Wandering to Titles – World Cup Fever! (Nov & Dec) Episode 42

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Welcome back to my Football Manager 2020 Wolverhampton Wanderers Story.

Season 4, Episode 42

We have quite a change in routine in the next two months, as the Qatar 2022 World Cup gets underway at the end of November.

The competition disrupts a lot of football across Europe, and we are no exception.

We have plenty of players going to the tournament with their respective national teams. While most of them will be getting minutes under their belt, I’m worried about the lads who are not going (such as Haaland, since Norway did not qualify). I hope the lack of game-time during these next two months won’t destabilize what we have already built so that this season.

I intend to schedule a few friendlies to keep everyone’s match fitness and morale up.

But before we dive into the World Cup, we have our last Champions League Group match to play, against Bayern Munich.

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Wolves (1st) vs Bayern Munich (2nd)
2/11/2022 Champions League Group H

While we’ve secured first place in the group, I still feel we have to play a strong team. A battering by Bayern could deflate morale quite dramatically, so only a few changes have been made. Mbabu, Neves and Mepham all get a rest.

Bayern are dangerous, of course, and are currently on a 7 game win streak.

To say that was unexpected would actually be an understatement. What a performance. For this match, I instructed Fernandes to ‘take more risks’, ‘get further forward’ and ‘move into channels’ in a bid to increase his performances, and he started this game in flying fashion. Just what I want from my AMC. He was unplayable at times – too hot for Bayern to handle.

We finish the group with 16 points. More than I could ever have wished for. A fantastic and dominant display and we move into the next round.

Surprisingly though, Juventus drop down to the Europa League after finishing 3rd in their group with Barcelona and Eintracht Frankfurt progressing. A tough time for Juve fans.

In the next round, we travel to Germany for the first leg as we take on Borussia Monchengladbach. An interesting side, but one I’m confident of getting past. They currently sit 9th in the Bundesliga.

With World Cup fever descending onto the planet, we don’t play another competitive match until 26th December. I of course will be keeping a close eye on our players and any potential transfer targets too.

World Cup Fever

We have quite a great selection from our squad heading out to Qatar. Our most notable players coming from Italy and Portugal.

It’s great to see Jose Lima selected for Argentina. A fantastic opportunity for the young lad. He’s only 21 and has 2 caps to his name already. Can he make it more?

Haaland, of course, misses out due to Norway not qualifying, while Vinagre also sits at home as he isn’t deemed good enough by Portugal, yet. I’m sad for him and I feel he is definitely worthy of inclusion into the squad. Raphael Guerreiro of Dortmund and Nuno Tavares of Inter stand in his way. A shame to say the least.

I imagine Nuno Tavares‘ inclusion in the squad is helped by the fact he can also play on the right side, not just the left flank like Vinagre.

The biggest disappointment, for me anyway, is our lack of English talent. New boy Kalvin Phillips is the only lad even capable of getting into the England side, but he couldn’t manage it this time. We need to build on this during the next few seasons, but that is easier said than done with English talent always coming at a premium price.

I watched as many games as I could, with great interest in my players. Italy ultimately went all the way and lifted the trophy with a 2-0 victory over England in the final.

Cutrone and Tonali both played 5 games in the competition while Audero could only watch from the bench, but no doubt he’s as proud as ever. Italy had a tougher route to the final, and worthy winners it seems.

Our Portuguese continent could only make the Quarter Final as they were knocked out by Brazil. Jose Lima started every match for Argentina at right-back, eventually getting knocked out by England. He’s had an excellent tournament and this experience will do him wonders in his development.

We have three World Cup winners coming back to Wolverhampton, and I couldn’t be happier for the boys. It’s a strange scenario to be in as we all now have to be fully focused on Wolves once again.

Friendly Fitness

While me and some of the lads sat back at home watching the World Cup, we also played three friendlies to keep morale and fitness up.

I didn’t want to work the boys too hard, so we travelled to Belgium to play a couple of matches – Club Brugge and KAA Gent. Two good run-outs and it gave a chance for the players to spend a bit of time with their wives and partners during this time too.

The Lichfield game (who are very local to us) was effectively shooting practice. Sandro Goncalves enjoyed his day as he hit 6 goals. A perfect morale-building exercise. Not so much for Lichfield, but I’m sure they enjoyed playing against a Premier League side.

Manchester United (5th) vs Wolves (2nd)
26/12/2022 Premier League

With very little time between the World Cup and Manchester United, I just hope everyone is raring to go. Morale and happiness is at an all-time high.

Everyone came back injury free which is also a plus. A fully fit squad is available.

A tough afternoon for us today. Manchester United controlled the game brilliantly. We did, however, go ahead both times. Fernandes hit a wonder of a free-kick before Neves taking us back to a winning score-line 4 minutes before time. I thought we had all three points before Lemar scored his own wonder free-kick in injury time which felt like a punch to the gut.

Nothing we can do about that. It was one of the goals you will be lucky to see again. It was such an unbelievable strike.

Wolves vs Luton Town
31/12/2022 FA Cup 3rd Round

We don’t have long to dwell on the Manchester United result as we host 14th in the Championship Luton Town. This gives me a good opportunity to play some of the fringe players in a bid to get them firing.

I make seven changes from our last game with Goncalves getting a rare start.

An astute performance from us today as we carved Luton Town open with ease. The FA Cup is notorious for upsets, and we didn’t want to be on the receiving end of one. Sandro Goncalves took his chance today as he scored a brace – his first goals for the club.

Did the match against Lichfield have an impact? Perhaps. Either way, I’m very happy for the boy and I hope he can kick on with his Wolves career.

We face Premier League Derby County away from home in the 4th round.

Manager’s Player of the Month

We’ve only played three competitive matches over the course of the past two months thanks to the Qatar World Cup, so there isn’t much playtime to make my decision from. But with three goals in two matches, Bruno Fernandes has been above the rest.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

His work against Bayern Munich was nothing short of sensational as he helped us romp home to a 4-0 victory. Couple that with a professional display against Manchester United which also saw him score, it’s made it quite easy for me to pick my Player of the Month(s).

He’s a special talent that at times I wish he would do more – but I’m very glad he’s here with us. I hope for more of the same in the 2nd half of the season.

Manager’s Player of the Month Winners: Fernandes (1), Augustinsson (1), Neves (1), Haaland (1).

Looking Ahead

A bizarre month for us as over the course of November and December we only played three competitive matches. Unbeaten in three (6 if you include friendlies) and we still on an upwards trajectory.

Of course not much has changed in the Premier League. We still sit in 2nd, 5 points off Spurs but with a game in hand. We have a very busy January ahead of us. Plenty of matches and transfer activity to keep us busy.

Bar the Spurs match, January is looking very favourable for us and expect us to pick up ground on the league leaders. Now is the time to do so. I haven’t spoken much about transfer activity, but I do have a few plans in place which I will share with you in due course.

But as for now, I will keep tight lipped.

Our Italian trio are still coming to terms with the shock of winning the World Cup. It must be difficult to come straight back to Wolves and continue working. They haven’t really had time to celebrate. But they’re here to do a job and I still expect the same level of commitment from them – no doubt they will deliver. The summer will be the time to truly embrace their World Cup win.

As always, thank you for reading. Please share with your friends, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for the latest updates; @ExtraTimeFM. Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts.