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World Cup Qualifier

Thanks very much Sean, never really like International management before but I'm really enjoying this FM'13 swansong so far.




After a thrilling five goal game in Poland, we welcome the third place team to Wembley knowing that a victory in the capital would secure our automatic qualification to the Brazilian World Cup. Its going to be a tense affair but were within touching distance now.


+
Wayne Rooney returns from injury.

-
Germany and Netherlands already confirmed qualifiers before kick off.

+ We're potentially 90 minutes away from the World Cup!






Job done.

Ashley Young continues were he left off with yet another goal straight from kick off, the Manchester United Winger is in superb form of late and literally left the Polish defence standing with a daring run through there defence before burying a shot past Boruc to ease the nerves with just three minutes on the clock.

It was an ideal start to the game however just five minutes later, Glen Johnson was helped off the pitch clutching his thigh, our regular right back appears to be out for the remaining qualifiers but Spurs youngster Kyle Walker was more then ready to take his place and within half an hour, he was treated to a set piece masterclass from his fellow full back Leighton Baines as he tucked home a peach of a free-kick to double our lead before the half time whistle.

With the scoreline now relatively comfortable we coasted through the second half, with Poland forced to try and take something from the game it was our increasingly impressive defence that came to the fore and once again they performed admirably keeping Lewandowski out of the game to seal a solid home victory.

Next stop Brazil!



Man of the Match





Simply outstanding in recent games, Young has become one of the lynch pins of the squad in our new 4-5-1 formation and its really brining out the best in him. His ability to find the goal as soon as the whistle blows has seen us stroll to victory on two occasions now and if were to make an impact in South America hes certain to be in the starting line up.
 
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World Cup Qualifier



So with the World Cup in Brazil now fully secured and our place a top of the table already in the bag it just remains to see out the qualifiers with the last two games of the group competition and for todays opponents, Ukraine its still all to play for as they look to pip Poland to the last qualification spot.

+ We're off to Brazil

+ Fully fit squad available again.




Erm..not exactly what I had planned.

With the game having lost all importance before kick off due to our qualification being assured it appears the squad took the opinion that we didn't need to try any more and with the Ukraine fighting tooth and nail to make sure they join us in the home of Samba and Sun, we were quickly taught a lesson.

A rash challenge from Jagielka brought down Seleznyov in the box and the striker brushed him self off to step up and smash home the resulting spot kick, to put us behind for the first time in the World Cup Qualifiers.

With plenty of the game remaining, we had plenty of time to find a reply and with a full strength team on the field I was fully expecting the Three Lions to atleast salvage a draw however the Ukraine showed a drive and desire that we could only sit back and admire as they held on to their deserved lead and even made sure of the victory adding a second to the tally as Seleznyov made the most of a Glen Johnsons sloppy clearance, with a well taken finish from the edge of the area.

And with that the Ukraine join us in Brazil. With one game remaining and the World Cup draw due to be made in two months, mistakes like todays cant be made again.



Man of the Match




Not really much to choose from following that display but Gary Cahill just about did enough to return to England with his head held high. Under a strong amount of pressure from the determined Ukrainians, Cahill stood relativley firm with a number of last ditch tackles that saved us from a more humiliating score line.
 
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World Cup Qualifier



With that bitter defeat behind us, its important to end these qualifiers on a high and send us off to Brazil having at least kept up a near perfect performance in the qualifiers. With the draw now due to be made in December a convincing victory could atleast make us somewhat feared in the draw.


- Jagielka and Lescott both ruled out with injury

+ Caulker set to make first start in an England shirt

- James Milner joins Gerrard on the injury list.

+ Tom Cleverley gets his chance in the attacking midfield role.





Signing off in style.


One of the outstanding performers of our entire campaign, Leighton Baines opened the scoring, the set piece specialist tucked home a curling free kick from 30 yards in fine fashion and just eight minutes later he was back on the scoresheet this time with a goal from open play as the adventurous left back found himself in front of goal following a goal mouth scramble and calmly tucked away his opportunity.

With the result all but assured within little over a quarter of an hour, we began to enjoy our final game of the qualifiers with some open and exciting play bringing the best out of our midfielder, however it was to be debutant Steven Caulker who would find the back of the net next rising the highest from the bunch to connect with a Baines corner to put us three goals to the good.

With the match wrapped up by half time, the rest of the game became an exhibition as we created no less then twenty four chances but alarmingly only Ashley Young could do enough to beat Montenegro's defence after the break, scoring a super solo goal cutting in from the inside and making a mockery of what was proving to be a solid defence.

The result might have flattered us slightly but Montenegro's talismanic striker, Jovetic made sure they at least took something from the game with a thunder bolt that left Joe Hart help less in the dieing minutes of the game.

Despite the goal we'd done more then enough to assure the country we were deserved of are place in the World cup and can look forward to the draw.


Man of the Match




Sometimes head and shoulders above his team mates, Leighton Baines has been absolutley superb throughout the qualifiers and will be key to our success in the World Cup. Having ousted Cole early in my career, he has gone from strength to strength and is arguably one of the best left backs in the world right now.
 
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World Cup Qualifier




All done and dusted all that remains to be seen is how we faired overall in the group stage. With the draw for the World Cup just two months away, the teams will start eyeing each other up ahead of the finals competition in Brazil.





England expects and we delivered.

Dropping points just the once throughout the entire campaign, we did more then enough to ensure our place in the finals and the only team to have beaten us on our way there, the Ukraine, fittingly join us on the plane to Brazil.

