CM9798 World Cup – Day 4: Italy and Yugoslavia clash in Group F whilst Scotland face Jamaica

It’s the day you’ve been waiting for – the day Scotland light this World Cup up. Not really, my Scotland team are just a small undercurrent in this tidal wave of World Cup nostalgia. Two more groups in action today, no videos. There were some mistakes around me not pressing record on the Italy match. You wouldn’t get this at the BBC.

Anyway, on we go. Group F is our first stop with European teams vying for 2 spots. Something’s got to give!

Group F

Group F pic

Chief FPL is a great guy who not only knows a lot about fantasy football but he knows his way around CM too. Or CM2. But can he get the Italians playing fantasy football?

Italy team vs Yugoslavia

It’s a bold lineup, something not often associated with the Italians down the years but the Chief era basically sees a front 4. Ravanelli and Roberto Baggio are the perfect mix of creativity and stupid celebrations, both things I’m on board with. Can you remember Roberto Baggio free kicks? So many hours wasted in IT lessons playing that. I’m getting sidetracked. Even the bench is strong. Having said that, Yugoslavia aren’t bad.

Yugoslavia team vs Italy

As we reavled in the preview, Predrag Mijatovic is injured but Fulham manager Jokanovic is at left wing back and who can be upset by the inclusion of Sasa Curcic? Not me. It’s Savo Milosevic I feel for.

To the game itself and it’s totally one way traffic. It’s a battering. Shots from all angles from Italy and Ravanelli in particular but very few actually hit the target. Yugoslavia meanwhile do sweet nothing. Like Homer Simpson’s boxing career, they take punch after punch but they’re still standing. Have Italy punched themselves out?

Italy Yugo HT stats

Pretty average really, not sure what Ciro Ferrara has done to earn an 8 but here we are

Italy Yugo HT ratings

Surely that Italian breakthrough would come? Yet more wayward finishing, this time from the fresh legs of Vieri, but still no goal. Yugoslavia have one shot from distance but that also misses. The moral is, never try. It finishes 0-0 and my boobery with the recording button goes unpunished.

italy Yugo FT stats

So frustrating as a manager. You’ve clearly set the team up to create chances but they’ve blazed them all. You can’t even blame a super keeper, Sasa Ilic of Charlton had the metaphorical cigar out. To round it off, Roberto Baggio gets man of the match. You can’t even blame the strikers.

italy vs yugo FT ratings

It doesn’t exactly blow the group wide open but it does give Romania and Paraguay the chance to put down a marker and basically secure a place in the last 16 with a win. Maybe that is pushing it a bit. A win would be good, let’s leave it at that.

I like this Romania team and we know how good MK (aka CorinthianHead) is in the dugout so call them dark horses if you want, but at least get the blonde hairdye ready. Hagi in the hole and Raducioiu up front. Have it.

Romania tactics vs Paraguay

Paraguay are knackered like. So fictional that not even Chilavert is here. The wooden spoon awaits.

paraguay tactics vs romania

Even after losing Galca after just 2 minutes, the arrival of Dumitrescu did not unsettle the Romanians. Raducioiu, the man who stole all the vowels, opened the scoring on 18 minutes and they never looked back from there. Sabin Ilie made it 2 and Hagi added a 3rd – all before half time.

A goal and an assist for Hagi only gets him a 7?! What a cruel world. No amount of 18th minute subs can save Paraguay.

romania paraguay HT ratings

Irrelevant stats. This one is over.

romania paraguay HT stats

Anyway back for Paraguay? Don’t be stupid. Vowels man scored his second on 57 minutes before Hagi also doubled his tally. The magician ended with 2 goals and 2 assists. With him in the hole, you wouldn’t bet against Romania. A thumping win.

Romania 5 - 0 Paraguay SCoreboard

Justice for Hagi who gets his 10. Everyone else was good but slightly worse. Paraguay have nothing to shout about.

romania 5 - 0 paraguay FT ratings

Just the 21 attempts. I said Paraguay couldn’t get any worse in the second half but they…did. No further attemps, 3 more conceded. Well done MK.

romania paraguay FT stats

Romania are the only team to have scored after one game. They meet Italy next and it’s taken on an extra little bit of importance now.

Group F 1 game

To the final group!

Group G

If you’re wondering where Group H has gone, they played yesterday. I don’t know why the scheduling randomly pulls Group H forward in the schedule but here we are. With that, it’s Group G pulling up the rear. Quite fittingly, that means Scotland. And Jamaica. It’s not a high quality group, it’s kind of the banter group of this operation.

I’m in charge of Scotland, I’ve struggled to line these boys up how I need them but let me explain. John Collins plays for Monaco. He is too good to leave out. I don’t play a left midfielder so I’m trusting he can manage to play in central midfield. McAllister is the man, I want him to ping passes over the top to the busy Kevin Gallacher and 1977 World Snooker champion John Spencer. Glass and Hopkin are also there. I’m not sure why I’ve appointed Hopkin captain here, I have a feeling that’s a mistake. Who knows? It’s an International debut for Darren Young.

scotland tactics vs Jamaica

Luckily my opponents are Jamaica who have been at the rum early and lined Deon Burton up at centre half. Korma Dudu sounds like a bad reaction to a mild curry. I’m not concerned about this match. Maybe I should be?

Jamaica tactics vs scotland

We’re awful. Well, not awful. Uninspired. That’s probably a better word. Scottish. Jamaica repel our pathetic attacks. Why didn’t I put Big Dunc on the bench? He’d mess Deon Burton up.

scotland jamaica HT ratings

Good stats lads.

scotland jamaica HT stats

Colin Hendry is an old man. He hasn’t been the same since Gazza made him look like an arsehole at Euro 96 but I’ve told the surviving members of that squad to use that as motivation to be better. I’ve also left Ally McCoist at home to help with that. Anyway, Hendry has his Stuart Pearce moment by heading in a Stephen Glass cross before wheeling away to a jubilant Scottish section. So much tartan. Matt Elliott then scores after a scramble following another set piece. I think I’ve found our creativity. Gallacher smashes one in from distance and it looks like we’ve played well. We haven’t, but a 3-0 win is unheard of in Scotland.

scotland 3 - 0 jamaica

Hendry takes home man of the match and you can’t help but feel that centre half pairing will be the difference between success (actually getting out of the group) and failure (the norm).

Scotland 3 - 0 Jamaica ratings

Shooting practice required. You fancy everyone else will work Korma Dudu more than we will. 3-0 might look impressive but it might be poor compared to others.

scotland jamaica FT stats

Enough about me. Let’s move on to Nigeria and Russia, a real crunch clash in this group.

There’s no doubt Matt_C_Wills knows what he’s doing. He’s recognised that Nigeria have nothing but forwards and although I lost respect for him when he left Efan Ekoku out of the 16 the reality is he has far better options.

Nigeria Tactics vs Russia

This counter attack formation seems quite popular amongst the European nations. It means Kanchelskis is only a sub but you know what you’re going to get here, it’s just whether you can beat them.

Russia vs Nigeria Tactics

VICTOR IKPEBA! A goal for all of Africa, says Peter Drury…in 12 years time anyway. His 2nd minute goal has Nigeria off to the perfect start but the lead lasts only 4 minutes until Shalimov equalises.

Russia Nigeria HT ratings

Nigeria have had the better of it and even a draw here is ok, but Matt knows this is there to be won.

