a hard day here. We will have to be careful not to get hit on the break with that front three also, as I suspect they will play direct and hit those front three quickly, and look to recover the ball in the middle. The obvious weakness is the full backs, who we can look to isolate and overload. The centrebacks are solid, and let’s hope Kane is on form to handle them.
Minute eight and we have our first highlight (and news from Iran-France, that Iran has taken the lead courtesy of a Pogba OG). Cameroon hits a long, direct ball from their centre back to Babacar, who knocks the ball to Gueye. The ball is kept well and a shooting opportunity opens up for Diame who fires over from distance.
We have struggled to keep the ball so far.
Senegal are getting a few long shots as Balde fires over – fifteen minutes in.
The twentieth minute, it is all Senegal. They have a headed chance, straight at Hart. 70% possession to Senegal… we need to change something. That change see’s us switching to a counter approach, and sticking Sterling to support, with us looking to play the ball out wide, as we are having no success through the middle. We have also switched to a 4-3-3.
Just before the changes have an effect, Balde works a good shooting opportunity, saved by Hart!
Another shot by Gueye is saved by Hart… I’m not liking this.
The stats after twenty-four minutes paint a very worrying picture…
The twenty-seventh minute comes and finally a chance for us! We maintain possession before Walker whips in a cross onto Rashford’s head – Off the bar! This chance went down as a clear-cut chance, very much against the run of play. Oh, and Dele Alli picks up an injury in the same move… He will have to come off, Lallana replaces him.
Ten uneventful minutes pass before Diouf spins in the box and cannons a shot off the bar. Too close.
Out of nothing Kane pounces on a mistake by Gueye and fires England into the lead. It was incredibly lucky, the game has all been Cameroon, now we must capitalise and take some initiative in this game.
Not sure what to make of that… 45 minutes of mostly terrible football, barely putting a passing move together, and getting battered… but we are one-nil up – football ey?
At half-time, I am going to withdraw Wilshere as he has struggled out there today and picked up a yellow in the process. Noble will be coming on, his leadership and work-rate could help us in possession battle.
A chance for Senegal as M’Baye crosses only for Diouf to head narrowly wide.
The fifty-third minute, and England win a free-kick, Rashford fires just over (in other news, goals for Fekir and Benzema mean that France now leads 2-1)
Nearly the seventieth minute and good work from Walker results in a cross towards Rashford, it is headed away only for Sterling to pounce and… Straight at the keeper.
A minute later and a corner whipped into the Cameroon box causes trouble, a scramble results in a chance for an unidentifiable England player, unfortunately, that chance is missed.
Time for a calm concentrate shout from the touchline.
The eightieth minute and Oxlade-Chamberlain is on for a tired Rashford. He and Sterling will swap sides.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first involvement sees him crafting open a chance for Lallana who powers a shot high but central, and fairly comfortable for the keeper.
And as time passes…
A good win, we slowly got more and more into the game after our goal and mostly limited Cameroon to long shots. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried for a large chunk of that game!
The change to a 4-3-3 allowed us to be slightly more robust in the middle and let us move the ball better, and whilst we didn’t win the battle for possession we created more clear chances.
Most importantly, we top our group, ahead of tournament favourites France, so I guess that makes us favourites – might as well give us the trophy now, save us some time.
As previously mentioned though, being top isn’t all ice cream and backrubs (what… that wasn’t what I… I’ll go with it), a lot of teams I’d rather avoid came second in their groups (i.e. Spain & France). Let’s see who we will be meeting next, and keep our fingers crossed that it is winnable…
And the lucky team to meet us in the next round is…
Not to be too cocky about this (and this could easily come back to bite me) but I’ll take it.
France managed to get Brazil in a repeat of the ’98 final, so between the two teams from group H, it turned out extremely valuable to get the top spot. Other interesting draws include DR Congo v Spain and Portugal v Uruguay.
Next time out we get our first taste of knock-out football against Albania. Where could this end? A disgraceful exit at the callous laced hands of Albania? Or World Cup glory? Well, next time will get us closer to finding out.