Godfather Of Champions 921 Entrapmen
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However, not everyone agreed with this.
Macedonia, Wales and Australia were not outstanding teams. Notwithstanding that the game against Australia was merely a friendly match, these three matches did little to highlight any shortcomings of the team. Matches against such teams were definitely not the way to a.s.sess the actual standard of a team. Instead, the team should be challenging themselves with formidable opponents such as Serbia, who they would be playing in four days.
Unlike their previous opponents, Serbia had always been a force to be reckoned with in the realm of European football. Being a team with former Yugoslavia, they have always prided themselves on their high standards. Just take a look at the Serbian players who were playing in major European teams today.
There was Vidić who played the central defender for Manchester United and was undoubtedly the most well known Serbian player. Apart from Vidić, there were also defenders Ivanovic who played in Chelsea, Stankovic who played for Inter Milan, goalkeeper Stojkovic who played for Atletico Lisbon, and Stepanov, who played in Porto, Portugal. Defender Lukovic playing in Udinese, defenders Tosic and Katzal of Werder Bremen, striker Lazovic as well..
Being the highly experienced and seasoned players of this game, their presence in their clubs had a vital, symbolic purpose. The Serbian team, by virtue of having these accomplished players, sufficiently curbed the arrogance of the England team, causing the latter to feel wary of its compet.i.tor.
Vidić, the central defender for Manchester United and captain for the Serbian national team, claimed in an interview that he was not a tad bit afraid of dealing with the England team regardless of how intimidating they were. "I am very familiar with them since we get to play matches together every weekend. I will not be daunted by whatever players they have on their team no matter how accomplished they are because the deal in football isn't just in the value of the player. This is our home match and we definitely have the upper hand."
While the captain showed absolute confidence, Serbia's head coach, Radomir Antik, kept a rather low profile. He conveyed to the media about England being a n.o.ble team as they were made up of many world-renowned star players. Besides, they also had with them a very competent coach who had led Nottingham Forest in achieving the t.i.tle of Triple Crown. Serbia was nothing compared to England hence his goal for the upcoming game was for Serbia to attain a draw with England.
The English fans were happy to hear these words coming from the coach of the opposing team. However, Twain, unlike the fans, did not trust that Antik was actually intimidated by England.
"He's a veteran. Do you know what it means to be a veteran, Des? It simply means that he has a lot of experience and can be extremely sly. Apart from the England team, I have only coached two other teams — Nottingham Forest and the Nottingham Forest Youth Team. On the other hand, Antik has coached six different teams. In his time of coaching in prestigious teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona, he has achieved success as much as he has experienced embarra.s.sing failures. So in terms of experience, I truly pale in comparison. Do you really believe that their goal is to draw with us? Serbia's goal is similar to that of Spain in 2016. However, they have lost in an away match with Denmark with a score of 2:3 in the previous round. What is the point of drawing with us? I might have still believed him if this was an away match and he wanted to aim for a draw" Twain explained with an apparent expression of doubt and skepticism.
As of then, the England team was on a flight from London to the capital of Serbia, Belgrade. All of the players were engrossed in their own activities — some of them were listening to music, some of them were playing video games, some of them were reading magazines and newspapers, some of them were enjoying a movie while the rest were taking the opportunity to catch some sleep.
Twain and Walker sat together to discuss the opponent they were about to face.
"Their center back has strong players hence I don't think it is strategic to let Mitch.e.l.l start. Mitch.e.l.l's body is not stable enough. After so many years, he has only been obsessed with his dribbling tactics without much improvement in his physical strength. I feel like that is all there is to him. When Nottingham Forest was met with strong central defense, his performance becomes compromised. It would be the same for this upcoming game."
Walker asked, "So who are you going to use?"
"A striker with remarkable speed. Serbia's centre-back doesn't have much speed or agility. We can then break through their defense by using our fast and clever forwards." At this point, Twain s.h.i.+fted his sitting posture and beckoned to Walker to come closer. The plane was making extremely loud noises and Twain did not want to strain his voice on his following sentences.
"We have to make some adjustments. I think this would throw Antik off guard," Twain said with secrecy. " I plan to use Walcott as forward. He has good speed and agility which is apt for us to use against Serbia's centre-back."
Walker thought about it and felt that this plan could work and hence nodded his head in agreement, though he was still a little concerned. "Walcott did not really play as forward in a.r.s.enal but…"
"That's not a problem. He has played forward before. Besides, I will not be limiting him to the right side of the field in this game which will allow him freedom in his play."
