It’s time to name my squad for two matches which have become, for us at least, nothing more than a glorified kickabout. Being a consummate professional I continue with my approach of not naming the best players available to me, but deciding not to name any players in Roy Hodgson’s provisional squad.
Find Part 1 in which little happens here and find Part 2 where we vanquish the Lithuanians and Slovenians here. Bring it on, Switzerland and San Marino, for the last two qualification games for a tournament we've already qualified for. Here are the men of steel that I am sending to enact my wrath upon a neutral nation and one of the worst international teams in the HISTORY of FOOTBALL.
|Ruddy good? Nah, not really.|
Simon Francis’ irresistible club form means I’m uttering a sentence I previously never thought possible by welcoming him into the England fold. This 30 year-old thought his career had reached an exciting new peak with Bournemouth’s promotion to the Premier League, but he didn’t reckon with my ridiculous approach to squad selection. I jettison Theodore Walcott and Charles Austin in lieu of the in-form Callum Wilson and the theoretically decent Saido Berahino. Incidentally, you can snap Berahino up for a cool €5.5 million on the official Euro 2016 fantasy football game. Yes, I know, it’s a little dear, which is why I advocate the budget buy of Rickie Lambert at $5.0 million instead.
|He who dares wins.|
So the inevitable has finally happened; a raft of established England stars are seeking out my assistant Ray Lewington to moan about not being selected. Guys, come and say it to my face if you want to win my respect, you bunch of snakes. I call them all back, and respond particularly sympathetically to John Stones, Harry Kane, Jimmy Milner and Wayne Rooney because they are actually playing well for their clubs and it can’t be easy to be snubbed so that I can carry out my twisted little experiment. I give Kyle Walker, Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling short shrift because they’re playing terribly for their clubs, and I look a little confused as Glen Johnson goes on an indignant tirade. Unfortunately for Glen, he actually had a legitimate chance of making my squad. Had, Glen. Had.
Respected pundits question my persistent inclusion of Jay Rodriguez but my skin is thicker than Xherdan Shaqiri’s leg muscles. And so we head for the beautifully-named Stade de Suisse Wankdorf to take on a Swiss side seeking second spot. 5-3-2 is the order of the day again, and here are the ingredients:
|Crap, Switzerland have good players. And Senderos.|
Ten minutes are on the clock when Breel Embolo drills in a cross that Butland bafflingly spills to a gleeful Tranquillo Barnetta who puts us behind for the first time in my reign. We create next to nothing in an insipid first half. I’m starting to lose faith in my trusty 5-3-2, as we’ve shown precious little invention or spark. I shuffle my pack into a Hodgson-esque 4-2-3-1, with Berahino my ace in the hole.
|This is for you, Roy.|
We become slightly less bad at the football, but it’s only when I introduce Aaron Cresswell at left-back and push Luke Shaw up to left-wing do our fortunes change. Oh, and I throw on Jay Rodriguez, maligned by pundits but with my fervent encouragement ringing in his ears as he trotted onto the field. 73rd minute, and Berahino helps right-back Albrighton manoeuvre sufficient space to whip in a teasing delivery that is nodded home by none other than… Jay Rodriguez. I am a tactical genius, I am Sam Allardyce and Ian Holloway rolled into one sexy man child. A minute later, we break forward with pace down the left. The advanced Shaw is chopped down in the box by Phillippe Senderos. Thank god for players like Phillippe Senderos. Already on a yellow card, the dynamic defender trudges to the sidelines to witness Captain Fantastic Mark Noble spank home his first England goal from the spot.
A mere minute later and Shaw again advances, this time unfettered by Swiss defenders and therefore able to smash one across the face of goal for the Ox to smash home. The Ox tale of goals continues, and it’s a super story. It gets even better when a merciless Rodriguez powers down the pitch to find the Ox once again lurking at the back post and hungry for another goal. After 72 minutes I was fearful for our future, and after 76 minutes we were 3-1 up. 4-1 was the final score. We’re going to win the bloody Euros. We are.
Time to move through the San Marino game as quickly as possible. I send out this attacking line-up to make light work of San Marino’s team of electricians.
|This promises to be an intriguing tactical battle.|
Redmond slots in Rodriguez to power home his second England goal. J-Rod later nods one down for Wilson to prod in a debut goal. Just before half-time Berahino cuts in from the left and curls in a pearler into the far corner. In traditional Football Manager fashion, we can’t back up a dominant first-half with the same in the second. And then on 86 minutes, it happens.
To be fair, San Marino have scored against England before. Davide Gualtieri, most famous for scoring against England in 1993, scored against England in 1993. So it was really no surprise when Alessando Volpinari finished off a slick passing move to find the bottom corner. I definitely wasn’t on the touchline looking a little like this:
No matter though, because Callum Wilson notched his second to restore my customary three-goal advantage. Everyone is happy in the squad. Many commend me for my team talks, and Alex McCarthy, Joel Ward, Simon Francis and Wilson are all thrilled to have donned the England shirt against the giants of San Marino. We’re even up to 6th in the world rankings! We are behind European powerhouses Belgium, Holland, Germany and Portugal, so using the rankings as a barometer we’ll be getting knocked out in the quarter-finals of the Euros. Sounds about right.
Next time: we take on actual good teams in the shape of Spain and France. Can we continue our record of winning every match by three goals? Can we actually have the most possession in a game for once? Yep, San Marino mustered 51% possession against us, at Wembley too. Things can only get worse.