24 Hours In FM: Part 15 – Euro 2028!

The year is 2028 and the European Championships are here! England come into the tournament on a national record of 19 consecutive wins and 20 unbeaten. But can they rule Europe for the first time?

We had several friendlies before the tournament, including beat France 2-0 away then Serbia 4-1 away, in which Ben Wagstaff – who scored 2 penalties – and Brendan Christie scored their first goals for England. Then thumped Sweden 3-0 the week before the tournament.

Interestingly, Chelsea won the Premier League in 2028, stopping Manchester City from being champions for the first since Chelsea won it in 2017. But, we only have one of their players in our squad, mainly because they only have 4 English players…

Strangely, hosts Italy didn’t open the tournament – that honour went to Spain who thumped Serbia 6-0, France beat Greece 5-1, and Holland beat Albania 5-0. No pressure then…

Group Stage – vs. Georgia, Turkey and Russia

Georgia were up first, and this is how we lined up…

We went straight at the Georgians and had 5 shots in the first 5 minutes. And it quickly paid off as Jadon Sancho pounced on a rebound from Jude Bellingham’s shot to get us up and running after 8 minutes. We were raining shots on the Georgia goal but couldn’t find the killer goal until Foden doubled the lead on 4 minutes. But it was a weird goal, he picked up a rebound, his shot deflected off a defender, hit the post and trickled over the line. 2-0 at half-time, and we’d had 28 shots to their 1.

But Bellingham made us forget the slack finishing with a trademark thunderbolt from the edge of the box on 51 minutes. I made a few early subs, and one of the replacements made his opportunity count as Curtis Morton bagged a brace sandwiched by a goal from Harvey Elliott, who rewarded me for picking him ahead of Raheem Sterling.

Game two saw us take on Turkey, who’d won the World Cup back in 2022. Bizarrely, Bayer Leverkusen offered me a job interview the day before the match. Not the time boys. Declined.

We again got a great start against Turkey as Sancho won a penalty and Elliott tucked it away, only for them to get a penalty 2 minutes later. But this England team is deadly and Foden teed up a Ryan Sessegnon rocket on 17 minutes later then Sancho scored a third on 39 minutes. Mason Greenwood was struggling again, including somehow missing from 2 yards twice in the same attack.

However, he made up for that by skipping down the left wing to tee up Elliott for a tap-in just after the break. A couple of changes to freshen things up resulted in Harry Kane banging his 61st England goal from an Elliott corner. 5-1 and the World Champions of 2022 had been given one hell of a beating!

We only needed a point in the final game against Russia and I was debating making changes, especially considering dropping Greenwood. But it was lucky I didn’t as he scored a close range header from a corner to put us 1-0 up. We dominated Russia for the rest of the match but they somehow got themselves level in the second half and we couldn’t score despite having 23 shots, which was a concern. But we did win the group with ease.

Second Round – vs. Denmark

In the first knockout round we were drawn with Denmark, but had to make a change as Jason Knight was suspended so we brought in Takudzwa Marufu.

We made the perfect start as Greenwood stabbed home from close range, setup by Sancho. From there on, it became the Sancho show. Just before the half-hour mark, Trent Alexander-Arnold got forward down the right and put a perfect cross onto Sancho’s head to make it 2-0. And he doubled his tally as Greenwood repaid the favour for a 3-0 lead after 54 minutes.

We took our foot off the pedal as Denmark finally found some form and eventually got a consolation late on. But we were through to the quarter-finals!

Quarter-Final – vs. Italy

Our reward for beating Denmark was taking on hosts Italy, who we’d beaten at the Nations League last season, at the San Siro, in Milan. Italy were apparently the favourites and technically at home and it turned out to be a bit of a classic.

Italy got their noses in front early with their first shot of the match through Chelsea striker Mattia Leoni. But Foden drew us level with another strange shot that deflected in. Then Foden won a penalty that Sancho stepped up to coolly convert and put us 2-1 ahead.