Twain laughed, "I know that the players from Nottingham in the England team think that I would treat them differently since I used to be the coach for Nottingham Forest. I am sure they are not the only ones who think that way and that the rest of the team shares that thinking as well. This started when I decided to subst.i.tute the captain Terry for Gerrard to George Wood. This game will serve as a great opportunity to show all the players I don't play favorites. Even for George, it was his consistent, good performance and compliance with the tactical commands that earned him his status today."
"I thought that you'd already taken control of the team on your forty-sixth birthday."
"Not complete control." Twain opened up his right palm before clenching it again. "It seems like some people still doubt me even though they don't always show it. If I want them to work hard for me, I mustn't let them doubt me. Besides, there is something else troubling me, Des. The players in the national team are less driven than those in the club. At every training, some players whom were not at the previous training would appear. I need to rethink the way I portray myself in front of them…"
"I rarely see any coaches who put in as much effort as you do, Twain."
"It will be better in the future when the media helps with the publicity." Twain adjusted the pillow to his back and mumbled, "I'll take a quick nap. Wake me up when we're there, Des."
When the plane touched down at the Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport, it was already 8.30pm. There was little interruption by the media at the airport and the players managed to take the bus straight back to their hotel. Since it was late, they were unable to catch a glimpse of the sight people referred to as the crossroads of the Western and Eastern worlds.
The entire team visited Serbia's national stadium, the Maracana Stadium, the next day for some warm up training in order to adapt to the field that was foreign to the England team, whichhis attracted media attention.
There were even some Serbian fans who were holding Premier League jerseys and asking the England players for their signatures. Due to the extensive influence of the Premier League, the England national team had received much fame despite its mediocre results.
After Wood gave his signature to a fan who seemed no more than 10 years old, Twain gestured with his arms and cracked a joke with Wood, "George, can you imagine if he pointed his middle finger at you from the podium at tomorrow's game?"
Wood ignored Twain and walked straight into the locker room.
"How boring!" Twain grumbled.
The press conference was just as boring. This time, he attended the press conference with the opponent's coach, Antik, who complimented Twain non-stop. Antik spoke of Twain as if he were the celebrity of football today, which made some of the English reporters cringe.
"Tony Twain is an extremely outstanding coach, which makes it hard to believe that he had only just turned forty-six… Being so accomplished at such a young age has subdued the entire of Europe. Honestly, I'm his loyal fan. If I were the chairman of the club, I would definitely keep him at all costs… England is a formidable team and we have to be extra cautious even though this is our home game…"
Twain almost yawned in public at his patronising words.
I must a bigger idiot than Antik if I let these meaningless, stupid words boost my ego, Twain thought to himself.
But Twain did not translate his thoughts into his expression. He accommodated the conversation Antik has started and talked about his team but barely mentioned anything about Serbia. He had only politely expressed that Serbia was a team to be taken seriously when asked by the reporters. When the reporters demanded for elaboration as to why Serbia was to be taken seriously, Twain talked at length about the players "Vidic" and "Ivanovic" as if he had no clue of who else was in the Serbian team outside of the Premier League.
His response was unsatisfactory among the Serbian reporters. What an arrogant Englishman! This was no longer the eighteenth or nineteenth century ruled by the empire where the sun never set! Just wait and see, you sn.o.b!
However, Antik had a smile on his face the entire time and did not let Twain's words that underestimated the Serbia team affect him. To him, Twain's eleven years of experience was not the impressive part, but the fact that he was forty-six was really something. He had achieved much merit for his age and became the saviour for the England team, leading the team to three victories. His pride was not uncalled for. As a proudly successful professional, he must think that there was nothing in this world he could not do and n.o.body that he could not defeat. Serbia was such an insignificant team in Eastern Europe, so why would Twain let that bother him?
I was already sixty-five years old. I had encountered so much more in life than you have; people like him were a common sight.
He was half accurate about his a.n.a.lysis of Twain. Tony Twain was indeed a proud man and definitely arrogant in his ways, but he was surely not an idiot with negative IQ.
Upon completing the press conference, Twain called Pierce Bruce to ask about how the media reacted to his responses during the press conference.
"How was it, Mr 007? Do you feel like I was being an unbearable, arrogant braggart who was narrow-minded and could not see anyone else above him?"
