06 July 2019
Fibra International was always going to be hard. With no International team training, dangerously low levels of tactical familiarity and an adaptability score of 1, Ángel Bastardo was thrown into the deep end with Chile. But despite the uphill task, Bastardo battled his way to 3rd place in the Copa América tournament, finishing with a win percentage of 70% as Chile boss.
It's clear International Management is not for Ángel, but the opportunity to manage Chile's Golden Generation (with all that fibra) for 12 months has been a rewarding experience. Today's Epilogue wraps up the A.Bastardo South American story: the good, the bad and the ugly.
Because the Copa America started so soon after the European season, no warm up friendlies were arranged. In fact Bastardo himself only had 5 days to get from an away game at Banfield (with Estudiantes de La Plata) to the Opening Ceremony in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. One advantage is that players came into my squad with quite a good level of match sharpness. But the huge disadvantage was that I had no time to try systems out. I would have to learn what works and what doesn't whilst playing through the tournament itself, something directly against the FMG culture. To counter this, I decided to play games in full 90 minute mode (much to the annoyance of Mrs Grasshopper...who now hoped for a Group Stage exit). Get ready...
The Group Stage
Chile (ranked 14th in the World)
USA (ranked 23rd in the World)
Peru (ranked 31st in the World)
Paraguay (ranked 58th in the World)
As a 1st seed in the Group Stage draw, I was lucky to avoid 2nd seeds Colombia and Uruguay who could have proved to be a potential banana skin. Instead we got minnows Peru/Paraguay and guest nation USA. Surely this would be a walk in the park?
We kicked off our campaign against bitter rivals Peru, in the 'Clásico del Pacífico'. These countries were once at war against each other in the late 19th Century...so I was expecting a fiery encounter. On reflection, it wasn't at all hostile...although I was punching the wall next to me seeing Peru cancel out Fabián Orellana's opener for Chile a few seconds from half time. Luckily Orellana appeared in the 2nd half to tap in a 63rd minute winner. The essential thing was getting 3 points, it changed the complex of the rest of the group games: Peru 1-2 Chile.
Next up was USA, who opened their Copa América tournament with a 2 nil win against Group whipping boys Paraguay. I was lucky enough to call back Arturo Vidal from suspension and had our 1st choice XI available. It was a tense 1st half, with Dortmund Wonderkid Christian Pulisic causing me all sorts of bother in the AML position. We tweaked a few things at the break but the AI had a complete meltdown and moved Pulisic into a deep MR position. It completely changed the game, and my tactic flourished. Alexis Sánchez opened the scoring from a well worked Orellana cross, before Charles Aránguiz finished a fine team move. We were through to the Quarter Finals already! Chile 2-0 USA.
Now I faced Paraguay, who were already out of the tournament. They'd lost 0-2 to the USA and 0-1 to Peru. I couldn't possibly lose to these bunch of jokers (ranked 58 in the World). So I did the sensible thing and rotated the squad, making 5 changes to the side that beat USA. Now I possibly couldn't keep track of the amount of times I swore whilst watching this game. We were fucking awful, seriously bad at football...and even running seemed a strain at times. Let's not take anything away from Paraguayan Walter González...who was sublime in the ST role with 1 goal and 1 assist (I recommend checking him out on your saves, he could be a nice bargain). We lost 0-2, only clinging to our 1st place in the Group thanks to USA and Peru playing out a 1-1 draw. Phew. Chile 0-2 Paraguay.
To make matters worse, Claudio Bravo gave me an additional post-match headache by telling me he had injured a wrist and was out for the tournament. I was worried, because my back up Chilean keepers were untried and obviously untested. We entered the Quarter Finals like a wounded animal. Vulnerable and in need of some stitches.
Chile Vs Uruguay (ranked 11th in the World)
It has always been a dream to manage in the Maracanã stadium, even if it's just an FM dream. It was probably a special moment for the Uruguayan players too, whose nation won their last World Cup at this venue 69 years ago in front of an enormous crowd of 199,854 people (Uruguay 2-1 Brazil, 1950 World Cup). Luckily there was no fairy tale reunion for Uruguay, my refreshed fibra warriors won 3-1. It was a dominate performance, with Chile taking a 3 nil lead. Orellana continued his fine tournament by scoring once again, Ángelo Henríquez and Vidal got the other two. Felipe Avenatti scored with 9 minutes to go for Uruguay and then hit the post about a minute later...I was left with a pacey heartbeat, nothing more.
But the real catastrophic moment came on 88 minute when Alexis Sánchez, my motherfuckin' starboy, pulled up with a calf strain. His tournament was over:
So we entered the Semi Finals without our 1st choice Goalkeeper and MVP Attacker. Come on lads, 90 minutes away from A.Bastardo's 1st International Final. Chile 3-1 Uruguay.
