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WARNING: VERY LONG POST. READ AT YOUR OWN LEISURE.submitted by digestives27 to footballmanagergames
NB: This is part TWO of a TWO-part series. If you haven’t yet read part ONE, please click here.
Sunday 1st June 2008
The leagues are complete, the European competitions are decided, it’s time to see the damage done.
We’ll start with the Premier League and, as expected, Man Utd held on to their strong advantage to retain the title, the top-scoring Reds finishing 1 goal and 6 points ahead of Arsenal. Liverpool and Man City claim the remaining Champions League places, whilst Portsmouth finished a point ahead of Everton to claim the first available UEFA Cup place.
Fulham would’ve needed a mathematical miracle to have survived relegation, and Middlesbrough were already related going into the final day so a draw with Wigan meant little to them, but Wigan were already safe thanks in part to what was essentially a relegation play-off match between Birmingham and Sunderland. A win for either team would see them survive but a draw would not be enough for Sunderland.
David Connolly stepped up and scored a highly contentious goal for Sunderland in a tightly contested game. Birmingham City couldn’t believe what they believed was an offside goal was allowed to stand and replays have since shown that they may have had every right to feel aggrieved about that goal. They did not, however, do enough to get back into the match and although an equaliser would’ve seen them survive, they could not muster one and now drop down into the Championship.
Kevin Doyle has the last laugh in his ongoing feud with Leroy, pipping him to the Golden Boot for Reading with 25 goals to Lita’s 24. Andy Johnson rounds off the top 3 with 23 goals for Everton. Cani’s 16 assists see him take the non-existent playmaker of the year award, 3 clear of John Carew. I shall forever call this the Playmaker Award now.
The league table is as follows:
Overachievers: Man City, Derby County, West Ham
Underachievers: Tottenham, Chelsea, Bolton, Middlesbrough
West Ham seal European football through the Euro Vase, aka Intertoto Cup, by virtue of the fact that apparently neither Everton or Chelsea, nor Blackburn bothered to apply.
As we know, Portsmouth secured European football through 5th place but wait… Newcastle and Derby are also in Europe?!
This can only mean one thing…
Derby comfortably defeated Blackburn 3-1 at Wembley while Newcastle played out a dramatic 3-3 draw with Portsmouth. The game would be settled by penalties, with Portsmouth scoring their first 2 and Newcastle missing them both. Nerves got the better of the Pompey players as Newcastle scored their next 3 and Portsmouth missed all of them. Incredible scenes in the capital.
Not to be outdone, Derby and Newcastle would contest a fierce final themselves. James Milner wins the header from the goalkeeper’s free kick to nod down to Barton who returns a through ball for Milner to slot home in the 22nd minute. However, Derby would hit back on the brink of half-time, in part thanks for a huge stroke of good fortune: David Jones’ free kick on the edge of the box taking a huge deflection off the wall to wrong-foot Shay Given.
Deadlocked at 90 minutes, the game moved into extra time. More free kick fortune for Derby as Ulrik Yttergård Jenssen’s freekick deflects off the wall as well and into the path of Daniel Fredheim Holm who lashed home high into the net. However with the clock pushing 122 minutes, Derby go on the attack instead of taking it the corner flag. They would be punished with a flowing Newcastle counterattack, Nicky Butt feeding Derek Boateng who flights a ball to the back post for an unmarked Claudio Caçapa to nod home a dramatic late equaliser.
The penalty shootout would be quick and painless. Derby’s players, mentally crushed from conceding such a late goal and dissolved of all confidence, missed all 3 of their penalties to concede the FA Cup to Newcastle United.
Consolation for Derby is that, because Newcastle already secured European football through their League Cup victory, they will also be playing in Europe thanks to being FA Cup runners up. Incredible for a team that was predicted to be relegated this season.
Charlton return to the top division, hanging on to top spot despite losing to West Brom on a final day, as Sheffield United could only muster a draw at home to Southampton. Watford, West Brom, QPR and Southampton make up the playoff hopefuls whilst Hull, Sheffield Wednesday and Colchester all drop down into League One. All three relegated teams’ fates were sealed before the final day, so Hull’s 2-0 win at home to Ipswich was in vain.
Stoke and Crystal Palace played each other in a play-off decider, with Stoke knowing that any win would secure them 6th place. Palace needed a win against Stoke and a favour from title-chasing Sheffield United against Southampton to leapfrog both Stoke and Southampton into 6th. As such, Southampton needed to better Stoke’s result to secure the playoffs. As it transpired, Crystal Palace’s dramatic 90th minute winner away to Stoke was not enough as Southampton played out an entertaining 2-2 draw with Sheffield United.