Russia Nigeria HT stats

A captain steps up when their team needs them most. Not Finidi, sadly. Valeri Karpin scores for Russia on 65 minutes and it’s no more than they deserve. The half time vodka did a great job. Nigeria have very few chances and Russia hold on for the points amidst little threats. A well executed counter attack plan but a huge shame for Nigeria.

russia 2 - 1 nigeria FT stats

Taribo West’s man of the match award is of little consolation to Matt, who now has it all to do.

russia 2 - 1 nigeria FT ratings

The confirmation from Gerland.

russia 2 - 1 nigeria FT scoreboard

A sad note to finish on but hey, it’s only game 1! This table means nothing.

Group G 1 game

You’ve seen everybody once now, so who has impressed you? Any observations? Tweet me @CM9798 or comment.

We’re back on Sunday with Group A & B again. That means Brazil, France, Denmark and Norway. Not in that order. See you there!

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CM9798 World Cup – Day 3: Group of Death gets Underway whilst Spain play Sweden

Catch up with Day Two here

Welcome to day three, where the games weird scheduling means we’ll have a bit of a deviation today. We’ll start with Group E, where we find Spain ploughing a lone furrow but we’ll then have the curveball of Group H, who inexplicably play out of sync with the rest of the tournament and caused me more of a headache than I already have. Anyway, down to business.

Group E

Group E Pic

Spain, managed by friend of the blog Tom Reed, will get us started against Sweden. As we said in the preview, Spain should really win this group at a canter but Sweden are one of those teams more than capable of causing a shock.

With that in mind, Tom’s gone balls to the wall. 4-2-4, get lots of chances for the deadly duo Alfonso and Kiko. I can’t argue with it, to be quite fair.

Spain team vs Sweden

Sweden are missing Henrik Larsson and Jesper Blomqvist due to injury but floppy haired protagonist Andreas Andersson will keep Karanka and Alkorta busy.

sweden team vs spain

Spain spend most of the half banging on the door but they can’t get past Bengt Andersson. Sweden on the other hand offer basically no threat. Henrik’s broken ribs are a problem.

spain swe HT stats

Obvious Luis Enrique is great, only Bengty boy can offer more. Surely Spain will find a way?

spain sweden HT ratings

Well, actually, no. Sweden score with their first attack through Peter Wibran, and the shock alarms are starting to sound all over the Stade de France. De La Pena is introduced to add a bit of guile to proceedings and he rewards Tom’s boldness with an equaliser on 72 minutes, before everybody’s favourite £16m striker Alfonso seals the comeback.

spain sweden FT stats

An utterly dominant display for Spain but it just shows at this level the opposition are often clinical. Still, a wins a win and arguably the toughest game has been negotiated.

spain sweden FT ratings

Alfonso takes home man of the match, probably not his last given the opposition still to come though that yellow card rules him out of the Japan game, as yellow cards carry over from qualifying for some inexplicable reason.

Spain Sweden scoreboard

The other game in Group E sees a comfortable win for Japan over Cameroon. It does look likely that Sweden vs Japan in the last group game will decide who goes through but there’s a long way to go yet. It’s Spain vs Japan next.

Japan Cameroon

One of those K Miura’s is real and still playing today. The other is a fictional full back. That’s life.

Group H

This group is going to be tough and we’re guaranteed to lose one of the human players as there are 3 of them. Mexico are the fourth side and even as a fictional set of players, they’ll still be tough. Germany face them first in our TV game, but first we have Chile and Belgium.

Chile, managed by 20 Year Anniversary Cup champ Dan Williamson have the notable problem that their first choice goalkeeper is out for a year. Dan’s decided to go 3-4-3, all out attack and no regrets. With a very good front 3, you just never know.

Chile vs Belgium tactics

Adam meanwhile is a bit of a wildcard entry, rewarded for finding out how to make all these teams playable but I have no form for him to speak of. But he’s obviously played a  bit and he’s got Belgium prepared in a fancy 4-3-2-1, with Gilles De Bilde the point.

Belgium team vs Chile

An initially cagey start sees a goalless first 15 but the game explodes into life with a Zamorano strike from distance beating Bodart. That seems to stir Belgium and Gilles de Bilde equalises 3 minutes later before putting his side ahead ten minutes before half time with a cool 1 on 1 finish.

chile belgium HT stats

Other than the goal, Chile have not been overly impressive but they are only a goal down.

chile belgium HT ratings

Esteban Valencia not having the best of days but there’s still time for him to turn that 5 around.

It actually got a lot worse for Chile before it got any better. Goosens added a 3rd following a scramble at a corner before de Bilde proved he can fix it by completing his hat-trick just a minute later. Salas did briefly reduce the arrears before Emmers made it 5-2, only for Rozental to pull another back. That’s 5-3 and although Chile kept pushing, Belgium were able to keep them at arms length. My one wish is that I had recorded this match.

Chile belgium FT ratings

De Bilde takes the match ball home but there were several good performers on both sides, in an attacking sense at least.

chile belgium FT stats

Just the 18 shots racked up by Belgium. Chile’s formation does leave them vulnerable but the “score more than you” brigade will love it.

chile 3 - 5 belgium

Germany & Mexico have got some work to do to follow that.

Ross has opted to go with a narrow 4-4-2. His favourite player is Thomas Hassler but he’s injured for the next 2 games so Lars Ricken has the job of filling his boots. Ross founded Man on the Post podcast, so give that a listen. The link is in our Affiliates page, which is like a phone book of people who have helped me out.

germany team match 1

The video for this match is below, or if you scroll on down you’ll get it in screenshot form.

The first half is turgid. Mexico have come to spoil and spoil they will. Germany do manage a couple of shots but Mexico barely get over half way.

germany mexico HT stats

Nothing to see here…

germany mexico HT ratings

Surely the second half will be better? Pascual Forrest is being a bit of a nuisance in the Mexico goal, dealing with most things Germany throw at him. Eventually, Germany win a pen, and obviously they score. Klinsmann clinical. However, that seemed to rile Mexico. Or rise them from a slumber, whichever you prefer. Either way, Oliver Kahn forgot how to catch and Mexico rammed in two late goals, one a simple one on one finish and the winner when Kahn dropped a cross. That might prove costly.

germany 1 - 2 mexico ratings

Carlos Kerr is a great name though, but so is Carlos Hastings. The famous Mexican Hastings brothers on show here today.

germany mexico FT stats

Smash and grab. Mexico scored with both their shots on target. Not really much Ross could do about that.

With another day in the bank, I am going to bow out. I’ll be back tomorrow with groups F and G as the final teams get their tournaments started. That includes my very own Scotland team plus the rather more attractive sight of the Azzuri. Italy are in town. See you then!

 

CM9798 World Cup – Day 2: England vs Argentina plus Holland kick off Group C

Catch up with Day One here

Bonjour! Welcome to the 2nd day of the CM9798 World Cup, where you are quite right to question how long I can keep this make believe French-ness up for. Another 4 games for you today as two more groups get underway, and we start with Group C.

Group C

Group C Pic

You’ll never beat the Irish! Except that can’t be right as Ireland have never won the World Cup. Not all chants are 100% accurate. That said, Rob Tait is now in the hot seat and if this Ireland side can achieve even half the success his Roma side has, they’ll be just fine.

It’s Colombia first up for Rob, here’s his adaptation of the formation we all love to play.