Its been an eye opening campaign so far, the likes of Ashley Young, Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka impressed from the very moment we kicked off against San Marino last year. The jury may still be out on the 4-5-1 formation but one things for certain were at least making the most of a talent filled midfield and a solid defence, however one alarming stat does glare us alarmingly in the face.

Our strikers combined to score just one goal throughout the entire ten games.

With Welbeck, Sturridge and of course Wayne Rooney all scrapping for the sole starting spot upfront, the position is well and truly up for grabs, with just a handful of games left until the group stage kicks off, all three are in with a shout of making the position there own, if they could only find the back of the net.

Regardless of our wayward strikers, were off to Brazil and the first chance to weigh ourselves up against the Worlds best.

Bring on the draw...


Player of the Tournament





A close run thing but narrowly ahead of both Young and Jagielka was left back Leighton Baines. Given his opportunity just two games into my career, hes replaced Cole and weve never looked back since. Deadly from a set piece, solid at the back and lively going forward, Baines has been superb over the last two years.
 
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This is a good read, keep it up. The write-ups are very entertaining
 
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I must ask though. With England's strikers misfiring why haven't Peter Crouch or Andy Carroll been given an opportunity to lead the line?
 
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Friendly

Thanks guys, glad to have you on board.

In all honesty Squidman, I dont rate either of them highly enough to drop Welbeck or Sturridge but maybe a run out in a friendly is in order. I'm more then willing to be proved wrong!



With the years objective wrapped up, all that remains for the rest of 2013 is one final friendly and I use the term "friendly" very lightly. We're welcoming one of Englands greatest rivals, Argentina to Wembley and with both clubs already on there way to Brazil next year its sure to be a good test of our ability in the competition.



+ No Lionel Messi, Mascherano or Higuan. All on club duty in La Liga.

+ Full strength squad available, Gerrard returns as captain.

+ Youngsters on the bench all raring to win a place in the World Cup squad.






We're ready.



In a nervy first half an under strength Argentina played extremely cautiously, whilst our midfield struggled to string together any moves of importance, leaving a capacity crowd at Wembley disappointed in what was shaping up to be a rather lifeless rivalry.

The only moment of interest in the first half was unfortunately another injury for the returning Steve Gerrard. Despite being at full match fitness it appears age might be finally catching up with the Liverpool captain as hes once again sidelined.

Whilst the first half might have been completely dull, the second finally lived up to the billing.

England came out determined and with Jack Wilshere taking to the field to replace Gerrard, there was alot more spark in our midfield and after sixty nine minutes a sharp move through the middle of the field unleashed Rooney and the goal shy striker finally found the back of the net with a rifled finish.

With the deadlock broken we continued to push but we had to wait until the final ten minutes to make another break through, this time with substitute Gareth Barry making a strong impression as he curled a beautiful effort that found itself straight into the top corner of the net.

Another goal following a trademark Phil Jagielka header rounded off an impressive half of football and put a strong spin on the scoreline as we cruised to a well earned victory.

They might have not been anywhere near full strength but its still an important result to take just six months away from the World Cup.



Man of the Match



Taking to the field to replace the injured Steven Gerrard, Wilshere showed just why hes putting everyone in the midfield line up under pressure. Arguably one of the brightest prospects for England, the midfielder made the most of his opportunity to give me even more of a tough decision when it comes to naming my line up for Brazil.
 
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World Cup


So another year done and dusted. 2013 saw our unbeaten run come to an abrupt end as we tasted defeat for the first time under my reign but we still did more then enough to ensure our qualification for the World Cup in Brazil and with the opening game of the tournament now just six months away we patiently awaited the draw.

__________________________________________

+ First Seeds - England, Brazil, Netherlands, Uruguay, Germany, Argentina, Italy, Spain




We didn't have to wait to long to learn which group we would be in as were handed first billing in Group D. Kick off for the tournament would be on the second day for the Three Lions, now the important part, seeing who would join us in the group.

__________________________________________

+ Second Seeds - Russia, Norway, Ukraine, Belgium, Slovakia, France, Bosnia, Portugal




Avoiding one of the bigger European teams would have been a real boost but alas were handed our first opposition in the form of the up and coming Belgium.

Having played them already in a friendly we know just how tough this exciting team can be. With a host of Belgians already plying their trade in the top flight of English football, many Three Lions fans already know that were in for a tough fight for the qualification spot already.

__________________________________________

+ Third Seeds - Ecuador, Paraguay, Chile, Egypt, Ghana, Morocco, Ivory Coast, South Africa




Ghana and Ivory Coast were the two to avoid in this group and despite missing that bullet were still handed another tough African opponent in the shape of Morocco.

Interestingly its another team we've squared up against in a friendly, the Moroccans went unbeaten on there road to the World Cup and are certainly no push overs but at east we know what to expect from a team whose main form of attack comes from Arsenals misfit striker, Chamakh.

__________________________________________

+ Fourth Seeds -
Iran, Costa Rica, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Honduras, Australia, United States of America




Probably the toughest team in the pot, Mexico are certainly not a team to be underestimated. Having strolled through their qualification group, the Mexicans will arrive in Brazil full of confidence and with a young and promising squad of players.

Hernandez will be familiar name to many England fans and Chicarito's team mates are already well blooded in European football, with the majority of his team-mates plying their trade in La Liga and the other top flights of Europe.

__________________________________________




So it looks like were in for a tough time of it in the group stages but we would have expected nothing less from International footballs biggest tournament and despite the opposition, were still heavily fancied to make it into the latter stages of the competition and having already beaten two of the three clubs in friendlies over the last two years, we have every reason to be slightly optimistic.

Bring it on.

 
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Good luck in the group stages, Belgium and Mexico will not be a walk in the park thats for sure.
 
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