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An American in Scotland

Inexperienced Yank runs SMNT
Started on 2 March 2020 by jahendricksi
Latest Reply on 9 March 2020 by jahendricksi
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Darby Day!


Match 1 is against the Auld Enemy, ranked 11 in the world (we are currently at 18). Not wanting to make it any easier for our young squad, the match was at Wembley which was filled to capacity. Although that might have played well to us because our supporters didn’t have to travel far, only 400 or so miles down the M6, or hop the Avanti or Overground to make it in time.


We put out a strong squad and I went with an AMC, hoping that Christie would distract the defense to allow more goal scoring opportunities and trusting the formation to frustrate any attacks. Even though Paterson was one of our leading scorers in Qualifying I went with Fraser who seems better at set pieces and trusted that his pace and strength would be better against England’s left wing. I also started Karlan Grant to show England what they are missing out on.

The match started with a bang as Grant repaid my faith when Leigh Griffiths stole the ball from Jadon Sancho after he was attempting a counter on a corner, and laid it off for Grant who scored a close effort that went in off the post. 1-0 Scotland! I thought we could hang on until the half but Sancho atoned for his mistake and scored the equalizer in injury time. We went in 1-1 at the half.

The second half started and each side struggled to create chances. I pulled an underperforming McTominay for McGregor at 57 minutes, hoping his DLP ability would still allow us to maintain our shape but be more aggressive offensively. Grant was subbed off 6 minutes later for McBurnie to provide a different dynamic, hoping McBurnie’s strength could help knock through some balls for others as well as score some himself. Finally, six minutes after that I put Kieran Tierney at WBR for Ryan Fraser, who was just knackered. Tierney's pace was preferable to Paterson.

While we were dominating possession we were having challenges breaking down England’s stout defense, with DMC Declan Rice providing a fifth defender at times and completely frustrating Christie. Southgate was exposing the flaw in our setup: we are not designed to break down compact defending teams but rather control possession, be stout defensively, and take good chances.

Heading into injury time it looked like a draw was in the cards (which is great for our prospects) when in the 92nd minute McGinn gathered a pass from McGregor and played a through ball to an onside Leigh Griffiths. Griffiths beat Dean Henderson at the right post and it was 2-1 Scotland!. Cheering erupted and intensified 2 minutes later when the whistle blew and Scotland had sent England homeward to think again.


McGinn was POM for his assist and battling midfield display. Both goals were scored by our forwards, answering, albeit temporarily, the concern about our forward line. And with a win against our toughest opponent, I feel very good about our chances progressing out of the group stage.

Note:

For those players that don't manage England, have you had success against them? I was shocked I won as England and France dominate the international tournaments for 5-10 years. Normally I fare very poorly this early in the game against England and was surprised that I did so well.
jahendricksi's avatar Group jahendricksi
1 yearEdited
Happy Turkey Day!


Match 2 is against Turkey, 2nd in our group after beating the Czech Republic in their opener. The match was a home affair, being played before 50,000 at Hampden.


We put out a strong squad and I stubbornly stuck with an AMC, hoping that it would finally click. I went with McCrorie in goal to continue blooding him and rotated the side, allowing the players from the England game to rest before we finish off group matches against the Czech Republic.

Turkey started the match with a bang and didn’t let up for the entire match. They dominated possession, outshot us and outfought us. We had trouble building past the midfield as we made a lot of sideways passes attempting to break down Turkey’s press. Most of our attacks were coming down the right wing but Turkey crowded the passing lanes and killed off our attacks before it reached the final third. Right before the half I swapped out Ross McCrorie and Stuart Armstrong due to ineffectiveness. We battled through and went in 0-0 at the half.

I gave a scathing halftime talk to the team and it paid off as McGregor restarted play in the 47th minute with a speculative free kick from deep within his half. The pass fell to Christie who drove into the box and lashed a strike into the bottom right corner from near the penalty spot. 1 – 0 Scotland! Cummings was pulled in the 63rd minute for Griffiths, who also struggled to break down the Turkey defense. However, in the 82nd minute Griffiths struck the ball and it glanced off Okay Yokuslu to tumble into the net for an Own Goal: 2 – 0 Scotland! We let our foot off the gas slightly and began to waste time, which backfired shortly after the restart with Turkey scoring from the box. 2 – 1 Turkey! It remained a tense affair but at the final whistle it was Scotland as the victors.


McGregor was POM for his assist and pulling the strings in the midfield. Sometimes you are just outplayed, which we were, and have to rely on set pieces. A silver lining is we were able to get the result when we were not at our best. Our defense held strong and frustrated the constant attacking pressure from Turkey. A win is a win and this win qualified us for the knockout stages from our group: for the first time ever Scotland is progressing at a Tournament!
"Scotland had sent England homeward to think again." YES!