Ireland team vs Colombia

Colombia only have Tino Asprilla has a “real” player but don’t be put off by the fake names, their skills will match up with the reputation of the nation. One in the hole you say…

colombia team vs ireland

Call it nerves or maybe even lack of ability, but Eire (I miss calling them Eire) were like rabbits in the headlights. Phil Babb managed to avoid sliding nuts first into the post but he did slice a cross past a helpless Shay Given, who seems to have taken the blame for some reason. The unimaginatively named Alexander Alexandre got Colombia off to a a great start and it was downhill for Rob from there.

Ireland Colombia HT ratings

Despite going 2-0 down inside 23 minutes, the Irish did rally a bit but the damage was already done.

Ireland Colombia HT stats

The second half was largely a “hold what we have” affair as Colombia were unadventurous and Ireland were unable to make headway.

Col Eire full time ratings

A dissapointing start then, leaving Rob needing a big turnaround from the next 2 games if they are to make the last 16. They’ll fight for it though…

Colombia Ireland scoreboard

Attention turned to group favourites the Netherlands, managed by Ash Rose. You’ll all know and love Ash from Alive & Kicking, the 90s Football Podcast. It’s really rather good so make sure you check it out. Even if he has lined the Dutch up in a 4-4-2.

Holland team vs South Africa

It’s still some team though, with Arthur Numan benefiting from Frank De Boer’s unfortunate pelvic injury. It’ll probably be too much for the expected wooden spoon recipients South Africa, who do at least boast Mark Fish and Doctor Khumalo.

South Africa team vs Holland

This is the World Cup though, where every team is here on merit. Eric Tinkler has had a Premier League season with Barnsley and fancies himself as the new face of African football, so puts his team into an 18th minute lead. It lasts 10 minutes before Dennis Bergkamp equalises.

holland south africa HT

South Africa’s goal came from one of their rare foray forwards so Holland just have to compose themselves and trust that they can complete the turnaround.

holland south africa stats HT

Sure enough, ten minutes into the second half Bergkamp nets again and puts Dutch hearts at ease. Jimmy Floyd is introduced for the final 17 minutes but he only has a yellow card to show for his efforts, but with few other alarms, Ash is off to a winning start.

holland south africa FT ratings

Tinkler at least takes home the champagne. Which is odd considering South Africa didn’t muster a shot in the second half.

holland 2 - 1 south africa FT stats

Not exactly a walk in the park for the Dutch but as far as first games go, it isn’t a bad acid test.

Holland 2 - 1 South Africa scoreboard

That’s Group C well and truly underway, let’s head across to Group D where we’ll see a great World Cup rivalry renewed.

Group D

Group D Pic

What a group. England and Argentina will of course take all the headlines but there’s the wonderful undercurrent of England vs Australia and the fact England played Tunisia in 1998 as well as in 2018. It’s all happening. Sort of.

Friend of the blog and 90s enthusiast Dan Barker has gone for a 4-3-1-2. It’s a good team but this is the era where England had no left footed wingers. It probably won’t matter.

England formation vs Argentina

Chris Darwen, who so famously took Real Madrid to a first round defeat in the CM9798 Cup, has come back with vengeance on his mind. He’s got 36 year old Maradona back in the International fold despite having not played for a whole season, but at least he’ll be fresh. He’s the creator in chief for Crespo, Batistuta and Balbo, with Ortega in reserve.

argentina formation vs england

You can watch the match at this recorded video, or if you scroll down you can enjoy it described by screenshots and hope.

Argentina enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges but poor finishing meant Seaman was rarely tested. England had their traditional sluggish start, failing to even get a shot on target in the first half

England Argentina HT Stats

Very few performances of note in that turgid first half. The second half could only get better…

England Argentina HT ratings

It didn’t, really. England improved and dominated the half in terms of chances created but again, Roa was barely tested. Then, DRAMA. In the final moments, Teddy Sheringham was slipped in behind the defence ane he finished with the coolness he so often demonsrated, before turning to the linesman and telling him to fuck off. The flag was up. It finishes 0-0.

england 0 - 0 argentina FT Stats

Simeone spends the whole match sticking his finger in Beckham’s ear with no reward, whilst Maradona keeps his hands to himself. You do expect both of these teams to advance but here, they rather cancelled each other out.

england 0 - 0 argentina player ratings

The other game in Group D is also a draw, as a late Robbie Slater goal snatches a point for Australia. It’s a result that definitely favours our two human players and Group D is no further forward after the first game.

Tunisia 1 - 1 Australia

I’m not putting the groups up after one game, mainly because I didn’t screenshot them but also because it’s one game. They all have one point. We’ll see how it plays out.

That’s it for day two, but we’ll be back tomorrow with two more groups where we’ll see Spain & Germany, among others, join the party.

Give our pal Ash a listen in the meantime…

AK90s banner

CM9798 World Cup – Day One: Holders Brazil get the tournament underway, Hosts France also in action

Explanation of the next month can be found here

Welcome to Paris! Squint a bit. Here’s Des to welcome you to the opening ceremony. Shouldn’t you be at work?

Des

Just about every day until June 14th we’ll have an update for you from the CM9798 World Cup. I expect I will be very tired. Naturally, we will start with Group A. It’s a tough group as not only are holders and favourites Brazil in it, it’s one of the two groups where we find three human controlled teams. Yes, one of these boys will be going home.

Group A Pic

Group A was of course previewed a few weeks ago, so now it is time for Brazil to get this party started. Mark’s Brazil goes up against Ross’ Denmark and…just look at this team.

Brazil vs Denmark

Adopting the formation we’ve all come to know and love, it would take a brave man to bet against Brazil.

Denmark, under the guidance of Ross (Parma save) have their own pedigree having won Euro 92. The Laudrup’s are a threat and Morten Bisgaard is a CM9798 legend.

Denmark vs Brazil

We’ll have at least one featured game a day which I will record, but I forgot to press record here. Hopefully not a sign of things to come.

With a feverish crowd demanding goals, captain Rai gave Brazil the perfect start with a 2nd minute goal, heading home a Juninho cross. Ronaldo and Anderson then combined for Brazil’s 2nd in the 21st minute, the Barcelona man chipping the onrushing Schmeichel. Anderson’s shot was then spilled by Schmeichel and Ronaldo made it 3-0 with just 37 minutes played.

brazil vs denmark half time ratings

Not a bad start to their campaign! Denmark were barely able to muster an attack.

Brazil Denmark HT stats

In the second half, Ross made some adjustments to try and keep the score down, knowing that goal difference may be key if Brazil carry this form into their other games. Anderson added a 4th with a long range effort before opting to rest star men Rivaldo and Ronaldo. An incredible start for the holders, a marker laid down.

Brazil Denmark FT ratings

Total domination, though Denmark did improve slightly after the break as Brazil eased their foot off the gas.

Brazil Denmark match stats

Confirmation then of the final score – the World Cup is underway in ernest!

Brazil Denmark FT score

The other game in Group A sees Norway tackle Saudi Arabia. Most people are predicting a 2nd place shoot out between Norway and Denmark in the final group game, but Saudi Arabia may have something to say about that.

The Norway squad is packed with talent. Manager KingoftheRooks was even able to leave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at home.

norway vs saudis

Saudi Arabia have no actual players in this save, with so many playable nations a lot of the other nations have fake players all round. Yet they still pick a 5-3-2. Shitrit indeed.

Saudi Arabia vs Norway

This wasn’t easy. The two formations seemed to cancel each other out and Norway had to dig deep. They took an 11th minute lead when Dan Eggen knocked home after a scramble from a corner, but the floodgates didn’t open. Naturally, Tommy Svindal Larsen ran the game.

norway vs saudi arabia HT ratings

Saudi Arabia still carried a threat but were second best in a first half that really never caught alight.

norway vs saudis HT stats

Svindal Larsen effectively settled the game as a contest early in the second half. Saudi Arabia didn’t manage any further shots on target and Norway will be pleased with the win even if they struggled to create many clear chances.

Norway vs Saudi Arabia FT stats

Obviously Svindal Larsen took home man of the match. One to watch!

Norway vs Saudi Arabia FT ratings

Noway Saudis FT

That leaves Group A looking like this after the first game

Group A 1 game

All still to play for but Denmark could do with a big win against Saudi Arabia next time out.

In Group B, there’s only one human controlled team but it’s our friend @90sfootball and he’s the host nation, France.

Group B Pic

It’s a weak group and one you’d expect France to get through with little trouble. Their first game is arguably their toughest as they face the USA.

Paddy has opted to create his own formation, but with the players at his disposal he could pretty much play any formation he likes. Thankfully, he is true to his word and lives his life in the 90s. Here’s his team on paper.

France USA scribbles

Or…

France vs USA Tactics

The USA were loaded as a playable nation as one of my backup plans in case the European teams took each other in the playoffs. They didn’t, so USA missed the cut. Wynalda and Kirovski are a canny front two and everybody loves Alexi Lalas. Obviously Brad Friedel is pretty useful with the gloves too. How does Claudio Reyna not get in that midfield?

USA vs france tactics

The good news is, I remembered to record this one! You can watch it below, or if you’d rather read about it, that’s below too.

France absolutely dominated this in front of their home crowd, though why the game has this coming from “Stadium” I don’t really know. Zinedine Zidane beat Brad Friedel but otherwise found the Liverpool goalkeeper in great form.

france vs usa HT stats

The USA centre half pairing had stood up well to a barrage of attacks but very little joy for their forwards.

France vs USA HT ratings

The arrival of Jean-Pierre Papin from the bench seemed to spark France into a second wind and they plundered two goals in four minutes to make the points safe. The options available to France are mind blowing, I wouldn’t have bet against a rematch of the real life final however they are in the same side of the draw.

france vs USA scoreboard

It took Papin just four minutes to make his mark after coming on, whilst Zidane takes home man of the match for a goal and an assist. Solid from the hosts, who you can expect to see in the last 16.

France vs USA FT ratings

20 shots is impressive, whilst USA barely mustered an attack of note.

france vs usa FT stats

In the other game in Group B, China were surprise winners over Morocco. The African side lead at half time but China came back with the fictional Ming Cao scoring twice.

morocco 1 - 3 china

That leaves France top of group B, something I apparently didn’t deem worthy of screenshot.

We’ll be back tomorrow with Groups C and D. That means Holland, England, Argentina and Ireland. Not against each other I hasten to add. See you then!

 

 

 

 

 

CM9798 World Cup Preview: Group E-H with Quickly Kevin’s Michael Marden

The CM9798 World Cup starts tomorrow! Hopefully you joined us last week for the first half of the preview, where we looked at Group A-D with Tom Rostance. That can be seen here if you want to get yourself caught up.

Now though on the day I turn 30, it’s time for a look at Groups E-H, where we find Spain, Germany, Italy and…Scotland. Among others. I’m joined this week by Michael Marden, who you may know from the Quickly Kevin podcast or the chat we had last year.

Let’s crack still on with Group E, where we find Spain lurking with intent.

Group E

Group E Pic

Any group with just the one human player in will probably have a bit of a lopsided feel to it, and that is certainly the case here. Tom Reed has a wonderful squad to choose from and although Sweden and Japan aren’t exactly terrible, I expect they will battle it out for second. Alfonso is the msot valuable player on CM9798, so that’s got to count for something. Right?

spain squad

Quite some talent there, including a certain J Guardiola. He’ll make a decent manager one day.

Elsewhere, at least Sweden have a full squad to choose from but Henrik Larsson’s broken ribs are causing some concern. Floppy haired Andreas Andersson might help and I’m delighted to see they’ve taken Thomas Brolin.

sweden squad

Japan have fallen foul of the database and have very little to shout about, though Miura is still playing now so that might count for something.

japan squad

Cameroon have even less to shout about, though the brilliantly named Misse Misse will be hoping to be a hit.

Cameroon squad

Michael’s Verdict:

As the only human player in this group, you’d expect Tom Reed to take Spain comfortably through to the knockout stages. Especially with the lack of quality within the Cameroon and Japan squads. If fit, Henrik Larson could prove trouble for the likes of Hierro and Nadal at the back against Sweden in the opening game, but realistically only a disaster would see him not finish in the top two, especially with his impressive club record as a manager in 20th Anniversary tournament, where playing as Manchester United he lost to Dortmund in the semi-final.

His decision to not select ageing GK Zubizarreta, international captain and Spain’s most capped player in the build up to the tournament, caused some controversy in the Spanish press. The relative inexperience of Prats, Molina and Toni could prove costly in the high-pressure environment of the knockout stages.

Key to success: This could lay in another selection based gamble, taking a chance on the young but unquestionably talented Raul and Morientes up front. As well effectively utilising versatile playmaker Luis Enrique.

The fact we won’t see an 80 year old Roger Milla come of retirement to score a winning goal before arthritically stumbling into a corner flag dance is one of the tournaments great losses. (The fact that Dave hasn’t used the data editor to make this a possibility is an even bigger crime)

Group F

Group F pic

This is a tough group. Italy are the favourites but Romania have a good pedigree and some world class players, like Hagi, whilst Yugoslavia boast an impressive squad. It might be closer than you think.

Our friend Chief aka FPLHints has a great set of players to pick from and selecting just 25 was always going to be difficult. Buffon joins Miura as one of two players in the tournament still playing in real life, stats fans.

italy squad

It’s heavy on strikers but the Chief has come to attack and I for one applaud that mentality. If you can’t leave a defence that good to look after itself then when can you?

Meanwhile, Romania qualified at a canter and will fancy their chances of reaching the knockout stages. Blonde hair dye at the ready. You may remember CorinthianHead as the man who brought you his Brighton save in September last year, but can those Division 3 winnings ways translate to the International stage?

Romania squad

They are joined in Group F by a very decent looking Yugoslavia side, though Mijatovic will miss the opener with Italy. I’m sure Savo Milosevic will step up.

Yugoslavia squad

That just leaves Paraguay, who will most likely be the groups whipping boys. Even Chilavert didn’t make the grade in a database this competitve.

Paraguay squad

Michael’s Verdict:

With quality in every position and an experienced manager in @FPLhints, anything but a top of the table finish for Italy would be considered a disappointment. Romania have quality, and under manager @Corinthianhead they have plenty of goals within the squad, but they can be inconsistent and unpredictable.

Whipping boys Paraguay should be a comfortable three points for both, but neither manager should underestimate Yugoslavia, especially the goal scoring threat of Predrag Mijatovic. Ultimately who tops the group should come down to the Italy vs Romania clash and the Italians should have enough to see them off. A Paolo Maldini marshalled defence will be tough to break down, even for the mercurial talent of the talismanic Hagi. Although if the Romanian Maradonna is deployed in that key role just behind the front two then anything is possible.