Massive credit to Scunthorpe who were predicted to finish rock bottom this season and defied all expectations by finishing 9th, just 3 points off the playoffs. Unbelievable effort from QPR too, who flouted their 18th place prediction by finishing 5th in the playoff places.
Marlon King would finish top scorer for Watford with 30 goals, well clear of second place István Ferenczi, Kevin Kyle picking up the Playmaker Award with 14 assists.
Playoff Semi Finals – leg 1
QPR 1 – 1 West Brom
Southampton 2 – 0 Watford
Playoff Semi Finals – leg 2
West Brom 2 – 0 QPR << West Brom win 3-1 on aggregate
Watford 2 – 1 Southampton << Southampton win 3-2 on aggregate
Southampton 1 – 2 West Brom
A cagey 2-1 win for West Brom as Chris Brunt scores a late winner from a set piece. Sherjill MacDonald may well have offside for the opener as Zoltan Gera played a lovely ball in to the near post and Southampton may well have a right to be upset with referee Lee Probert. If the build-up to the equaliser was scrappy, the finish certainly wasn’t: a ball lifted over the top by Jason Euell is despatched exquisitely on the volley by David McGoldrick. Chris Brunt would have the last laugh in this one, sticking a 20yard free kick into the top corner to send West Bromwich Albion back into the Premier League.
Overachievers: QPR, Scunthorpe, Barnsley
Underachievers: Preston, Sheffield Wednesday, Cardiff City, Colchester United
Business as expected for the top two as Nottingham Forest win the league and Swansea City seal automatic promotion. Yeovil needed favours on the final day to usurp Swansea but did themselves none in the process by drawing in what transpired to be a dead rubber against Bristol Rovers. Doncaster needed to better Carlisle’s result to go up but instead both teams lost, and Carlisle held onto 6th place. Brighton could’ve taken advantage of that slip but lost to champions Nottingham Forest, whilst Oldham could’ve shocked everybody but ultimately lost to Southend instead.
All four relegated teams were already down going into the final day: Northampton, Leeds, Tranmere and Leyton Orient.
Frazier Campbell of Wallsall and Marvin Williams of Yeovil would share the Golden Boot between them with 32 goals, 4 clear of veteran striker Tore André Flo. Brian Howard’s impressive displays for Yeovil meant he claimed the Playmaker Award with 20 assists.
Playoff Semi Finals – leg 1
Luton 2 – 1 Walsall
Carlisle 1 – 3 Yeovil
Playoff Semi Finals – leg 2
Walsall 0 – 0 Luton << Luton win 2-1 on aggregate
Yeovil 3 – 1 << Yeovil win 6-2 on aggregate
Luton 4 – 1 Yeovil << Luton promoted after extra time
An open-ended affair with chances aplenty for both sides, Luton taking the lead inside the first 5 minutes, full-back Alan Goodall whipping a lovely ball into the near post for Sam Parkin to tuck away. Yeovil would be reduced to ten me early in the second half, Terrell Forbes hospital pass clearance met by the head of Luton’s Chris Hackett who nodded into the path of striker Drew Talbot. Talbot was unable to get his shot away clearly as Matthew Rose stuck out a leg to bring Talbot down and was sent off for a professional foul, drawing large protests from the Yeovil players.
Still, Yeovil pressed and five minutes later they’d find an unlikely equaliser. Brian Howard, standing over a free kick 30 yards out, goes for the audacious and gets a huge slice of luck as the free kick clatters off the wall, sends the keeper the wrong way and flies into the empty net.
Brave Yeovil would hold out the 90 minutes but unfortunately, Luton would make the extra man count in extra time, substitute Sol Davis starting the procession with a delightful free kick on the edge of the box. Tidy finishes from David Edwards and Willie Gibson rounded off a fine performance from Luton as they sealed their place in next season’s Championship.
Overachievers: Walsall, Brighton, Cheltenham, Yeovil
Underachievers: Leeds, Tranmere, Millwall
Maybe slightly harsh to put Leeds in there with a 15-point deduction, but without it they would’ve finished 10th which is still way below expectations.
Impressive Bury romped to a surprise League Two victory, 5 points clear of Peterborough who in turn were 6 points clear of Chesterfield. On-loan youngster Chedwyn Evans’ 24 league goals complementing striker partner Andy Bishop’s 22 league goals to good effect.
