This should be my last update on the C&C save for a while as I plan to retire Matthias Sindelar from both Austria and Rapid so that I can create a new manager at a different club with a new challenge. I’m a big fan of the increased randomness created when starting a new save a few years into the game and it seemed prudent to use my own save for my new career. I’ll keep save from just before the retirement though, as I get the feeling that I’ll want to come back and “finish the job”.
My last hurrah, for now, with the national side will be our attempt to win, or at least do as well as we can at, the 2016 European Championships. My last update on the national side recorded our excellent qualification campaign where we finished ahead of Italy and gifted ourselves a second seed spot at the full tournament. That second seeding has landed us in a group alongside England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
This update will solely concentrate on our second tournament adventure…
As is becoming standard operating procedure for me and international tournaments, we’ll travel to France without several key players as injury denies us the service of Yasin Pehlivan, Veli Kavlak and Martin Harnik. The last of those three is a particularly crucial absentee as he’s been our main source of goals since I took over the national job and scored 5 goals during qualifying – all of them game winners.
Nevertheless, we’ll have to do without him and find goals from elsewhere, relying on this squad to take us through:
I’ve tried to give myself as great a spread of players as I can so that we have options to play both the diamond that suits us against the lesser teams and the counter-attacking 4-5-1 I plan to use when facing sides that would expect to beat us. Harnik’s absence is a big miss for the latter with his pace ideally suited to the counter-attacking game, although I hope that the likes of Arnautovic, Drazan and wildcard Nico Glass can provide the necessary speed.
I decided to test the 4-5-1 in the warm-up friendlies. I know the diamond works so it was really about finding which of my players would be best suited to the 4-5-1 should the necessity arise.
It started very, very well with the destruction of Hungary before going off the boil somewhat with a couple of difficult games against Poland and, particularly, Georgia. The morale boosting game against Palestine did its job as we whacked in a few goals and so we are, as much as we’ll ever be, all set for the big kick-off.
To provide something different this time round and given the small number of games, I’ll be typing out this update “live”, i.e. as the games are happening. This is partly inspired by Push Them Wide’s Match Analysis blogs and should give a little additional information on how I approach games.
So without further ado…
Austria v Northern Ireland
I really thought long and hard about whether to start with the narrow diamond or a wide version. Northern Ireland’s fullbacks are poor but, let’s be honest, their entire team is utterly gash and I should thump them comfortably. Therefore, I decided to do something a little unusual for me and just let them worry about us – putting out what I see as our strongest side to beat a lesser team. Would it work?
Well 7 minutes in and we’ve taken an early lead as talismanic centre half Dragovic nods in from an Otto corner. A good start although the Irish have had more time on the ball than I would normally like. Something I do like, however, is that whenever they do have the ball, there are clear counter attacking opportunities for us as our two strikers and AMC are staying high. Therefore, I’ve gone for the “clear ball to flanks” shout to try and encourage our strikers, who are quicker than their markers, to exploit the space early in the transition phase.
Twenty minutes in and, as usual, we’re taking too many low percentage shots from distance so the “works ball into box” shout is implemented.
Half way through the first half and Northern Ireland are still looking far more dangerous than I’m comfortable with. They’re getting a fair bit of space out wide on the break so I’m trying something a little unusual by dropping by DM into the back 3. My hope here is that the wider centrebacks will sit wider when we have the ball whilst I’ve altered Holzhauser’s instructions at DC to get him to step out as much as possible. A risk but we really should be dominating this team.
By halftime we’re still 1-0 up but haven’t really threatened since the goal, a couple of close things from distance aside. So I tell the side that I’m not happy and switch to the 4-5-1 counter attack. We’re ahead so don’t need to chase the game and matching them up with two out wide should help protect our flanks a little better.
70 minutes gone and it’s still 1-0 and it’s still far too tight. We’re keeping more of the ball but not often in good areas and Northern Ireland are starting to press more. I’m concerned about us losing possession within our own half and so I’ve decided to play a bit more direct, try and get the ball forward quicker and use the talent we have up top. I’ve also brought on Drazan to play on the left. Genuine width, pace and dribbling ability. Just what I need to take advantage of a stretched game.
80 minutes and we finally put the game beyond doubt. We work the ball nicely through the middle with Otto, Baumgartlinger and Alar setting up Jens Hoeneß to fire low into the corner. Lovely stuff.
And that was that, a solid 2-0 win and with England beating Wales 2-1 in the other game we are briefly top. What can I take from that win? To be honest, I’d planned on using the 4-5-1 against England anyway but I’m now tempted to use it against Wales as well – particularly given their strength out wide. We also looked much better when playing a more direct game in the latter stages, something to consider for future games.
Austria v England
My initial intention to go with the 4-5-1 was re-inforced by a quick look at the pre-match report, noticing that England have scored the majority of their goals (26 of 40) from the flanks. Interestingly, they’ve conceded 6 out of 17 with assists from the opponent’s half which makes me think that they are very susceptible to the counter and likely to play a high line.