Great couple of results once again, hopefully a win over Czech Republic can ensure a 'lesser' team is met in the next round. Good luck!
jahendricksi's avatar Group jahendricksi
1 yearEdited
Czech yourself, Son!


Match 3 is against the Czech Republic, battling for the second qualification spot with Turkey and England. Both sides wanted something from this match: the Czech's needed a win and other results to go their way to progress; we need points to ensure a top finish and a favorable draw in the next round. The match was another home affair, being played before 50,000 at Hampden. Let’s hope we perform better in this match than in our last one at home, which was a win in which we were outplayed.


Since we had already qualified I rested some players and started MacGillivray in goal—my thinking is if you make the squad you will start a game in the Tournament. Despite Christie’s heroics last game I went with a flat 3-man midfield to control the tempo: we don’t need a win to qualify and only a point to win the group so I am experimenting with how my team performs in the Flat 3.

This was a far cry from the Turkey game as we started the match strongly and controlled the flow throughout the entire match. We dominated possession and outshot the Czechs who couldn’t seem to find a rhythm to attack. However, despite our dominance in possession and shots we had trouble breaking though and scoring that vital first goal. We continued to press and attack but went in 0-0 at the half.

In an effort to keep my players fresh I swapped out Griffiths and McCrorie at halftime for McBurnie and McGinn. Johnston gave way shortly after the restart for McKenna; Johnston had been badly beaten by Jan Kopic who drove a shot past MacGillivray to break the deadlock. 1 – 0 Czech Republic! We kept pressing our advantage and looking for the goals as the clock kept ticking down. In the 90th minute as the fourth official was announcing 3 minutes of injury time Callum Paterson broke down the right flank and floated a cross into the box, meeting the head of Oli McBurnie. 1 – 1 Scotland! We celebrated the equalizer and enjoyed the last of the match. At the whistle we celebrated with the fans in the crowd, having assured ourselves at least one more match after having topped our group with 7 points.


Paterson was POM for his assist and his double duty on defense (5 tackles and 6 headers) and offense (55 passes completed and 4 chances created). This was something of an opposite from our last match—we completely outclassed our opposition yet struggled to score and might have gone down in defeat without McBurnie’s last minute equalizer.

This also was a costly draw as after the match we found out we have lost Callum McGregor for 2-7 days with a pulled groin (his own, not someone else’s) and Karlan Grant for 3 days with a bruised ankle. Grant should be back for our knockout round match and McGregor will be available for that match and at full fitness for the next (assuming we progress). As far as injury lists go not a bad one but you never want to have one.

We also found a familiar foe will be waiting for us in the next round. Playing in Aviva Stadium may the luck of the Irish be with us!


Replies:

Imagine, I was thinking of you when I wrote that line. ;)
Deutschland unter alles!


The first match of the second round is against Germany, the second time we have played them in three months. Following our 5-3 victory in a Friendly I knew we could score against them and elected to follow a similar route as last time, playing a very aggressive, offensively open match. We played before almost 52,000 at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. This is our first match off the island but since it is right across the Irish Sea it allows a lot of supporters to travel the 400 miles to the stadium.


Since I anticipated this will be a high-scoring affair I put in a more offensively minded squad. Gordon started again in goal and barring injury will remain there for the rest of the tournament. I returned to the AMC formation that had served us well last time, playing Christie in the position. Previous meeting hero Andrew Robertson started on the left, opposite Ryan Fraser who was due for a good game.

This was no contest from the beginning. I am not sure what is happening with Germany but they never really mounted a threat and despite controlling possession always seemed to be looking for a pass rather than to create a chance. We went in 1-0 at the half thanks to a mesmerizing run by Fraser in the 11th minute. After the break it was only a matter of time before we scored again. And then they came: Souttar in the 55th off another Fraser corner; Fraser again in the 75th off a clever Robertson feint and cross; and finally Christie in the 87th when a McGinn pass found him near the top of the area. Final score: 4 - 0 Scotland.


Fraser was understandably POM for his brace and assist on the corner. We did lose McGinn to injury (bruised ribs) but will be back in time for our next match.

Our next match is against Serbia in the Quarter Finals. We will be playing in the Olimpico in Rome, the first time we will be on the mainland. Hopefully we travel well.

Serbia on a platter!


The Quarter Final was against Serbia, who finished third in their qualifying group but made the QF by pipping Spain on penalties in the second round. They have scored three goals in four matches so again I focused on an aggressive, offensively open match. We played before more than 68,500 fans at Olimpico in Rome. We took the team down early to practice, see the sites, eat some gnocchi, and surprisingly the supporters showed up in force for the match.


Since I anticipated Serbia will try to play defensively I kept in a more offensively minded squad. Gordon remained in goal but I removed some players that were on alert for yellow cards. McKenna, Souttar, Robertson, and Grant all sat on the bench.