Chile Vs Mexico (ranked 29th in the World)
Argentina played out their Semi Final against Ecuador a day before us, winning 5-0 in São Paulo. Four of their goals coming in the last 15 minutes and all five coming from separate individuals. They are still yet to concede and I was unsure how I would ever stop them, IF I got past this Mexico team. Without Alexis I continued with the 433 placing Martín Rodríguez in the Inside Forward role, in what would be his 7th cap for Chile. I kept faith with the rest of the team and the tactical system.
That was my undoing. Despite having 14 shots, 9 of them were long...Mexico defended valiantly. When I tried to encourage the ball to be worked in the box, I found my players sloppy on the ball. I took Rodríguez off in the 2nd half, who was struggling as the IF and replaced him with FM legend Mati Fernández - who at this point in my FM save was without a club and looking into the abyss of retirement. We still couldn't break Mexico down...we drew 0-0 and I was gutted. Neither side deserved to go through but we would play the lottery of a penalty shootout to see who did. I had quite a strong five to draw upon: Vidal, Aránguiz, Orellana, Fernández & Henríquez. If we looked at the Penalty Taking attribute alone, we averaged 15.6 compared with Mexico's average score of 13.6. But as you may be aware this is FM...and FM is a bitch.
Mexico scored all 5 of their penalties and Ángelo Henríquez missed our 5th. We were out, when we ought to be going through to the final to face Argentina: Bastardo's home country. Chile had no spark without Alexis, and with Bastardo Chile simply had no Plan B. Chile 0-0 Mexico (Mexico win 4-5 on penalties).
3rd Place Playoff
Chile Vs Ecuador (ranked 62nd in the World)
It was time for Bastardo to go back to his tried and tested 442(ish) system: including all the weaponised bastardry to get his Chile out of a hole and finish the tournament on a high. We placed Vidal in the AMC strata as a Shadow Striker, with the intention of him using the 'Places Shot' PPM. I also brought Nicolás Castillo into the First XI as a Defensive Forward because I wanted to nullify the threat of Ecuador's Edison Vega. Vega plays between the defence and midfield and is one of their better passers...so Castillo's job was to close him down and generally be a nuisance.
On 10 minutes it was Edison Vega who scuppered my plans for an explosive start, scoring a fabulous freekick. It was Ecuador's first venture forward so I had to hope, over the course of the remaining 80 minutes, that Bastardo's football would come good. On 26 minutes Vidal finished well from a resulting skirmish in the area after our corner had gone wrong. We were back level and at half time I encouraged the team to press higher, more energy, more fight...die for me if need be. I increased Gary Medel's Mongolian bull semen dosage once more...and ran outside the changing rooms and cleared his path to the pitch.
On 56 minutes the most Bastardo of goals was scored by Chile: Orellana delivered a probing free kick into Centreback Enzo Roco who headed across goal for fellow CB Guillermo Maripán to rifle in. Ecuador never had another shot on goal in those 80 minutes and Chile finished 3rd in the 2019 Copa América: Chile 2-1 Ecuador.
Argentina (ranked 7th in the World) Vs Mexico
I made my boys and I visit the the Maracanã one final time to watch Argentina demolish Mexico 5-0. There's no shame in finishing 3rd at a major tournament and I seriously doubt I would have stopped the Argentina freight train from powering right through me. They scored 19 goals and conceded 0...if it wasn't Dybala scoring, it was Higuaín. If it wasn't Higuaín, it was Icardi or Messi. They deserved the 2019 Copa América as much as the tournament deserved them.
Overall, Ángel Bastardo ended up with a respectable all-time International record with Chile of: 7 wins, 2 draws and 1 loss (if you count the Mexico result as a draw). I reminded the boys of this fact when boarding the plane back to Santiago, Chile...where I duly handed in my notice to the Federación de Fútbol de Chile. Bastardo was done but Chile would fight on.
I've rarely produced game-by-game blog posts such as this, but it felt right to do so for the Copa América (which will be my only International stint until this part of the game is improved). It's proven an exciting conclusion to the Fame & Fibra story and I have loved every second of this save. But it's time for me to take a break and spent some quality time with my young family and get through the first few months with a new born baby (my second).
A huge thanks to everyone who has shared my content during FM17 and started discussions about this save (the whole journey will remain available to re-read at fmgrasshopper.com/fm17). This IS a temporary break from FM/blogging, and I am still around on Twitter or within the FM Slack Community (what's Slack I hear you ask, see below). Goodbyes are always better/more positive in French when compared to English, so...
Au revoir et profitez bien de 2017,