A couple of surprises there as I decided to go with Glass and Drazan out wide – pure pace. I expect Rooney to drop off the line and put pressure on my centre halves and DM when we’ve got the ball. Coupled with the previously identified weakness against the counter, we’re going quick and direct so Glass, with his 16/17 for acceleration and pace, could be key despite being technically poorer than Arnautovic or Alar. Worth a punt right?
England’s left flank worries me, with Baines and Ince likely to cause me more problems than Jones and Cork on the right. Therefore I’m asking Schimpelsberger, at right back, to stay deeper than I usually would to provide a bit more cover. So here goes…
Early signs are promising as we are spending more time attacking than defending so far but I face an early tough choice as Glass picks up a knock whilst challenging Hart for a cross. A quick check on his profile shows a “potential upper body injury” so I’ve decided to leave him on for just now as I tend to find these affect the player less than a potential leg injury.
Phil Jones, playing at right back, has also picked up an early booking. Therefore I’m going to try something a little unorthodox. With Drazan really a winger, I’ve changed his instructions to suit this role and asked Alaba, playing as an attacking wingback behind him, to break forward and “cut inside”. Basically I’m trying to isolate Drazan and Jones so that my winger can take him on and force him into doing something stupid.
It’s still 0-0 at halftime and we need to take stock. It’s been a fairly even half although England have had more chances we’ve done well in keeping their shots to ones from distance for the most part. Rooney is quite clearly dropping off the line and hassling our midfield, trying to find space but Holzhauser is doing well in keeping him quiet so far.
For our own part, Glass is having a poor game – perhaps down to the injury he received and so he’s coming off. But for whom? I’m tempted to bring on Alar as the trequarista and move Hoeneß wide but instead I take a punt and throw on the enigma that is Marko Arnautovic. Wildly inconsistent, Arnautovic has the ability to be a game changer – let’s just hope he has one of his good days.
From the analysis, it’s obvious that Huddlestone is England’s main outball as he’s leading the scoring charts. With Otto having a poor game trying to combat him, I’ve decided to replace him with Baumgartlinger. The latter is a far more physical player who I’ve asked to simply follow Huddlestone around the pitch kicking him. Agricultural but I want to stop the supply to Rooney and Ince, England’s main threats.
Two subs at half time is not something I normally do but I think it’s a risk worth taking.
But we shoot ourselves in the foot almost immediately. A cleared corner is fed back in by Jones who finds Ince in acres of space. A simple cross and poacher Bent has a tap in. Bugger.
And it’s 2-0 not long after when that man Ince has the freedom of the left flank, puts in a simple cross and Rooney heads home. Schimpelsberger had come inside and Arnautovic, with his abysmal work rate, simply watched the England winger advance into space. In hindsight that was a massive error on my part – I never should have put Arnautovic into a game where we need defenders all over the park. Arnautovic and Hoeneß swapped now.
We finally fashion a decent chance as Drazan breaks down the wing and finds Arnautovic’s head but the finish is weak and this game is long gone.
Or is it?! With 5 minutes left the same pair combine for an Arnautovic tap-in. Can we rescue the situation? We go all out and I throw Alar up top with Holzhauser sacrificed for a final throw of the dice but no… it ends 2-1 to England which, to be fair, is an accurate reflection on the game. Yet again, we just weren’t good enough against the big sides.
So what did I learn from that game? First, do NOT play Arnautovic on the wing unless I can be sure the opposition just intend to defend. Having said that, he really did play well as the trequarista through the middle which could be worth consideration in another game. Drazan did pretty well on the left and is still my preferred option there.
Northern Ireland beat Wales 3-1 in the other game so it’s a fairly simple prospect for us now – beat Wales and go through, although England should beat Norn fairly easily so a draw should be enough.
Austria v Wales
Crunch time, although we really, really should be winning this game. Unbelievably, just as with the World Cup playoff, Gareth Bale is again missing, this time with a torn hamstring. Seems like other countries have my luck with injuries too.
Seeing Ben Turner as one of the centre halves, I was sorely tempted to try and “Harnik him” again to destroy his lack of pace but I’ll keep that up my sleeve for just now and play more conservatively. My aim here is to settle into the game, there’s no need to win it in the first 20 minutes so instead I’ll look to take advantage of our superiority on the flanks.
So much for superiority on the flanks as Gunter wanders down Wales’ left flank and finds Robson-Kanu at the back-post. Thankfully the winger fluffs it for massive left off. England are already one up on Northern Ireland, a draw will be enough to progress… or not as Kyle Lafferty manages to equalise. Hang your heads in shame, England.
A very even first half ends 0-0 and it’s nervy stuff. Both sides have had decent chances but I feel we need a change. Arnautovic, who was a bit of a pre-game punt, comes off and is replaced by Rapid’s Deni Alar. A far superior finisher, he’s a little more creative than Arnautovic without the mazy dribbles – which I’ve seen very little of to be fair. A decision I probably should have made from the start.