Leoni was played through on goal with a lovely pass and smashed it home. But we went straight down the other end and Declan Rice headed in at the near post from a corner by Sterling – who I’d brought back in for this one.

A nervy second half followed and nothing happened until the 88th minute when Leoni broke through our defence again. He had a huge chance at a hat-trick but somehow skewed his shot wide. And we just about held on for a 3-2 win that saw us through to the semi-finals!

However, on the occasion of his 100th cap for England, Alexander-Arnold picked up a booking that would rule him out of the semi – in which we’ll be taking on a strong Spain side.

In other news, there was a big transfer in between the games as Jude Bellingham joined Man United for £79 million from Spurs. And… I got offered an interview with AC Milan – who must have been watching me in action at the San Siro. This one was too tempting to decline.

Semi-Final – vs. Spain

But that little distraction aside and it was time to take on Spain, who we’d also beaten at the Nations League 12 months before. And we got off to a flyer! There was a highlight straight from the kick-off, which ended up in Sancho poking a ball through for Greenwood to smash home after 38 seconds.

We were dominating Spain and I thought we’d gone two up just before the break after Greenwood tucked home a superb Elliott – who was back starting again – pass. But he was ruled about a millimetre offside.

The duo weren’t to be held back as Elliott slid a lovely ball down the right that Greenwood raced onto and tucked home superbly past De Gea. We went a little more defensive as Spain offered a couple of chances, but Elliott ignored that and went forward to hit a delicious volley from a Sessegnon cross. Then things got a bit silly as Greenwood ran through the middle and played in substitute Morton to smash in a fourth.

Spain 0-4 England. We were into the Final of Euro 2028! And our opponents in the Final, were Croatia – who managed to beat France 2-1 in the Semi. A chance at retribution for 10 years earlier and a massive chance at a second major trophy for England.

Final – vs. Croatia

We came into the Final with captain Trent back from suspension and a clean bill of health – we actually didn’t get a single injury throughout the tournament, which must be unheard of. And this is how the teams lined up:

I was feeling confident going into the match, but we got off to a nightmare start as Croatia scored with their first shot (of course they did) through Ivanusec after 3 minutes.

Despite that goal we were dominating and soon made the pressure tell as Knight scored from a Foden free-kick. We kept pushing and dominating but had another game where we just couldn’t make it count. Loads of our players were exhausted, which wasn’t helping, but Reyna came on as a sub, immediately got injured and missed an absolute sitter.

The game went to extra-time and, despite going attacking, we couldn’t make the difference despite having 30 shots. That meant the dreaded penalties. And it turned out to be one of the worst shootouts you’ll ever see.

Croatia went first and Redjepi saved, then substitute Kane put us ahead. Lovro Majer scored their second but captain Trent skewed his shot wide. Croatia then missed their third and Foden put us back ahead, only for Ivanusec to convert and Sessegnon to throw our advantage away. 2-2 after 4 penalties apiece.

Zevrnja stepped up for Croatia and Redjepi saved again! That meant we had a chance to win and the man with all the pressure on him was… Fulham youngster Curtis Morton. He stepped up and smashed it coolly into the corner to win us the tournament.

England were European Champions!

On the back of this huge win, Harvey Elliott was named Player of the Tournament and Jadon Sancho won the Golden Boot. While our players dominated the Euro Dream Team.

Immediately after the win Raheem Sterling retired from international football (again), and I won’t be convincing him to return this time. Although that said, he tied Peter Shilton’s caps record with 125 at the Euros. He was joined in retirement by Jack Butland, who I’d personally forgotten existed.

I think that may well wrap this save up, having started as an experiment to play Football Manager for 24 hours on my birthday. However, I have really enjoyed the different challenge of international football so I may well press on with it and see if we can take England to the World Cup.

So, we may well be back soon (ish) with a World Cup campaign!

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