Like the last match against Germany this was no contest from the beginning. Serbia tried controlling possession and, like Germany, always seemed to be looking for a pass or to keep us from possession rather than to create a chance. We went in 1-0 at the half thanks to a fun bit of cross field 1-2 between Paterson and Tierney, who finished the move. I subbed McIntyre for McKenna at half time, again because of McIntyre’s shaky defending. He might not feature again.

With Serbia hoping to blunt our attacks and then steal an equalizer I subbed of McCrorie for McGinn and then brought McBurnie on for Cummings. The substitutions paid dividends as McBurnie scored a safety goal in the 78th minute after muscling his way onto a through ball from Tierney. McGinn finished the scoring in injury time when McBurnie held up play and rolled it back to McGinn to score from the edge of the area.


We are through to the Semi Final. Our opponent will be another familiar foe, Belgium. The other two semi-finalists are Italy and Ukraine; I would rather have either of them than Belgium. We will be playing back on our island, in Wembley, where we played our first match of the tournament (but hopefully this won’t be our last match of the tournament).

Belg-Yum!


The Semi Final was against Belgium, who we played during qualifying and finished second in our group. They have scored 7 goals in 5 matches but instead of playing an open aggressive match (knowing they had the players to punish us for that decision) I played a defensive, control possession, wait-for-your-shot game. The hope is I will either lull Belgium to sleep and strike when they are less attentive or frustrate them into imploding. Playing again before 90,000 fans at Wembley, most of them our supporters, definitely buoyed the team.


Since this is a Semi Final I put in my strongest squad. I paired Griffiths with McBurnie since those two are my highest scorers since taking over. I also played Christie since he is third. Fraser’s set piece skills and creativity will be vital against a stacked Belgium team.

Because I was playing a very controlled, patient game I dominated possession and my careful probing was rewarded with good looks at goal but Courtois and his defense proved too much and we went into half-time 0-0. I told the team to be patient and a goal would come—that seemed to do the trick as they were less anxious and responded positively.

After halftime we continued in our patient manner when the deadlock was broken in the 51st minute. Ryan Fraser threw the ball in from the right hashmark to McTominay, who spotted Christie near the penalty spot. He threaded a pass to Christie who drew the defense in before quickly backheeling it to Griffiths, who sent the ball into the upper right of the net. 1 – 0 Scoland! The stands erupted after the Referee upheld the goal despite Belgium’s calls for offside, which didn’t subside until he had given a yellow for dissent.

Despite being behind, Belgium never really played with a sense of urgency or pushed for the equalizer. Maybe it was our formation; maybe it was our “lulling them to sleep” strategy. Whatever it was they never played aggressively or quickly and we were never really in danger of squandering our lead. When the final whistle sounded, Belgium hung their heads as we celebrated with our thousands of supporters: for the first time in our history we are playing in a Final!


We are through to the Final. Our opponent will be Italy, who crushed Ukraine in their match 4-2. Maybe we were lucky to get Belgium in the semis instead of Italy?


Note: I will be taking a break to take care of other things and should have the Final posted late this evening (GMT-8:00) or tomorrow. First will be a return of the BT Sports group and then the Final itself.


Ian Darke, Commentator: Hello, and welcome back to the program. I am joined in studio by Steve McManaman and John Hartson. A special day tomorrow for supporters of the Scottish and Italian Men’s National teams as they will compete for the Henri Delaunay Trophy awarded to the winners of the European Championship. Before we talk about the teams and the match, let’s review the competition thus far. Macca, you must be gutted with England’s showing in this tournament particularly given some matches were on home soil at Wembley.

Steve McManaman, Spice Boy: Ya, absolutely gutted. I was surprised by their initial loss to Scotland in their opening match but they went through to the second round and knocked off Poland, led by tournament joint top scorer Robert Lewandowski. However there was some dodgy refereeing in St. Petersburg which led to them falling to Ukraine 2-1. They were looking pretty solid this tournament; oh, what might have been!

Darke: Not a bad showing, Macca, and one I am sure Wales would have liked to have had, John?

John Hartson, Cancer Survivor: Oh, boy. Bottom of our group and the only team that didn’t progress from Ukraine, Germany, and Kosovo. I don’t know why we didn’t show up but absolutely gut wrenching.

Darke: Let’s focus now on surprise teams. First, let’s name a country that is not Wales that underperformed. Then let’s focus on the overperforming squads, which will be a much tougher challenge. Steve?

Macca: For me the underperforming team has to be France. How can it be anyone else? In Group A with Finalists Italy, Norway, and Greece, the knockout rounds seemed a guarantee for the world champions. But after the three group matches they sat bottom with 1 point and 3 goals for their efforts. 7th for possession, 10th for shots, but 13th for goals allowed…in 3 games. Their attacking efforts were…OK…but they have some very serious questions to answer about their defense.