The only potential banana skin for Italy and manager @FPLhints is the decision to take seven strikers to the tournament, leaving him very little depth in the centre of midfield. Could we be looking at a tactical surprise or two from the usually conservative exponents of calcio? Perhaps a gung-ho inverting of the pyramid? Or has he simply been seduced by the wealth of attacking talent available, something he might regret if an injury or suspension were to befall Di Matteo or Albertini.

Group G

Group G pic

Well if it isn’t Scotland. I’ve been given the gift of Scotland and the only thing I am thankful about is that it is a very tight group. Except Jamaica, I expect they will struggle.

I suppose the one thing in my favour is that I have just completed 6 seasons as Aberdeen manager so I feel like I know how these players will turn out, so if I just divide that by 6 to get how they have been after 1 year we’ll be fine. Right? Honestly, this team lacks creativity and a goalscorer but we have the PRESENCE of big Dunc and the know how of John Collins and Gary McAllister. Scotland have never got out of the group stage.

scotland squad

Attempting to keep that record alive is Matt_C_Wills, author of the excellent Return of the King series. He’s got Nigeria, who have rather a lot of forwards and Taribo West.

nigeria squad

I should point out the first choice keeper got injured and there are literally only three loaded, so Peter Rufai is looking nervous. They have little choice but to attack and it may well be who dares wins.

Russia seem the likely threat to an all human progression to the last 16, even if they too can only name two goalkeepers. 1994 Golden boto winner Oleg Salenko is crap and not a worry for me, but what will be will be.

russia squad

Oh, and Jamaica are here. Well some of them are. Robbie Earle has been flogging tickets and Deon Burton has been trialled at centre half.

Jamaica squad

Michael’s Verdict:

Tournament creator and blog host Dave Black has arguably drawn the short straw with Scotland, but his experience as manager, along with the likes of Paul Lambert and Gary McCallister pulling strings in midfield should be enough to see them through in one of the two top spots. The aerial presence and undiluted menace of Big Dunc Ferguson, if on form, can cause trouble for any defence, and with Colin ‘Braveheart’ Hendry at the back you’d expect them to squeeze through but struggle in the knock out stages against stronger opposition.

Nigeria are full of attacking intent, but lack discipline at the back, and have a real dearth in quality at the GK position. Any injury to first choice stopper Bankole would see a club-less, 37-year-old Peter Rufai step into the breach and nobody, least of all fan favourite Taribo West and his already porous defence, want to see that. A lot will rest on how manager Matt_C_Wills sets his team up tactically. A Keegan-esque all guns blazing attacking style could terrify some managers and see them become a surprise package at the tournament.

Comfortable wins for both managers against Jamaica should be expected, but if things don’t go their way in a tricky tie against Russia, then that could put real pressure on the human manager head-to-head in the final game of the group stage, and an early exit for one of them isn’t out of the question. QPR and Jamaica’s Danny Maddix is just delighted to be here.

Group H

Group H pic

I hate to see three human managers in a group. One of these good men will be going home in the group stage, and that saddens me.

Germany are managed by Ross Bell, Man on the Post podcast founder and self confessed Hassler fan. Sadly he is out of the first two games and in a real race to feature at all in the group stage. The German side in real life found this to be a tournament too far, will Ross be able to get the best out of them?

germany squad

Adam Turner told me how to set up this whole thing and in Belgium he has a very reasonable team. A particularly impressive forward line will be tough to handle, and the virtues of Marc Emmers have been visible to everybody in recent saves.

belgium squad

Dan Williamson is effectively our reigning champion having won the 20 Year Anniversary Cup in October last year. He will have to go some way to win it with Chile, who are one of the weakest sides on paper. They do have Salas and Zamorano…and er…Clarence Acuna, so that’s good. Young Rangers striker Rozental is also useful. Dan has promised to go out and attack due to his poor defence so he’s not going to die wondering. It’ll be entertaining!

Chile Squad

That leaves Mexico, who have no real players but will still be decent. Whilst I expect Germany to win this group, it’ll only take one shock result to blow it wide open.

Mexico Squad

Michael’s Verdict:

The second of two groups of death with three human managers all competing for those two qualification places. Mexico bring nothing but an enthusiastically embarrassing trademark crowd participation Mexican wave to the World Cup party, and will get smashed apart like a sad piñata by all three human teams, which means the margin for error in the remaining games is tighter than Glen Hoddle and Eileen Drewery’s relationship.

Ross Bell’s Germany have the best squad overall in Group H, with quality in every position. Although the inclusion of uncapped, South African born Sean Dundee over more qualified options like Ulf Kirsten and Karl Heinz Riedle raised a few eyebrows. His exclusion of legend Lothar Matthaus who despite his advancing years, was considered integral to the squad off the pitch, showed a ruthless streak that will be important if he’s to advance to the later stages of the competition.

Working against him is the fact he’s up against more experienced managers in 20th Anniversary tournament winner Dan Williamson (Chile) and international legend Adam Turner (Belgium).

Chile lack any world class players in defence and midfield, but up-front have a devastating combo in Salas and Zamorano who can, and will, score goals against even the hardiest of defences.

So much of Belgium’s hopes reside with brilliant playmaker Enzo Scifo, playing in his forth World Cup. He’ll need to supply a regular stream of defence splitting passes for the likes of Giles De Bilde and Goosens who are in absolutely no danger of being labelled clinical or prolific finishers at this level.

This group is simply too tight to call, but a heavy loss for either team in the opening fixture of Chile vs Belgium could be pivotal. It may even come down to goal difference as to which two make it through to the knockout stages.

That’s it then. We’ve covered all 8 groups and assessed 32 teams. Can you pick a winner? My sincere thanks to Michael for taking the time to help me out with this article, it is much appreciated.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the first games from Group A & B. There’ll be posts most days from there with the odd rest day thrown in but either way, there’s a lot of Champ to be played. Let’s get on with it.

See you tomorrow!

Michael is part of the excellent trio that bring you the Quickly Kevin podcast, be sure to follow them on Twitter and check out the podcast at QuicklyKevin.com

 

A CM9798 reason to support every World Cup team this summer

In a rare break from the CM9798 World Cup, let’s not forget there’s a real World Cup this summer…

The World Cup is coming! Whilst that is no secret, it posed a new challenge for me. You may have seen my articles earlier in the season where I looked for players in CM9798 that are still playing today and then located all of the current Premier League managers, so it was only natural that I’d try and tie the World Cup back to a game from 20 years ago.

If you’re a fan of tedious links and players from the 90s, this is the article for you. If you’re looking for a team to follow this summer, why not do it based on CM9798?

Group A

Russia
This is an easy start as manager Stanislav Cherchesov was still playing in CM9798 as a goalkeeper at Tirol Innsbruck. He played 39 times for his country and will be hoping to lead the host nation to glory this summer.

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Cherchesov has been tasked with reaching at least the semi-finals and having watched the Confederations Cup last summer, I’d say that is very optimistic. He’s not a bad keeper though.

His assistant is also on the game; you’ll find Miroslav Romaschenko pulling the strings in the Spartak Moscow midfield. He’s not quick but he can run forever…and boy can he shoot.

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Saudi Arabia
Group A keeps serving me up open goals, frankly it is all downhill from here. Saudi Arabia are managed by Juan Antonio Pizzi. Who? Well he was at Barcelona in the 90s but because he isn’t Ronaldo, Anderson or Stoichkov nobody remembers him. He got 22 caps for his country and went to World Cup 98. I actually really like him on 9798, his high shooting stat is ideal in a team where Rivaldo and Figo are supplying the bullets.