Aaron Ramsey is the obvious key man for Wales and he’s getting plenty of the ball. I’ve decided against changing my approach just yet, though, as I don’t feel like he’s getting the ball in dangerous areas. If he starts getting more advanced then I’ll do something about it.
Goal for Austria!! Alaba does wonderfully down the left, beating two men and swinging in a deep cross for Hoeneß. The youngster puts it straight at Hennessey but the Welshman spills it and the Rapid striker forces it over the line for an ugly, but much needed, goal.
However, before I have a chance to react, I’m “super-dribblered” by Hal Robson-Kanu (I know!). He runs past 4 of my players before hitting a shot on the run which he seems to have hit with the outside of his foot as it slices back in towards the far post. Now I wouldn’t suggest the AI is cheating but what Robson-Kanu just did is verging on the physically impossible… enough said.
Just after the hour mark, I’m forced into making our other two substitutions with Fuchs and Glass coming on for Alaba and Hoeneß respectively, both exhausted. We’re giving away the ball cheaply now and so I decide to try and retain possession a little better by using the “pass to feet” and “retain possession” shouts.
Aw bugger. Just as I do that, Holzhauser gets robbed by Ramsey in midfield who feeds Robson-Kanu. The winger is in acres of space and hits a screamer off the underside of the bar… this is not going well.
As soon as that happens, I switch up to the diamond we’d used in qualification. With Glass now matched up against Ben Turner, we really should be getting him through at least once.
And it isn’t long before we get the equaliser! Glass plays his part but it’s Michael Schimpelsberger, screaming forward from right wing-back, who breaks into the box completely unmarked after great work down our left which sucked in the entire Welsh defence. The former Rapid man powers it into the top corner and we’re back in pole position…
And now progression is assured as we pick our way through a wayward Welsh defence for Alar to slot home. Thank god for that, I was getting worried for a minute!
There was a minor onslaught from Wales in the closing stages but I simply changed it up to a stifling 4-1-3-2 combined with a few shouts such as “pass to feet”, “take a breather”, “stay on feet” and “work ball into box” to kill time. Job done but only just – Austria 3 -2 Wales.
Really far too close for comfort. I’m continuing to find out more and more about my squad but I have to say that we’ve been consistently poor in the second halves of games. Is this down to poor teamtalks on my part? Perhaps. As I’m more used to the club teamtalks, I’m not as confident that I’m selecting the correct options here.
We’re also tiring really badly towards the end of games which doesn’t bode well for holding out against superior opposition. Something which we’ll have to do in the Second Round as we face hosts France. Damn.
Austria v France – 2nd Round
Let’s be honest. This is probably where we go out. France are bloody brilliant. Lloris, Corchia, Varane, Capoue… oh just look at their team:
We have no chance frankly. But you never know. Looking for weaknesses to exploit there’s… nothing. So my general plan is to sit deep, try and hit them on the break and see if I can identify anything to take advantage of during the match. I decided to bring Baumgartlinger into midfield from the start this time. Whilst Lazaro and Otto are great on the ball, a little bit of extra muscle wouldn’t go amiss as I can foresee us doing a lot of defending!
Bloody hell 😦 They can even score from corners, Loic Rémy beating my defence in the air and nodding past Heinz Lindner. This could be a short and painful game “report”.
And we’re heading home. 20 minutes in and an FM special as Dragovic tries to pass to Baumgartlinger in midfield. Holzhauser, however, is in line with the pass and instead of avoiding the ball or, you know, reacting to the fact that the primary object of the entire game is heading towards his face he just lets it bounce off him, directly to Rémy who fires home for the second. Game over.
And a penalty completes Rémy’s hat-trick.
Apologies but I can’t even be bothered finishing the match report, I’ll just let you know that we ended up losing the game 4-0.
So out of the tournament in the Second Round. A good tournament? No, I can’t say it was. We did fairly well against Northern Ireland although I can’t say I was overly pleased. We did well in the first half against England before my error with the substitution. Wales was too close for comfort really before we finally got going and then France… well that was to be expected.
We are still, very definitely, amongst the “best of the rest” group. Whenever I come back to this save, there’s still a hell of a lot of work to be done in trying to get Austria into that top tier of teams.
Hoeneß, Glass, Otto, Lazaro, etc all have definite potential but defensively we are really quite poor, Dragovic aside, and I think Lindner only made one save of note in the whole competition which shows our problems in goal.
For now, that’s the end of the Austria and Rapid Wien club and country save as I now start looking for a new club to manage. I think I’m going to look at developing a small team in a country with a big league so someone like Feralpi Salò, Badajoz or Cambridge United is a possibility.
I much prefer playing with smaller teams that are a bit of a project and quickly get bored at the bigger clubs – clearly a problem with Rapid as we just got too good for the rest of the league.
Anyway, thanks for reading and, as always, if you have any questions or comments let me know. I will be updating on my new game, whenever I decide on the club, on the blog too so if you’ve enjoyed this career so far, keep your eye out for the new one coming soon!!