Hartson: For me the most disappointing has to be Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe. Unplayable in France’s World Cup win, absolute donkeys in this tournament. Mbappe is two time U-21 World Footballer and finished runner up for World Footballer of the Year. Yet he does not show up in the top 20 in any category. Pogba did complete 91% of his passes but how many chances did he create? How many key passes? When your top 2 drastically underperform like this it is no surprise you are out at the Group Stage.

Darke: And now the surprises. Macca, what is your top overperformance in this tournament?

Macca: It would be easy to focus on Scotland, or perhaps Italy’s outstanding attack (17 goals!), but I’m going to go with Ukraine’s Semi Final run. Not fancied coming in, they topped their group scoring 8 goals and then scored another 7 in the knockout stages. Their attempted the most passes and had the most shots on target. I think Mykola Shaparinko is a shoo-in for U-21 Player in the Tournament pulling the strings for their attack and is in with a shout for Best Player.

Hartson: Well, I am going to focus on Scotland. This is a nation that has never advanced beyond the group stage of any tournament, not been to a tournament for 22 years, and was ranked 43 this time last year. Now here they are in the Final, having beaten some top squads on the way. They play organized, attacking football, and adapt to their opponent: their semi-final win against Belgium is a masterclass in dummying your opponent. I know the bookies favor Italy in the Final but Ian, I’m going to go on a limb and say Scotland’s 3 goals allowed this tournament will stifle Italy’s 17 goals scored. Remember Scotland is 3rd for goals scored with 13 while Italy has shipped 7 goals in 6 games. If I had a fiver, I’d put it on Scotland pulling the upset.

Darke: So we’ve heard from John. Macca, do you agree?

Macca: I can see scenarios where Scotland can pull an upset. But I think Italy has too much about them and are too good for Scotland. Scotland have a 37 year-old keeper who has announced he will retire post tournament. Some of their backline still have spots! I think Italy will prove to be too much for Scotland on Sunday and the northerners will fall just short of completing the fairy tale.

Darke: I’d argue just arriving at the final is a fairy tale, Macca. There you have it. We’ll see how the match plays out tomorrow. Until then, good luck and good mental health.
Football. Bloody Hell.
Il Gran Finale

Tonight was the Euro 2020 Final between Scotland and Italy at Wembley. Tens of millions around the globe turned on their sets to watch the unfancied Scots take on their Italian counterparts. We went with the same lineup as in our Semi Final win against Belgium but played a more attack-minded game, trusting our formation and personnel to stifle Italy’s attack.


The match was a surprisingly drab affair considering the goal scoring prowess of both sides. While there were plenty of shots, most were speculative and the final pass seemed lacking. As you can see from the action zones each side spent more time in the final third than in their own end but still the score was 0 – 0 at the half and 0 – 0 at full time.


Hoping to spark some offense throughout the game, I replaced Hanley with Tierney at the half, Griffiths with Grant near the hour mark, and Fraser with Paterson in the 79th minute. The last 10 minutes I switched to a very aggressive attack to push for a score but all that did was tire my players out. In the extra period I had to replace McTominay for McGregor since he was just exhausted.

A breakthrough came in the 97th minute when John McGinn was booked for fouling Federico Bernardeschi. Midfielder Nicolo Barella stepped up and swung his free kick over the wall and into the right side of the goal past Craig Gordon. 1 – 0 Italy! It remained that way through the half way mark and looked like it would be the only score. However, in the 110th minute Ryan Christie sent a far post cross towards Oli McBurnie whose shot was saved by Dunnarama. However, referee Alejandro Jose Hernandez Hernandez decided to use VAR to see if McBurnie was fouled by Leonardo Spinazzola on the attempt. The video confirmed—penalty! Karlan Grant strode up and calmly slotted the ball to Donnaruma’s right to draw Scotland level: 1 – 1 Scotland! After that I conserved my tired team and played for the penalty shootout.

In the shootout we went first. Italy kept pace with us one-for-one as McBurnie, Grant, and Christie scored only for their counterpart to also score. McGregor scored our fourth and when Leonardo Bonucci had his penalty saved by Gordon, up stepped young John Souttar to take the spot kick: a score and history has been made; a miss and the pressure would ratchet up even more. The 23 year-old coolly slotted the penalty in and Scotland wins 5 – 3 on penalties!


Aftermath: John McGinn and penalty hero John Souttar both will miss their next match after collecting too many yellow cards. Craig Gordon retired and was immediately offered a job as coach on the team (he accepted). We had four players named to the Euro dream team: McGinn, Tierney, Souttar, and Fraser. And I am tired so am going to head to bed.
Sorry I haven't posted. I took a breather after doing a year in-game in a few days. During the breather no one has commented on the posts so there doesn't appear to be much interest in the story. If that is the case I will go back to another save and let this thread die out.

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