MK Dons’ Jemal Johnson would score 4 goals in a 5-2 away thriller at Brentford to snatch the Golden Boot away from Morecambe’s Michael Twiss, who must’ve hoped his two goals against Barnet would’ve been enough, Johnson finishing the season on 25 goals. Kevin McBride of Darlington wins the Playmaker Award.
Grimsby could’ve been relegated on the last day had they, as they did, lost to Hereford but in the end it mattered not as Barnet and Mansfield, who only needed a win to try and survive, both suffered heavy defeats to drop out of the Football League.
Playoff Semi Final – leg 1
Shrewsbury 1 – 2 Darlington
Macclesfield 0 – 2 Morecambe
Playoff Semi Final – leg 2
Darlington 1 – 1 Shrewsbury << Darlington win 3-1 on aggregate
Morecambe 3 – 2 Macclesfield << Morecambe win 5-2 on aggregate
An incredible event as teams predicted to finish 12th and 21st met in the playoff final. Morecambe’s firepower really should’ve seen them through here, but it was Darlington who took an early lead through Gregg Blundell.
Darlington must’ve feared the worst when top scorer Pawel Abbott was taken off injured after the half-hour mark. It took Morecambe until the 79th minute to get off the mark through, Jamie Forrester providing the breakthrough. Smart thinking from goalkeeper Steven Drench sees Forrester run through a gap the size of Jupiter between the two centre backs to collect the long punt forward and slot home.
Darlington would somehow have the last laugh though, Tommy Wright slotting him neatly 3 minutes later for a famous win, taking Darlington up to League One
Overachievers: Morecambe, Macclesfield, Accrington Stanley, Darlington, Bury
Underachievers: Bradford, Rotherham, Brentford, MK Dons, Rochdale, Grimsby, Barnet, Mansfield
Honestly, take your pick. Crazy season in League Two.
Oxford won the Conference Premier, 9 points ahead of the playoff hopefuls. Rushden & Diamonds steamrollered Stevenage 4-0 in the final, who themselves had reached the final via a 90th minute winner against Crawley, who themselves had an excellent season after being predicted to finish 19th and instead finished 2nd, even with a 6-point deduction. Simeon Jackson wins top goal scorer with 33 league goals for Rushden & Diamonds.
Overachievers: Salisbury, Histon, Crawley, Rushden & Diamonds
Underachievers: Exeter, York, Torquay, Ebbsfleet, Kidderminster, Burton
Southport win the Conference North and Boston United win the playoff final, beating Kettering on penalties. Alfreton, Hyde and Vauxhall are all relegated.
Lewes win the Conference South and Dorchester Town win the playoff final, beating Braintree on penalties. Havant & Waterlooville, Hayes & Yeading and Fisher Athletic are all relegated.
League round-up. We’ve already talked about the overachievers and underachievers, so let’s quickly compare the media predictions to the teams’ actual finishing positions. Should we castigate the media? Or should be laud and slate the teams who, for better or worse, defied expectations?
The final position is denoted to the right of the team, with the change from the prediction one over.
What do the media know, eh?
The game also has its own season summary for each league which pretty much covers everything I’ve already shared but for those interested, see below:
It seems like forever ago since we saw European competition. I will skip ahead, so here are the First and Second Knockout Round results.
Gritty performances throughout. For those of you wondering why FC Bayern are in the UEFA Cup it’s because they finished 4th in the Bundesliga in 06/07 behind champions VfB Stuttgart, 2nd place Schalke and 3rd place Werder Bremen. They entered at the UEFA Cup first round, essentially a final qualifying round. In-game, they defeated FC Twente 5-1 on aggregate to reach the group stage. They finished 3rd in their group, behind Fiorentina and Bolton.
All relatively straight forward in the Quarter Finals too, Bayern and Tottenham progress comfortably whilst Porto and Fiorentina had to do a bit of digging in to get the job done.
FC Bayern (6) 3 - 0 (1) Werder Bremen
Dinamo Kiev (2) 2 - 2 (4) Porto
Tottenham (5) 1 - 1 (2) Blackburn
Fiorentina (3) 0 - 0 (2) Girondins Bordeaux
Bayern and Fiorentina met again in the Semi Finals to relive their group match (which was a 1-1 draw). The Semi Final would prove to be hotly contested again, Bayern stealing the victory in the 90th minute through Bastian Schweinsteiger, although replays show he may well have been offside. Luca Toni and Adrian Mutu were the other goal scorers.