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In management, he was Chile manager at the Confederations Cup last year but after losing the final, Chile then failed to qualify for this year’s tournament. Whilst the rest of that Chile team will watch from home, Pizzi will lead Saudi Arabia into the tournament.

Egypt
This was a little trickier, but their manager is Hector Cuper. You can find Hector in CM9798 managing Real Mallorca.

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What I was really surprised about is that Cuper is only 62. He has of course had a very successful coaching career having managed Valencia and Inter Milan among others. The Argentine has been Egypt manager for 3 years and is armed with Mo Salah, which I imagine will make the Egyptians very popular on Merseyside.

Uruguay
On a similar note, the best I can offer you from Uruguay is their manager Oscar Tabarez. He’s also been managing forever and 20 years ago you could find him at Real Oviedo under his Sunday name.

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This is actually his second spell in charge of Uruguay having also taken them to Italia 90, though he has been in charge since 2006. It is widely anticipated he will leave after the World Cup, though he must be happy with the group he has been drawn here. Luis Suarez is licking his lips (figuratively, I hope).

Group B

Portugal
Euro 2016 winners Portugal are managed by Fernando Santos who you’ll find in CM9798 managing Estrela Amadora. They’re in the top league in Portugal but are very midtable. For a change of pace, here he is from the database. He likes to play a narrow 4-4-2 apparently. He doesn’t have Cristiano Ronaldo in 1997 though so he’s not as successful.

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Spain
Good news! Spain’s manager was playing in CM9798. Julen Lopetegui had just grown tired of sitting on Barcelona’s bench behind Carlos Busquets and left for Rayo Vallecano. Here he is in playing form:

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We may as well make this a double whammy and point out that the aforementioned Busquets is the father of Spain midfielder Sergio. How lovely. Here’s Carlos too for your viewing pleasure:

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Morocco
French manager Herve Renard is nowhere to be found on CM9798, so some digging was required. Thankfully, Renard did the old FM trick of appointing a favourite to get some favour from the fans. Happily for me, it’s Mustapha Hadji

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A few years before Hadji moved to Coventry, he was delivering apparently terrible set pieces in Deportivo. Now though he’ll be one of the two assistant managers at Morocco this summer. Good luck, in a group containing Portugal and Spain.

Iran
The links between the teams in this group are uncanny. Iran are managed by Carlos Queiroz, who is of course Portugese and probably best known in Premier League terms as Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant. Carlos was between jobs in 1997/98 but again he’s done me a huge favour by appointing Oceano da Cruz as his assistant. Who you ask? Let me remove his surname

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He’s a star player for Sporting Lisbon! Looking at his stats I’m not really sure what that says about Sporting Lisbon, but he’s experienced. With that influence figure he must have always known he could go on to be Iran’s assistant manager.

Group C

France
Nice bit of symmetry starts us off in group C, as France are managed by Didier Deschamps. The former Juventus midfielder captained France to victory in the 1998 World Cup, so obviously he’s my link to the past here.

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As a World Cup winner it’s hardly surprising to see such great stats, although I suppose at the time of the games release he was just plain old France captain. Incidentally he is assisted by Guy Stephan who is the Bordeaux manager in CM9798. Pointless fact for you there.

Australia
I think Group C was the kindest group to research. Bert Van Marwijk is the manager of Australia, though you may know him as the man who masterminded the Dutch kicking everything that moved in the 2010 World Cup. Anyway, in CM9798 Bert is the Fortuna Sittard manager. So what? Well, he was manager of Mark Van Bommel there, and he’s only gone and appointed Mark as his assistant!

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For that, I am very grateful. As Van Bommel’s career went on he dropped the whole “being a striker” thing and just focused on scoring blasties from well outside the box. For conspiracy theorists, he is actually Van Marwijk’s son in law. Jobs for the boys?

Peru
Peru are lead by Argentine Ricardo Gareca, who was managing in Argentina in 1997 so didn’t make the cut for CM9798. Not to worry, a little digging tells me what none other than Premier League legend Nobby Solano is on the coaching staff. Despite his relatively small stature, Solano is classified as a centre half.

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Solano’s official title is “assistant technical director” which hopefully involves him playing his trumpet at half time, or any time for that matter. Personally I’d have him training the set pieces. 14 does not do him justice.

Denmark
If I asked you to name a Danish goalkeeper from the 90s, most of you would say Peter Schmeichel. He is one of my links, but there is also a goalkeeper by the name of Sten Christensen. Here he is in CM9798:

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As you may have guessed, he is the father of Andreas Christensen, who has made a name for himself at Chelsea this season and should find himself in the Denmark squad this summer. So that’s two Danish Goalkeepers with their sons in the current day squad. Here’s Peter, father of Kasper, for completeness sake:

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Group D

Argentina
I mentioned in the intro that some of these links were tedious at best and this is probably the worst. I hunted high and low to find a proper link and this is the best I could do. Manager Jorge Sampaoli is off the grid in 1997 with his coaching career still at an early stage following a young retirement due to injury. With him out and his backroom staff offering little inspiration to me, I had to start digging through the squad to find a link back to 1997.

Step forward Sergio Aguero. The Man City forward was married to Gianinna Maradona, daughter of Diego, and together they have a son. It’s not the point that they are now divorced. Maradona is the grandad of Aguero’s kid and that’s good enough for me.

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Maradona is just about on CM9798 having left Boca Juniors in 1997 he remains in the database on a free transfer. They couldn’t even be bothered to research his caps. Let’s move on.

Iceland
This is more like it. We all fell in love with Iceland during Euro 2016, even when they knocked England out it was hard to be mad at them. You may also some famous commentary being uttered at full time in that match. Well, that commentator was Guðmundur Benediktsson

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I know that isn’t a link. I’m getting to that. His son is Albert Guðmundsson who plays for PSV and is a full Icelandic International. I really hope, after all of this, he makes the final squad.

Croatia
Another assistant manager comes good. Zlatko Dalic is Croatia’s manager and he was playing for Hajduk Split in 1997, but he didn’t make the CM9798 database. Luckily he has an assistant who did, and you’ll find Drazen Ladic at Croatia Zagreb. I’m sure it’s not a point of contention that Ladic is on the database and Dalic isn’t. They presumably have better things to argue about.

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Nigeria
Another straightforward one. If you’ve ever watched Alex Iwobi and thought “that’s like watching Jay-Jay Okocha in his prime” then you are probably lying. They are however, related, as Okocha is Iwobi’s uncle. Imagine having an uncle Jay-Jay. Or maybe that should be Uncle Augustine

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Sadly there isn’t a stat for ‘rainbow flicks’ or whatever they are being called these days but that creativity of 13 seems a little light. Maybe he just got all his creativity from Big Sam? Either way, if Iwobi turns out to be half as good as Okocha was he’ll be just fine.

Group E

Brazil
Considering their rich history and the fact they made three consecutive World Cup finals, this was quite difficult to find a connection. Their manager, Tite, was at Juventude in the 97/98 season so isn’t on the CM database, and I think it would be a cop out even by my standards to select Cafu as the most capped Brazilian. No, if we dig a little deeper it’s to my huge relief that Claudio Taffarel is the goalkeeping coach. Brazil aren’t exactly known for their goalkeepers and it came as quite a surprise to me to learn Taffarel got 101 caps over the course of his career. But then I am ignorant.

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First off, that 15 caps is wrong. Sack the researcher. Actually the date of birth is wrong too, but the year is right. So…I don’t know, I guess I’m not the only ignorant one. His stats are pretty decent though, I’m surely he’ll do a great job with Ederson this summer.

