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Right, it’s time for the much promised 2018 World Cup Final. I apologise for not getting this out earlier, but before FM19 really kicks off, I want to get this series finished and use this post to say goodbye to Football Manager 2018. If you’re just finding this save now – you’re a bit late! – here are the first, second, third, fourth and fifth updates respectively. In the previous update we faced real life world cup finalists Croatia in the semi-final, and after a fantastic second goal by Thomas Müller, made our way through to the final (fairly comfortably in the end). Our opponents in the World Cup Final would be shock finalists Wales, led by star man Gareth Bale, playing on the left wing in Ryan Giggs’ preferred 4-4-2 system. Apparently Giggsy’s a maestro in Football Manager. Wales have had a very interesting route through to the final, coming through a group featuring Argentina, Poland and Saudi Arabia. They then defeated Colombia in the 2nd round, Chile in the Quarters, before somehow managing to defeat star studded Brazil in the semi final to make the Final. Somehow, little Wales have managed to defeat most of South America on their way through. Will they be able to defeat my die mannschaft though?

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Once again, thank you very much to @FMAcidphire2185.

I have my own issues going on though. Throughout the tournament I’ve gradually lost player after player, losing Joshua Kimmich, Jérôme Boateng, Emre Can, Nadiem Amiri, Timo Werner and Leroy Sané – who had become an important player for us tactically with my switch to an asymmetric 4-3-1-2 in the semi against Croatia. Timo would be back for the final though, so I would at least be able to field my first choice striker, along with the newly on form Müller. However, this gives me other issues. As the tournament began, I set the team out in a 4-1-2-3-0 system designed to get the best out of Mesut Özil, but switched to a 5-2-3 system very early in the tournament. However, in recent games the 5-2-3 hasn’t exactly set the footballing world on fire, hence my decision to switch to a 4-3-1-2-ish system midway through the Croatia game. Not having Sané, I was left with the option of moving back to the 5-2-3, or adapting the 4-3-1-2. In theory, either would work well against Wales’ 4-4-2, but in order to pack the middle and – in theory – control the game, I went for a standard 4-3-1-2 system that looked like this, with the below starting XI:

Neuer; Meyer, Orban, Hummels, Hector; Götze, Weigl, Havertz, Özil; Werner, Müller

Again, I’ve had to change quite a lot there. After the injury that put Kimmich out for the rest of the tournament, I’ve kicked myself for failing to bring – idiot – another right back. As a result, Can and Amiri have filled in, but with both injured, I’ve had to fit Max Meyer in. It’s hardly his ideal position, but he should have the right attributes to play the role, and he’s all I have really. There’s also another example of my poor squad management this tournament, as Julian Brandt, who was fantastic earlier in the tournament, is nowhere near fit enough to start the final – this really is something SI need to look at. As I’ve said, players’ fitness during tournaments goes down far too quickly. Anyway, this was the lineup that Wales put out against us, and even though we had declined in form as the tournament went on, I still comfortably fancied us to defeat Wales and win our 5th World Cup. However, aside from a shot from Wales which went over the bar, little happened for the first 18 minutes or so, and then, highlight. Neuer – our captain supremo – came and claimed the ball from a cross, and laid the ball out to Hummels. The ball then gradually moved up the park, with quick passing pulling Wales out of shape, before the ball was given to Hector on the left flank. A ball down the flank to Mesut Özil (Number 8 below) left the mercurial Number 10 behind the Wales defence, and he squared the ball across goal..

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TOR! Eine Null nach Deutschland! Tor für die mannschaft!

.. and Timo Werner tucked it into the corner, giving my Germany the lead after a lovely goal worthy of any World Cup Final. Minutes later, time for another highlight. The ball was played through midfield, from Havertz to Weigl to Götze, who played a through ball over the top to Werner – but it was unfortunately intercepted by James Chester, who looked ready to clear to safety, until Werner stole it off him! Werner was then through on goal, with the option to square it to Müller but…

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TOR! 2-0 to die mannschaft! We’re on our way!

Werner took the chance himself and fired past the Welsh keeper Maxwell, meaning within 25 minutes, it’s 2-0 to Germany. Well, it looks like my prediction that this would be a fairly easy victory in the final was 100% correct. Nothing else happened until the 37th minute with Wales having a corner. The ball is played in, and we deal with it easily, however we fail to claim the clearance, as Tom Lawrence then hits the byline and lofts it back in to Sam Vokes and…

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Phew.