The second leg lived up to the billing as well, Bayern taking the lead mid-way through the first half through Miroslav Klose’s smart run and finish. Mark van Bommel added an unlikely second on the night through a sublime freekick which left Fiorentina needing 4 goals to go through. Adrian Mutu led a one-man crusade with a brace in the 63rd and 69th minute respectively before substitute Massimo Gobbi’s tidy 73rd minute finish set up a nervy finale. However, La Viola couldn’t add to their tally and Bayern reached the final.
A tight contest in the other match was lifted with Steed Malbranque’s goal on the stroke of half-time, simply sumptuous freekick from the corner of the box, lifted over the wall and into the back of the net on the near side. Some fine work from José Bosingwa down the right-hand side allowed him to whip a cross into the far post for Raúl Meireles to head in an equaliser to ensure the spoils were shared going into the second leg.
Robbie Keane scored his 25th goal of the season here with a cool finish, showing that you don’t need to blast the ball to score, Tottenham now sitting pretty knowing that Porto needed to score twice to progress. A moment of madness, however, from Didier Zokora left them in a spot of bother. Zokora was shown a straight red card on the brink of half-time, his second of the season, after catching Malkhaz Asatiani with his elbow, referee Stuart Dougal showing no hesitation in sending the Ivorian off. However, Porto were unable to even pluck out an equaliser, let alone a winner and Tottenham progress.
FC Bayern (4) 2 - 3 (4) Fiorentina << FC Bayern advance on away goals
Porto (1) 0 - 1 (2) Tottenham
Bayern were utterly ruthless in the final, showing no mercy to Tottenham in a 3-0 demolishing, all of the goals coming in the first half courtesy of Luca Toni and a brace from Miroslav Klose. The lack of defensive cover in the midfield really cost them and Kevin-Prince Boateng had his work cut out trying to fill-in in Zokora’s absence, indeed getting himself sent off in the 79th minute for a second bookable offence.
Miroslav Klose’s two goals in the final means he takes home the Golden Boot with 12 goals, edging out RC Lens’ Aruna Dindane and team-mate Luca Toni by one goal. Riccardo Montolivo of Fiorentina picks up the Playmaker Award with 8 assists.
Now, for what you’ve all been waiting for – the Champions League!
We left you with the Quarter Final line-ups:
Get ready for mayhem...
None of the teams would disappoint in this round either. Liverpool beating Real Madrid 2-1 away in the first leg only to almost throw it away with a 2-1 loss at home, thanks for Raúl’s 90th minute goal. Liverpool may well have been questioning just why the final whistle hadn’t already blown, but Jamie Carragher would be the extra time hero though, scoring a scrappy goal after a corner was failed to be cleared by Madrid.
Inter Milan’s first leg away goal helped them on their way to beating Man Utd over two legs, Adriano powering home from an indirect free kick opportunity. Paul Scholes would level the tie up when they met again in Italy, but former Arsenal man Patrick Vieira would seal the tie for Inter with a wonderful 30-yard screamer into the top corner.
A contender for match-of-the-competition as Arsenal overcame Barcelona in a 10-goal feast. Thierry Henry’s sub 5-minute brace against his former club, including one after just 18 seconds, was pegged back by Robin van Persie’s own brace and the Gunners would lead 3-2 at half-time thanks to “wonderkid” Nicklas Bendtner. Bendtner would be at it again shortly after half-time, thanks in part to even more craftsmanship from Francesc Fàbregas. A headed goal from William Gallas at a corner put Arsenal 5-2 up and looking comfortable but Barcelona went on the attack the corresponding kick off, Xavi Hernández sliding Ronaldinho in to make it 5-3, Jens Lehmann going walkabouts by all accounts.
Bendtner would complete has hattrick on 70 minutes though, slotting home after a neat turn in the corner of the box, sending Andrea Barzagli to another dimension. Barcelona would secure their 5th away goal though, Thierry Henry completing his own hat-trick after William Gallas failed to deal with a ball over the tip. Final score 6-4. And breathe.
The second leg was less entertaining, but Thierry Henry would put his former club to the sword again with two more goals and, despite Rafael Márquez being sent off for an astonishing elbow to Bakary Sagna’s face, Barcelona held out for the win on away goals. 2-0 on the night, 6-6 on aggregate. The most disgraceful part of the night was the players surrounding referee Thorsten Kinhöfer after the red card. Pundits are still perplexed as to what they were complaining about.