Switzerland
The Swiss have a similar disregard for my retro passion. Manager Vladimir Petkovic was at the very end of his playing days in 1997 and doesn’t make the database, whilst none of the current squad seem to have many links to the past. Once again though the goalkeeping coach comes to my rescue, good old Patrick Foletti. Who you ask? You mean you don’t remember his 11 games for Grasshoppers in the 90s? Shame on you. He also played twice for Derby County in 2002. Totally passed me by but here he is in 97/98 for your amusement.

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Serbia
This was by far my least favourite group. It was around Group E that I considered just knocking the whole thing on the head but having committed more hours of research to this than I care to admit I set to work on Serbia. Now, on that note, who remembers Goran Djorovic?

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With 7 for heading and 6 for tackling, I’m pretty sure I would never even try and sign this man. He can pick a pass and also shoot, so he’s actually a sweeping dream, but it isn’t 1990 and you aren’t Mark Wright, so unlucky. Anyway, Goran is on the coaching staff, hence his inclusion here. With manager Mladen Krstajić not making the cut despite being on Partizan’s books, it’s left to Djorovic to be our link to the 90s.

Costa Rica
Look, some nations are very poorly represented on CM97/98. It would have been ideal if Paulo Wanchope could have held on to the job for a few more years, but he has been fighting fans and I can’t see him being reappointed somehow, so this was always going to be difficult. With no sign of Mauricio Solis, I was soon out of Costa Ricans. Looking at the squad list was equally useless, but then…

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I’m sorry. Costa Rica have a player called Rodney Wallace, that’s the best I can do. Cheer on Rodney for old Rodney.

Group F

Germany
After the horror show of Group E, F was bound to be plain sailing. It really wasn’t. Germany aren’t so bad, but it’s very much downhill from here. Joachim Low himself is in the game at Stuttgart manager

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We can do better though. His assistant, Thomas Schneider, is actually a player for him in 97/98. In this save he has a broken leg but don’t let that put you off.

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Those stats are terrifically average. When injury proneness is your highest rating you know you’re in trouble.

Andreas Kopke, saver of Gareth Southgate penalties, is the current goalkeeper coach, you’ll find him at Marseille in 97/98, whilst they rather bizarrely have the need for a business manager – a role filled by Oliver Bierhoff. Who else would it be?

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Sweden
You’ll notice I gave Germany a big build there as these next three get progressively worse. Sweden Manager Janne Andersson was managing in his homeland and didn’t make the database and assistant Peter Wettergren is equally unknown. Jonas Thern, of Rangers fame, is a scout, but that hardly seems relevant here. I then notice a chap on the player list with the last name Larsson. Could it be?

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Yes, Jordan Larsson is the son of Henrik and has 2 caps. He’s not as good as his Dad. He also seem to take a lot of the blame from the fans when it went wrong at Helsingborg when Henrik was in charge, but ignore that. He’s an outsider to make the squad, so just in case he doesn’t, here’s Jonas Thern.

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Mexico
I researched Mexico for hours. Surely there’d be something, anything to relate things back to 1998? Well if there is, I can’t find it. Colombian manager Juan Carlos Osorio is nowhere to be found, whilst his staff are similarly missing from history. The best I can give you is Mexico’s all time most capped player, Claudio Suarez. Again, they haven’t researched his caps so you’ll just have to believe me.

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There is absolutely no link here to their current squad, it’s just a current statistic. I did recently buy their 1998 kit though and it’s lush, so…yeah.

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South Korea
South Korea are not well represented on CM97/98. Manager Shin Tae-Yong is sadly missing as are the other 50.8m South Koreans estimated to be in the world. Their assistant manager is a Spaniard called Toni Grande though, and he was Real Madrid’s assistant manager in 97/98. Which means he worked with this squad:

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They won the 97/98 Champions League too, which perhaps isn’t a surprise and if I were him I’d be taking all the credit for it. It must come up in job interviews. Anyway, Toni Grande – 97/98 legend.

Group G

England
After that nightmare, things could only improve. We’re in England’s group and of course Gareth Southgate is well known for his 90s antics. Missing penalties, the pizza hut advert and generally being a solid centre half.

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Out of that entire Euro 96 squad I think Southgate will have been towards the bottom of the list of players you would predict to manage England in a future World Cup, but here we are. I actually quite like him, though if he doesn’t get us out of the group he may never manage again.

Belgium
Another easy one. Belgium are managed by Roberto Martinez who played for Wigan in 97/98.

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As if to say “I’m fully on board with this” he has Thierry Henry as an assistant, so let’s have the pair of them on here for good measure

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If only all countries were like Belgium…

Panama
It’s always nice to see a nation qualify who we don’t usually see but it doesn’t really help me. They are managed by Hernán Darío Gómez Jaramillo who actually managed Colombia during the 1998 World Cup. So there is that. Colombia of course were in England’s group in 1998 and lost 2-0 to Beckham and Anderton, so get your money on somebody scoring a direct free kick if you believe in history repeating. Anyway, here are two of my favourite Colombians in 97/98

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Yes, before you ask, I am taking “they played under the current manager in the past” as a link. Besides, there is only one Panama player in the whole CM9798 database. Here he is:

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Tunisia
I have so little for Tunisia. Head Coach Nabil Maâloul was managing in Tunisia in 1997 so that won’t help us and his coaching staff were even later to the party. Maaloul played for Tunisia in the 1988 Olympics, where Tunisia were in a group with West Germany. Although Maaloul scored twice, Tunisia didn’t get through the group. They faced West Germany, who had a certain Jurgen Klinsmann leading the line:

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Can you really claim that as a link? Probably not. But this guy scored the winner for the Soviet Union in the Gold Medal match, so if nothing else you’ve learnt some pointless trivia.

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Group H

Poland
The final group and it’s another mixed bag. Poland was a tricky one, with manager Michał Żewłakow playing for Polonia Warsaw in 1997 but not making the database. Even finding the coaching staff was tricky but with no successful links found, I was fearing the worst. Trawling through Wikipedia bios is a dangerous game but, eventually, it came to light that Jakub Blaszczykowski has an uncle who had a big influence on his career. He also happens to be in CM9798 at Tirol Innsbruck (with the Russia manager, funnily enough) and so here he is. If that’s not a reason to cheer on a nation, I don’t know what is.

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“Crap but pacey” said the reviews.

Senegal
Sometimes you just need an easy result. Senegal manager Aliou Cisse is on CM97/98, though he is clubless.

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Cisse actually captained Senegal to the 2002 World Cup, a breakout tournament for so many of their players, earning several of the squad moves. Cisse transferred to Birmingham and later Portsmouth after he fell out with Steve Bruce. Whether Cisse can get Senegal to reach the heights of 2002 remains to be seen but at least sign him on a free if you’re playing 97/98 anytime soon.

Colombia
I feel like we’ve already done Colombia but it just turns out there’s a few Colombian managers knocking around and I took a few liberties and starting claiming Valderrama and Higuita were involved. Anyway, Jose Pekerman is Colombia Manager and in 1997 he was managing Argentina Under 20s, so he’s out. Once again though he’s got an assistant who knew where to be in the 90s, good old Patricio Camps.

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I’d never actually heard of this man but those stats are rather good, with pace and shooting he’s pretty much all I look for in a striker. Heading is very much optional in my teams.