… the ball goes over the bar, thank God. That’s the first time we’ve been properly tested, but the clock ticks away until half time and we go in 2-0 up, and I’m very happy. I tell the lads to remain focused and this leads to a wall of green. Lovely. Time for the second half. Nothing happens much for the first 5 minutes, and then in the 52nd, Wales are on the ball. The ball is moved from Bale on the left wing to Vokes with a pass down the channel, and in a move that is almost a carbon copy of our first, Vokes squares it across the box to Ben Woodburn – damn you talented young player – who…

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Uh-oh…. 2-1. Why do I get a bad feeling?

…tucks it in to make it 2-1, and now I’m starting to get concerned. After absolutely destroying Wales over the first 25 minutes, we’ve now really slowed down, as we have since the group stages. The fitness issues that we’ve had since the Last 16 have also returned, and several of my players are now absolutely shattered – again SI, please sort this out in future. I make my substitutions in order to get some fresh(ish) legs on the pitch. On comes Jonathan Tah for Hummels and Leon Goretzka for Müller, with Mario Götze being pushed upfront into the DLF-S role. The time continues to tick away, with next to nothing happening in the game. After 80 minutes, with the score still 2-1, I make my last sub, bringing on Toni Kroos for our absolutely shattered DLP-D Julian Weigl, hoping that some experience will help us crawl – and I mean crawl – over the finishing line. Then the official puts up his board – 3 minutes of added time. Then, highlight. It’s midway through the 94rd minute, and Wales are near our box, fortunately it’s just going to be the full time highlight. We press the ball back out to halfway, but the ball finds Joe Allen, who smashes the ball towards goal. However it rebounds off Jonathan Tah, but runs straight into the path of Gareth Bale…

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Oh come on Football Manager! 2-2. Scheisse.

…who fires the ball past Neuer to level the game in the 94th minute. 3 minutes of added time, 94th minute goal. A ridiculously lucky goal. You can only imagine my anger and fury. The full time whistle goes almost as soon as we kick off. It’s extra time in the World Cup Final. My players are all shattered and Wales have all the momentum. At this point, I’m extremely concerned that Wales are just going to win it in added time.

Except nothing happens. Both extra time periods come and go without any incident, and somehow, after being 2-0 up after 25 minutes, we’ve gone to penalties to win the World Cup. We’re the Germans though, we should be good at this right? Tom Bradshaw steps up to take the first penalty for Wales and tucks it in, and our first taker Timo Werner does the same to end his fantastic tournament. Next up is Bale, and he makes it 2-1 in the shootout to Wales, before Toni Kroos steps up and levels the score at 2-2. Ben Woodburn is up next, but his penalty is too close to Neuer and the German legend saves it! Next up is our young starlet Kai Havertz, who has played in several important positions for me through qualification and the tournament finals, and he tucks it in to make it 3-2 to Germany. Come on Germany.

Tom Lawrence is next up for Wales, and tries to go down the middle, but Neuer calls his bluff and saves again! Next up for us is Bayern bound Leon Goretzka, with the chance to be a hero, make it 4-2 in the shoot out, and give Germany their 5th World Cup title…

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… and Goretzka tucks it away to end an emotionally traumatic final from my point of view and make Germany the World Champions in 2018. In the end, we’ve achieved what I always thought we should achieve, but we certainly didn’t make it easy. We really have limped over the line. In the end though, my die mannschaft came up big when needed, and showed their mettle in the penalty shoot out. Statistics wise, we led the World Cup in victories, with 6. There’s been some excellent performances in this World Cup, though I’m not sure anyone has had a consistently exceptional World Cup, either through injuries or inconsistency. Young starlet Kai Havertz has been consistently good wherever I’ve played him (scoring 7.1 in the final in central midfield), Manuel Neuer led the clean sheets tally with 5, and Timo Werner was fantastic when he was able to play, and was man of the match in the final with a 9.0 rating. He was one goal away from the Golden Boot, which is amazing considering how many games he missed this tournament.

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World Champions in 2018. Fantastisch.

So, that brings this Germany World Cup series to an end. If you’ve followed my exploits through the World Cup, I really hope you’ve enjoyed reading, and I hope to do something like this for Football Manager 19. It really has been a joy to play, and it gave me even more enjoyment of the real life World Cup. I hope this series at least gives some enjoyment to any German readers, who had to experience the relative collapse of their usually dominant side this Summer. A massive thanks go to @Cleon81 for hosting this series and promoting it, and as always, should you have any questions about this save, my plans for FM19, or just Football Manager in general, then please don’t hesitate to contact me via Twitter (@JLAspey) or via the comments section of this blog. Thank you once again, and for the last time:

#AspeyforBundestrainer

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