"Honestly speaking, Twain. When I saw that you were putting on a pretense, I was slightly doubtful. How is it possible that you only mentioned the star players Vidic and Ivanovic from the Premier League? But I understood why later… If I didn't know you as well as I do,, I admit that I would have fallen into your trap."
Bruce's reply made Twain very satisfied. "That's great, you shall watch me to bear the frustration of the Serbian media. Ha!"
The Serbian newspapers published the following day criticised the arrogance of the English men; Antik must be laughing at this news.
However, the match that night was completely out of his antic.i.p.ation.
Before the match started, Twain told Mitch.e.l.l in front of the entire team that he would not be playing as forward in this game. This decision totally threw Mitch.e.l.l off and left the entire team in shock. Mitch.e.l.l's performance in the recent games had been rather striking and basically secured himself the position of England's main center, so why did Twain not let Mitch.e.l.l play when they were competing against such a strong team like Serbia? What exactly is the reason?"
Twain explained that Mitch.e.l.l's strengths and techniques were incompatible to the strategy used by the Serbian team so Mitch.e.l.l should take a break this round.
At the same time, Twain used this opportunity to bring across the message he always wanted to convey to the players: players from Nottingham Forest could also be taken off the main team just like Gerrard; no one has any kind of special privileges here. My team has never had any special privileges. What determined who was able to play as forward was contingent on your att.i.tude as well as the strategy I employed.
After going through the strategy, Twain altered the arrogant front he had put up at the press conference and solemnly reminded his players that this match was a test for all of them. The Serbians were playing at home and would not go easy on them. For this match, they should be more attentive towards the counterattacks by Serbia and simultaneously put more pressure against Serbia in order to leave them with no way to counterattack. In addition, the players should strengthen their tackle and close defense in the first half of the match and most definitely not let Serbia have it easy in the midfield.
After all these were done, the rest of the game would depend on which team performed better.
In the first half of the match, England had relatively better performance.
Antik had not expected that England in fact did not underestimate their opponent but instead played extremely aggressively in the first half of the match that Serbia was not used to. They had hoped that England would attack but they did not want England's midfielders to tirelessly tackle to steal the ball.
From the very beginning of the match, the Serbian players were continually tackled by the England players, rendering them helpless and confused as to how to continue playing.
The England team took advantage of this situation. Walcott had secured the score of 2:0 by the end of the first half of the match with a goal and an a.s.sist to goal.
Twain's arrangement in this game was beyond Antik's antic.i.p.ation. Walcott and Mitch.e.l.l were completely different types of players. Initially the Serbian team planned their strategy to target the play of Mitch.e.l.l, but Twain unexpectedly subst.i.tuted Mitch.e.l.l with a highly agile and fast forward who disrupted the Serbian's defense from the wing to the midfield. The thirty-three year old Vidic was easily outdone by the stamina of Mitch.e.l.l and Rooney who took turns to break the Serbian's defense.
In the second half, Serbia made some adjustments, specifically defending against England's agile striking. Their counterattack also started to look more impressive as they were able to get back a goal in the second half.
However, before the end to the cheers in the Maracana Stadium, England started to return the favour. This time, the scorer was the center back Whitley, he took an opportunity of a corner key to score with a header. The score became 3:1.
It was only a short time before they lost a goal, this adverse outcome impacted the morale of Serbians, and taking advantage of the mess, England scored another goal -- 4:1, almost securing the win.
In the last phase of the compet.i.tion, Serbia used a free kick to score against Joe Hart's goalmouth, but that was futile.
England, by their surprising st.u.r.dy att.i.tude and initiation tactics, taking down their first strong opponent in their group on a 4:2 win on away ground.
Having three consecutive wins in the group and scoring ten goals, the team was extremely high in morale. It was as if Twain wanted to use consecutive victories to prove that even though it was his first time coaching a national team, it was still not an issue to him.
At the end of the match when Antichi and Twain shook hands, he looked very helpless.
After Twain shook hands with him, he patted him on the shoulder, he did not say anything. But he knew Antichi already understood the meaning, since the start of the match -- he fell for Twain's trickery and is played around by him. (To be continued, if you want to know about what happens afterwards, please log into www.qidian.com where there would be more chapters, support the author, support legal reading!)
Godfather Of Champions 921 Entrapmen
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Godfather Of Champions 921 Entrapmen summary
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