Finally onto Celtic, who produced the most breath-taking First Knockout Round ties against Valencia would continue to produce high entertainment value against PSV. Celtic held the advantage after a 1-1 draw in Eindhoven, but PSV would not go down without a fight. Rodrigo Palacio opened the scoring after Scott Brown needlessly lost the ball and some poor play from goalkeeper Artur Boruc, less than 45seconds into the match. Maciej Zurawski would dig his goalkeeper out of a hole 3 minutes later, beating Heurelho Gomes at his near post before Rodrigo hit back again on 8 minutes, capitalising on another poor error from Artur Boruc.
John de Jong would add to icing to a rich and wholesome cake, flicking the ball into the far corner of the net beyond Boruc’s reach and PSV looked comfortable leading 4-2 on aggregate, knowing Celtic now needed 3 goals to progress. PSV would lose key midfielder Edison Méndez to injury on 27 minutes but it would take until the second half for Celtic to take advantage, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink finishing off an attack before Maciej Zurawski would set up a frantic last 5 minutes after getting on the end of Lee Naylor’s inch-perfect cross. Celtic couldn’t produce one more moment of magic though and the tie would finish 4-4 on aggregate, PSV going through by virtue of away goals.
Real Madrid (3) 2 - 2 (4) Liverpool
Man Utd (1) 1 - 1 (2) Inter
Arsenal (6) 0 - 2 (6) Barcelona << Barcelona advance on away goals
PSV (4) 3 - 3 (4) Celtic << PSV advance on away goals
Could the Semi Finals produce the same magic? Liverpool were paired up against Inter Milan and Barcelona were drawn against PSV.
Barcelona all but ended PSV hopes of an underdog victory, smashing them 4-0 in the first leg at home, Thierry Henry and Ronaldinho both scoring braces, Ronaldinho’s both coming from penalties (and both when Henry was on a hat-trick so he can probably consider himself unlucky to be allowed to take one of them). With Edison Méndez still missing, Sebastián Battaglia was asked to step in but he was easily over-run by the Barcelona midfield.
PSV showed incredible fight immediately in the return fixture, going 2-0 up inside the first 7 minutes through Palacio’s lob and Ismael Aissati’s smart finish, but Barcelona soon calmed everything down, scoring 4 unanswered goals in return before half-time courtesy of Barzagli, two from Henry and a brilliant Ronaldinho free kick.. Gastón Fernández scored again late in the second half, but with the tie already done and dusted, it was more for pride than anything else. Barcelona win 4-3 on the night and 8-3 on aggregate.
Liverpool hosted Inter Milan at Anfield for the first leg of the other semi final and took a first half-lead through a stunning John Arne Riise free kick. Steven Gerrard forced Júlio César into an own goal after initially saving Ryan Babel’s long-range effort before Fernando Torres turned provider for Ryan Babel to breakaway and make it 3-0. Zlatan Ibrahimović gave Inter Milan some hope with a late away goal, pouncing on a rare error from Jamie Carragher in the 88th minute.
Liverpool were in good form going into the return leg, having battered fierce rivals Man Utd 4-0 at home at the weekend but it was Inter Milan who dominated this game for long periods, really putting the Liverpool team to the sword. Their dominance paid off in the 21st minute when Ibrahimović retrieved Maicon’s pinpoint pass and slotted into the bottom corner. Torres would ease the pressure on Liverpool with an equaliser at the start of the second half, his 20th goal of the season passed into the bottom corner; the keeper probably should’ve done better with it though. Inter claimed offside, but I’m not convinced.
Incensed, Inter went on the attack immediately, both literally and figuratively, injuring Torres before Ibrahimović fed Adriano who had the vision to pick out Esteban Cambiasso to restore Inter’s lead on the night. A great counterattack. Inter would make Liverpool pay once more for sloppy defending when Steve Finnan was beaten to the ball too easily by Adriano who cut it back for Maxwell to fire home. Pepe Reina will be disappointed when he looks back on that, as he really should be saving those kinds of shots. 3-1 on the night and unbelievably 4-4 on aggregate.
Extra time beckoned but Adriano was not interested in penalties, whipping a delightful ball around the corner for his strike partner David Suazo, clean through on goal to slot past a helpless Reina. Liverpool would go all out offensive from then until the final whistle but couldn’t muster one last goal to salvage the result and Inter go through to final, 4-1 on the night, 5-4 on aggregate.
Liverpool (4) 1 - 4 (5) Inter
Barcelona (8) 4 - 3 (3) PSV
And so for the final. Inter Milan vs Barcelona. The world held high hopes after the last few rounds: they wanted goals.