Japan
We’ll finish on a low. I really tried. Japan manager Akira Nishino has stopped playing by 1997 and was managing Japan’s Under-23s, which isn’t enough to earn you a spot in the CM9798 database. After hunting high and low through the squad, I threw the towel in. All I can offer you is two players who have caps for Japan who are on CM9798 and still playing now. I just hope they get a very surprise recall.

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Nakamura is 39 now and playing for Jubilo Iwata, whilst Miura is a ridiculous 51 and still turning out for Yokohama every now and then. I don’t think either will feature this summer.

There we go then. A reason to follow any of the 32 teams involved in the World Cup this summer. Not necessarily good reasons but where has logic ever got anybody? Thanks for reading and putting up with the madness!

CM9798 World Cup Preview: Group A-D with BBC Sport’s Tom Rostance

The time is nearly upon us. On Monday May 21st the CM9798 World Cup will get underway right here on CM9798.co.uk, but first for the next two weeks I’m going to preview the 16 human controlled teams with a special guest. Here’s a reminder of who is who

Teams final

The first four groups are going under the microscope with Tom Rostance of BBC Sport. You can of course click his name to be taken to the chat me & Tom had last year about his history with the game but many of you will know Tom as a live texter over on the BBC Sport website. With that in mind, let’s head over to Group A where we find three of our competitors.

Group A

Group A Pic

It’s hard to look past the holders Brazil here, who will kick the tournament off against Denmark on May 21st. Managed by Mark Carruthers, there’s an embarassment of riches to pick from and narrowing it down to 25 was difficult enough.

brazil squad

The strengths are numerous. In Dida there’s a safe pair of hands in goal, plus two of the best full backs of my lifetime. Rivaldo, Juninho, Leonardo and Denilson are able to supply the bullets for the lethal Ronaldo and Anderson, though Elber, Edmundo and the experienced Romario are not bad options to be able to call upon from the bench. Is there a lack of pace at centre half? Will anybody be able to get the ball to exploit it?

Their opponents on the opening day really have their hands full. Here’s who Ross has picked for Denmark:

denmark squad

You will of course know Ross from the Parma save that comes to your screens every Monday. It’s not a bad squad to be honest, it’s a shame for them that they have Brazil to face but in the Laudrup brothers along with CM9798 legends Tomasson and Bisgaard there’s plenty of goals about. The defence is probably the weak area but with Schmeichel in goal, it might not matter.

This is one of two groups with three human controlled teams, which sadly means at least one of these boys won’t go through. King of the Rooks has Norway – you might know KOTR from the 20 year anniversary cup and he is bringing a blog to you later this year, but for now you know him as the Norway manager who left Tore Andre Flo and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at home.

norway squad

I’ll be honest, I had to play some of the qualifiers to make sure certain teams qualified. It’s a long story but this was well before anybody was assigned any teams and I needed the 16 teams I’d made playable all to qualify. Anyway, Norway were so much fun to manage I think I won two of the qualifiers by 6 goals or more. Again though, their fun-ness is limited as they could be lambs to the Brazilian slaughter at some point. The Scandanavian teams all have a full set of players available in the database (CM2 was released over there, same database just different playable leagues) so they are a strong unit. If they can get out of the group, nobody will want them in round 2. Oh and Saudi Arabia have no real players on the database in this save, so good luck to them.

Tom’s verdict:

Can you pick too many forwards? Not if you’re in charge of that Brazil team. My word.

Cm 97/98 legend Sonny Anderson may well get the nod alongside Ronaldo, and when you chuck in Rivaldo, Cafu. Roberto Carlos and Denilson the possibilities are endless.

The other two sides have smatterings of quality too. I recall Bisgaard being top class in this game, while Norway have plenty of PL players to throw at it – NEVLAND! Where’s Solskjaer though?

Group B

Group B Pic

You have to say this is a favourable draw for the hosts – corruption claims were less in 1998 – and 90s enthusiast @90sfootball will be confident of getting France out of the group.

France 98 squad final

A slight issue is that Vieira has picked up an injury and will miss the first two games, whilst Petit will be fine. There’s no shortage of quality in the squad though, with the veteran Papin still very capable. Will this be Zidane’s time? I’m just looking forward to seeing Bernard Diomede on the big stage. It’s also a shrewd move to get Ali Benarbia signed up before Algeria come calling.

Of the other teams in the group, USA have a full squad as I loaded them as my backup team in case one of the European teams fell by the wayside. Even if Paddy isn’t a CM9798 expert I still think he’ll get through at a canter.

USA squad

Tom’s verdict:

Florian Maurice gets the chance to have the World Cup he should have had in real life. The Champ legend is the shining light in a France squad rammed full of class. Ali Bernabia? Yes please. Tell me more about this injury to Vieira though…

Group C

Group C Pic

Holland start Group C as favourites, a strong squad with many players in their prime they went on to reach the World Cup semi finals in 1998. How will they do under the guidance of Ash Rose, host of Alive & Kicking 90s Podcast?

dutch squad final

Sadly, Frank De Boer has broken his pelvis and will miss the tournament. There’s still enough quality to see the Dutch through to the latter stages though this group won’t be a walk over. Colombia only have one real player, Faustino Asprilla no less, but that means they’ll have a lot of decent fake players. Then of course there’s the loveable underdogs, Republic of Ireland. Or Eire as they were called in 1998

Ireland squad

Roy Keane is the obvious star, but he is suspended for the opener against Colombia. That could prove costly, especially as Jim Gannon will step in. Rob Tait, of Roma save fame, is in the hot seat though and it will surely only help. He even wrote a tactics guide with the stricken Andy Townsend.

Tom’s verdict:

Was Robbie Keane not worth an outside shout for the Eire squad? I recall him cropping up in 97/98, though I could be wrong.

Hard to look past the Dutch here. Another frighteningly good attacking line up.

Group D

When you think you’ve seen it all, look what the games throws up for us…

Group D Pic

England have two rivals in one group, plus Tunisia who they played in 1998 but also will again in 2018. My my.

England squad

Under the guidance of Dan Barker, Nicky Butt’s injury on the eve of the tournament has seen Matt Le Tissier flown out to join the squad. The old left sided problem still remains but Dan seems set to set up narrow and let the likes of Shearer, Gascoigne and Scholes do the damage.

Argentina meanwhile are lead by Chris Darwen, fresh from the humiliation of a first round exit in the 20 Year Annviersary Cup despite being Real Madrid. Yes, he’s called up Maradona!

argentina squad

Without a club for the whole season, Maradona’s inclusion seems a bit of a gamble but as long as Batistuta is around there’s a chance. It’s a very strong team, particularly in the striking department, just watch out for Simeone’s antics.

As if there’s not enough going on, Australia are managed by former England gaffer Terry Venables. Whatever next?

australia squad

It’s going to be a tough group which England and Argentina should really escape from, but will it go to form?

Tom’s verdict:
Just what would have happened had Glenn Hoddle gone with Gazza and not Rob Lee? Now is maybe the time to find out. A hell of a squad – what Gareth Southgate wouldn’t give to have those sort of options now.

The Argentina side is full of quality too. Give it Batistuta.

More importantly – have Ibrahima Bakayoko’s Ivory Coast qualified?!

Well Tom you’ll have to wait until next week to find out the answer to that particular question. I’ll be back next Sunday with another special guest to take us through Groups E-H before the tournament itself starts the following day.

My sincerest thanks to Tom for taking the time out to help me with this preview, you can follow Tom on Twitter @TJRostance or of course find him on the BBC Sport website.