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Firstly, an apology to those who I promised this sooner to. I've had techical problems with my Football Manager game - it appears that I can't request match reports for Paul Robinson. After much crashing, version updating later, I've got to the stage where I am now.
If you can't remember where I got to last time, here's a quick refresher. I was half way through qualification for Euro 2012, and in my group of 7, I needed to finish in the top 2 to qualify. Things were going well:
Frankly, I was coasting into Euro 2012!
My next match was at home to Moldova, and I made a bold decision. I figured to try out my #2 goalkeeper, Ben Foster. He was playing for Atletico Madrid, and according to Tony Adams, he was a "decent England player". So, I thrust him in against the might of Moldova! Unfortunately, he had nothing to do, as England won 4-0 at a canter. Rooney scored two goals, including his 40th for England, and Gerrard and Lampard also scored. It was Lampard's 20th goal for England.
Then came Switzerland away. Switzerland were languishing in fifth place in the table, so I stuck with Foster. It worked like a treat. Andy Carroll scored again to make it 1-0. Woods came on at half-time for Gerrard, and he scored from 45 yards out! Their goalie went out to the right-back position to clear the ball, but kicked it straight to Woods. Terry scored a penalty after 73 minutes, and England won 3-0! It got better, as Norway could only draw with Finland.
I then thought to scout Robinson, to see what Adams thought of him in relation to Foster. However, as soon as I started simulating... it crashed. I hadn't saved it after my victory against the Swiss (I normally save it before games, not straight after them). So, I lost my win against Switzerland. Agrieved, I aimed for the same sort of result. Sadly, in two or three attempts, I could only draw with the Swiss. Eventually, I won 2-1, which wasn't as good as it was before. Foster wasn't as impressive in goal, and Norway had now beaten the Finns. Sadly, it had to do, I was fed up of turning it off and back on again. I would never do that normally, but due to the crash causing me to lose a 3-0 win, I thought it was justified.
Over the summer, I was offered jobs at Carlisle and Wolves. I declined these, for different reasons. I of course wanted to continue managing England, but apparently I could do both (I was told by a friend). I was also told this would weaken both teams, however. I didn't want to manage Wolves, because I'm a Villa fan, and Wolves are akin to hated rivals. I didn't want to manage Carlisle because they were a bad team, and had a very limited transfer budget. So, I decided to decline both job offers.
Next up were Finland. Sadly, it was held in Helsinki in October. As a result, the pitch was icy and waterlogged. It didn't suit my style of play. However, we won a penalty in the 24th minute, which Jaaskalainen saved well. Rooney did score in the 49th minute however. England missed countless opportunities to add to the lead, and the Finnish goalie made more superb saves. In the 84th minute, Ferdinand conceded a penalty. Pasanen scored, and it was 1-1. From there, Finland were in complete control, but England hung on for a draw. I'd lost my 100% record in qualifying, sadly. At the same time as this, Norway thumped Armenia 5-0. Not good.
My next match was Iceland at home. There was no mistake this time. Robinson was back in the side for the Finland game, and he retained his place against Iceland. Rooney scored in the 7th, 34th, and 75th minutes, and Lampard also scored, and it looked like England were going to win 4-0. Sadly, with 2 minutes left, Agnarsson scored to make it 4-1. Still, a comfortable win. I had qualified!
Norway away was my next match, if Norway avoided defeat, they were through. They started badly, as Carroll scored after 3 minutes. Gerrard scored from the edge of the area after 9 minutes. Rooney scored #45 for England in the 24th minute. From there, I'd like to report England coasted to victory, but in fact, England should have conceded numerous goals. The Norwegians just didn't take advantage.
My final qualifying game was against Switzerland. Barnetta scored in the 23rd minute, and after the earlier problem and a previous loss to Switzerland, I couldn't help but think I was fated to always struggle against them. At half-time, England were 1-0 down. After an hour had passed, I played 3-5-2, with the 5 in the plus shape that I'd used in the 2010 World Cup. Micah Richards was in the starting XI though now of course, so he happily slotted in at DM. I took an injured Gerrard off, and brought on Woods, pushing Lampard to AM. After 69 minutes, Rooney scored a volley off a Downing cross, and it was 1-1. Joe Cole is now my #2 right winger after Shaun Wright-Phillips, and he swung in the cross that Rio Ferdinand headed home. 2-1 England. I switched to 5-4-1 for the last few minutes, bringing on Ryan Taylor at RB. However, Downing soon nipped in to score a goal at the back post from a Micah Richards cross. 3-1 England.
Here is the final qualifying table:
So, Norway and England qualified for the Finals. Moldova got a draw too! They drew with Switzerland 0-0. That shows you how bad I am against the Swiss!
Here is a complete list of qualifiers:
- Host Nations: Template:Fb, Template:Fb
- Group A: Template:Fb, Template:Fb
- Group B: Template:Fb, Template:Fb (Template:Fb finished 3rd and are eliminated)
- Group C: Template:Fb, Template:Fb (Template:Fb finished 3rd and are eliminated)
- Group D: Template:Fb, Template:Fb (Template:Fb finished 3rd and are eliminated)
- Group E: Template:Fb, Template:Fb (Template:Fb finished 4th and are eliminated)
- Group F: Template:Fb, Template:Fb (as above)
- Group G: Template:Fb, Template:Fb (Template:Fb finished 3rd and are eliminated)
Netherlands led their group going into the Final game against Sweden, but lost 2-0 in Sweden. Meanwhile, Wales beat Georgia 3-1 to qualify.
My ideal choice of opponents at Euro 2012 would be Romania, Ireland, Wales, and Slovakia. I wouldn't be too afraid of Belgium or the two hosts, either. I'm just delighted that Switzerland are out!
My final game of the year was a home friendly against the not-quite-so-Magnificant Magyars. Once the greatest side on Earth in the 50s, when they had the likes of Ferenc Puskas, Hungary are a shadow of what they were. Lampard scored after 18 minutes. However, a player called Dzsudzsak scored from a free-kick after 70 minutes to equalise. 1-1. England wasted numerous opportunities to win the match both before and after the equaliser. The match finished 1-1.
My final act of 2011 was to vote for the World Player of the Year - I voted for Bojan because I am certain that Carlos Delgado will win it. Bojan deserves 2nd though, so I gave him my maximum points.
Other miscellaneous things I'm doing on the game include scouting. I've got my assistant, Tony Adams, to give me reports of how everybody in the National Pool (the body of players from which I select the squad and then the team from). This includes the Under 21s and Under 18s, who for now are "not good enough to play for England", but under future guidance might become my next team ten years down the line. As a result of this, I get to see how everybody performs, week in, week out, without having to watch the games myself. So far, I have discovered Ryan Taylor like that, a good Right Back who has been around for a few years, but I simply hadn't found him. He was tucked away at Right Back for Fulham (which may explain why they finished 3rd last season...), but I just never knew he existed.
Still, coming up are the draws for qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, and for Euro 2012.