They were not disappointed.
Barcelona opened the scoring on 23 minutes, emerging “wonderkid” Lionel Messi slotting Samuel Eto’o through to score his 20th goal of the season. The lead wouldn’t last too long though, as Ibrahimović fed Suazo to equaliser on 31 minutes. Eto’o would restore the lead again soon after, Deco sliding a lovely pass through the defence for Eto’o to bury.
Controversy followed in the second half. Xavi loses the ball to Maxwell inside the Inter half who in turn goes on a mazy run towards goal exchanging passes with Cambiasso along the way. He is allegedly obstructed by Zambrotta outside the penalty arc, but replays show that it’s a blatant dive. To make matters worse, the referee inexplicably gives a penalty! Ibrahimović slots it without question. 2-2.
63 minutes and Puyol is needlessly dragged out of position to close down Stankovic who instead slips in Ibrahimović for his second of the game. Minutes later, a poor throw-in from Zambrotta gifts the ball to Ibrahimović to seal his hat-trick and put the game to bed, Inter holding out for a 4-2 win in the final against Barcelona!
Despite the result, Ibrahimović would finish runner up to on 14 goals to Thierry Henry and Rodrigo Palacio in the Golden Boot race, the latter pair netting 15 goals a-piece. Andrés Iniesta would take home the Playmaker Award with 8 assists ahead of team-mate Ronaldinho’s 7. Despite an average rating of 7.83, Ronaldinho would also finish runner-up to Ibrahimović in the Champions League best player, with Henry rounding off the top 3.
Now, because does not save an accessible history of stats and results, they are essentially wiped as the season ends, so I decided to end each 4th game file on June 1st. The game resets around about the 24th or 25th but I wanted to stop the game after the season had finished and before any international competitions began.
But the year is 2008 so we all know what’s coming…
This does mean I’m going to have to go into the game file for Year 2, but I’ll keep everything else a secret. Euro 2008 deserves to be inside the 07/08 season.
I do have all the results for the other international tournaments akin to this which make up the Confederations Cup competitors, so I will give a very brief oversight into those as well as they happen.
I’m not going to go into how each team qualified for the tournament unless you specifically ask about it in the comments. Let’s look at the groups, with the help of some expert MS Paint skills to display their current world rankings too.
The most notable changes are that Denmark, England, Scotland and Finland all qualified for this edition and Spain, French, Russia and Poland, who all qualified in the real Euro 2008, miss out. Hosts Switzerland and Austria naturally have terrible ratings due to not playing many competitive internationals as they didn’t need to qualify for their own tournament. Group B looks tough, and the Scots may well fancy an upset in Group D.
Editors predictions: England. Not just because I’m biased, but because on paper they have the squad to do it. The Golden Generation may not have succeeded in real life, but this is stats-based fantasy. Football’s coming home! Failing that, and with France and Spain both missing, it’s anyone’s to take. I’m putting money on a Ronaldo-backed Portugal.
I will run through them Group by Group, even though it won’t strictly be in the order. All will be well again come the Knockout Rounds.
(editor note: a picture of all the groups is at the bottom. I had to cut back to 20 images)
Croatia and Sweden played out an entertaining 2-2 draw that didn’t get going until the last 30 minutes. Jurica Vranjes thought he’d snatched a late 87th minute for Croatia until Marcus Allbäck equalised 2 minutes later. Two early goals for Denmark were enough to see off Switzerland despite themselves pulling a goal back before half-time, a 2-1 finish.
The second round of fixtures produced even more drama, a Tranquillo Barnetta hat-trick for Switzerland helping to sink Sweden 4-3 in a back-and-forth game, Gelson Fernandes eventually settling the contest for the Swiss. An Eduardo-inspired Croatia took the game to Denmark and a late Nicklas Bendtner goal wasn’t enough to stop Croatia winning 3-1.
Any win for Croatia against Switzerland sends them through. A draw would also suffice. Switzerland need to win, although a draw would do if Sweden could beat Denmark. Any positive Denmark result paired with a Croatia win sees them progress, or even a win and a Croatia/Swiss draw. Sweden must beat Denmark and hope Croatia win. If the Swiss beat Croatia, they need to win and hope for a goal difference swing.
Drama all round as Sweden’s tournament hopes end with a 2-1 defeat to Denmark. Switzerland know they realistically need to win but can only muster a 2-2 draw with Croatia.
Denmark top the group, Croatia are runners up.
Czech Republic and Austria open the tournament with an entertaining 2-2 draw, Austria snatching a 90th minute equaliser through Steffen Hofmann after a mistake from Zdenek Grygera. Turkey and Portugal would step it up a notch by playing out a 3-2 game which, in truth, Portugal were always in control of. 3-0 up inside 21minutes, Turkey made a second half comeback but the 2nd goal in the 89th minute was too little, too late.
Goals from Deco and Tomas Rosicky in the first half ensured the spoils were shared in a game where the Czech Republic dominated Portugal for large portions of the game and will be disappointed to only draw 1-1. (editor note: the game seems to think Portugal completed 200% of their crosses in this match…) Turkey, on the other hand, turned their dominance into a 2-0 win over Austria.
Portugal need to beat Austria to secure top spot whereas Austria know they need a big win and some good fortune for a draw in the other game. Any winner of Turkey/Czech Republic will qualify, but a draw for Turkey should be enough, barring a miracle from Austria. It’s feasible that Portugal could still be knocked out, though very unlikely.
And as it happens, Portugal make light work of Austria, Maniche and Cristiano Ronaldo scoring first half goals to seal the tie 2-0 in an otherwise boring match. Czech Republic would be made to pay for not getting the winner against Portugal, being torn apart comprehensively by a relentless Turkey side with braces for both Nihat and Halil Altintop, 4-0 the final score line.
Portugal top the group, Turkey are runners up.
The last group to get going, but no lack of entertainment here, with Romania cruising to a 2-0 win against Greece. All of the drama came in the much-anticipated England/Germany match though and it met all expectations. Darren Bent’s headed opener was cancelled out by Miroslav Klose pouncing on Paul Robinson’s fumble, but Wayne Rooney would restore England’s lead halfway through the first half. Bayern’s Lukas Podolski pulled it level again before half-time before the teams seemed set to see out a 2-2 draw. However, deep into stoppage time at the end of 90 minutes, up steps David Beckham to do what David Beckham does best – dispatch freekicks into the top corner. 3-2. There was still time after the restart for Steven Gerrard to be shown a straight-red for hacking down Klose with two-feet.
Germany would take their revenge out on Greece in the next game, securing a 4-2 victory, whilst England would maintain their good form by persevering for a late 2-0 win against Romania.
England are already through and Greece cannot qualify so their final game is a dead rubber, other than Greece trying not to finish bottom and England trying to assure top spot. The winner of Germany/Romania will go through, but a draw will be enough for Germany by virtue of Goal Difference.
England consign Greece to 4th place in the group with a routine 2-0 win, goals from Wayne Rooney and Shaun Wright-Phillips enough to see them off. A cagey first-half in the Germany/Romania match became a much more open-ended affair after Daniel Niculae’s brilliant 47th minute opener, a sublime solo run culminating in a lobbed finish. Miroslav Klose fired back 10 minutes later with 2 goals in quick succession to swing the tie but Romania, not prepared to lie down, equalised again through Eric Bicfalvi. Romania would do the unthinkable though, Adrian Mutu bending a delightful goal into the corner to secure a 3-2 victory for Romania.
England top the group, Romania are runners up.
Italy kicked off the group against Finland with a nervy win, having gone 1-0 down to a 60th minute penalty from Ari Nyman. Filippo Inzaghi pulled it level in the 82nd minute before Antonin Cassano’s stoppage time winner stole all the points from Finland. Scotland were less keen to roll over though and will be disappointed to have thrown away a 3-1 lead at the 85th minute, Wesley Sneijder and Roy Makaay with late goals to snatch a 3-3 draw.
Holland vs Italy was billed as the one to watch in this group, and rightly so, both teams amassing almost 30 shots between them, but with both keepers in good form, the match would be tied 1-1, Riccardo Montolivo cancelled out Robin van Persie’s first half strike. Scotland have certainly found their shooting boots at this tournament after putting 4 past Finland, but they were made to work for the victory with the Finns taking the lead and later equalising through Mika Ääritalo’s brace. James McFadden’s strike would retake the lead before Barry Ferguson put the icing on the cake of a 4-2 win.
Scotland need any result against Italy to go through. A loss through, coupled with a likely Holland win overly Finland, would send them crashing out. Finland cannot progress. Holland must win to go through, as must Italy.
Holland do indeed get their win against Finland, dominating from start to finish, although the score line should really have been bigger than 2-1. Scotland’s hopes of sneaking out of the group were dealt an immediate blow as they went 1-0 down to Alessandro Del Piero’s header inside 45 seconds. Alberto Gilardino would double the lead in the 20th minute and although Kenny Miller pulled one back in the second half, they couldn’t find a second goal to escape the group. Final score 2-1 to Italy.
Italy top the group, Holland are runners up.
Turkey – Denmark
Croatia – Portugal
England – Holland
Italy – Romania
No real humdingers here as all of the teams tightened up a lot.
Turkey did away with Denmark 2-0 in a game that the Danes will be disappointed to have not scored in. Nihat and an own goal from Per Krøldrup sealed the game.
Portugal were perhaps the better team in their tie against Croatia but still had to work hard to secure a 2-1 victory, Eduardo’s first half strike cancelled out by Maniche and Ronaldo in the second.
More late, late drama in this one as Frank Lampard scored a trademark goal, arriving from deep to sweep home a Wright-Phillips cross. England must’ve thought that’d be enough but Robin van Persie struck early into stoppage time to level the tie up 1-1. But cometh the 94th minute, cometh the man: Holland do not deal with a long clearance properly and Wright-Phillips skips past his man on the wing to lay the ball into the path of the onrushing Lampard who buries it high into the far corner. Holland complain to the linesman but really, they should be looking at themselves for some shoddy defending.
Romania will be disappointed they had to take Italy all the way to penalties to beat them, having been arguably the better team throughout. 1-1 at full time but a comfortable 4-2 shootout victory as their excellent tournament marches on, the only sour point being Stefan Radu’s 121st minute red card for a horrific tackle on Antonio Cassano.
Turkey 2-0 Denmark
Croatia 1-2 Portugal
England 2-1 Holland
Italy 1-1 Romania << Romania advance on penalties
Turkey – Romania
Portugal – England
One thing guaranteed in this tournament now is that there will be an outsider in the final. Turkey left it late, but a brace from Nihat would prove enough to put Romania to the sword and end their dream run. Romania might look back and feel like they could’ve done better with both goals though.
Manchester United teammates Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney did battle in this one, both getting their names on the scoresheet with clinical finishes. There would be nothing to settle the two sides until the very end: penalties. Hugo Viana, Nuno Valente, Jorge Andrade all scored whilst Gareth Barry, John Terry and Steven Gerrard did likewise. After Miguel fired home, Michael Carrick would see his penalty saved by goalkeeper Ricardo. However, some Paul Robinson heroics against Ricardo Carvalho gave Rio Ferdinand a chance to get back into the shootout. The pressure was too much though, and he slammed his penalty against the inside of the post to see Portugal through to the final, a final which Deco will miss with suspension after hacking Wright-Phillips down with two feet in 120th minute for an early bath.
Turkey 2-0 Romania
Portugal 1-1 England << Portugal advance on penalties
No Third Place Playoff in the Euros, straight into the final where Turkey meet Portugal, looking for an upset. Nihat and Mehmet Aurélio’s persistence forced the breakthrough on 20 minutes but a smart short freekick routine 2 minutes later from Portugal saw Maniche hit a bending daisy cutter into the bottom corner to equalise. Into the second half and Mehmet Topuz played one of the balls of the tournament from deep, around the defence and into the path of Nihat who didn’t need to break stride to hit an unbelievable shot on the half-volley. Rumour has it that Nihat lost Ricardo Carvalho so well, he is still searching for Nihat to this day. Turkey would hold on to their 2-1 advantage until the final whistle to become unlikely European Champions 2008.
And so that concludes the first season back of Reasons Why I Still Play FM08, also unofficially called What Could Have Been.
This grew to be significantly longer than I expected, and I thoroughly enjoyed writing it, even if it did take me well over 15 hours to do so.
If anybody has any specific questions about any aspects of this particular game, please feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer them, whether it’s information about non-league clubs, club finances, world rankings, wonderkid regens etc.
I will also happily run through competitions like the African Cup of Nations and the Olympics, although competitions like the Asian Cup, Gold Cup, Copa América have yet to happen on this file.
I have at least 5 seasons worth of game files now, and seasons 2-5 are all structured the same in terms of save dates: September 1st, December 1st, March 1st and June 1st.
Congratulations if you got this far, I applaud your perseverance. I hope you enjoyed it. See you soon for Year 2.
Starting a FM08 save.
I'd welcome any general advice (what works/doesn't work well) and I'll even try some pre-made tactics anyone has to offer as I've never been overly good at creating my own.
Thanks in advance.