Welcome back to the Aswijan Assignment, a Football Manager 2020 save in the fictional country of Aswijan – using a database created by @Chilled_Moose.
Life with Khaliza Unidi had gotten off to a great start as we sat second in Liga Regale after six matches, following a summer of big sales and a club record signing.
October began with hosting Manouza, who were managed by Championship Manager legend Jon Dahl Tomasson. We had a bit of a right-back crisis as Kyle Walker-Peters was ruled for 5 weeks then backup Silvan Hefti got a knock, which meant 16-year-old Ahvo Cuvier made his debut. But luckily, the man playing in front of Cuvier took it upon himself to ensure the youngster didn’t have to worry about defending.
We got a great start as Calvin Stengs whipped in a corner from the right and vice-captain Adam Hemmingsen nodded home his first goal of the season. But from then on, it was the Stengs show.
First, Ryong Nieminen won a penalty that Stengs converted, then the winger scored a close-range header and wrapped up a hat-trick with a fierce long-range strike. After 7 games since his club-record £30 million move, Stengs has 5 goals and 4 assists. But annoyingly, he then got injured for a few weeks in a cup match – that’ll teach one of my players for being in good form.
And that meant he missed a trip to top of the league Aldaia, which we lost 3-2 to an injury time goal from Hector Herrera. But we bounced back with a 2-0 win over Fari, in which two Trincao free-kicks led to young striker Michele Mari’s first league goal and a first of the season for centre-back Mawdood Ranta. Then a respectable 0-0 draw at Aswijan Siti, in which the returning Stengs missed a penalty, was the final game before a four-week break for World Cup 2022.
As we took a break we got the first news of a first youth intake with Khaliza which, unsurpringly, was rubbish… or “mediocre.”
Winter World Cup
I kept an eye on the World Cup mainly because Aswijan were at their first ever tournament. They got a group and got off to a good start with wins over Qatar and Romania, then somehow only drew 1-1 with Burkina Faso. But that ensured they topped their group. However, they went out on penalties to Turkey after a 0-0 draw. Not great, especially considering their world ranking of 11.
Elsewhere, Brazil went out at the group stage, knocked out by Ivory Coast, then England thumped Portugal 4-0 in the second round with a Harry Kane hat-trick taking him to 44 international goals. But they then lost 4-0 to France in the quarter-finals. Italy knocked out Belgium 1-0, Argentina beat Germany 3-2, and Turkey reached the semis with a 2-0 win against Uruguay.
Both semi-finals were decided by penalties. Turkey’s run ended with defeat to Argentina in a shootout that saw both sides take 11 spot kicks after a 0-0 draw, while Italy knocked out France after a 2-2 draw with Antoine Griezmann missing the vital penalty.
We didn’t have a game on the day of the Final, so I booked myself a flight to Qatar to attend it. Lionel Messi got Argentina off to a flyer with a superb volley from the outside of the box after 5 minutes. They dominated the Italians but couldn’t score a decisive second and, wouldn’t you know it, Italy equalised with five minutes left. They then went and nicked it with three minutes of extra-time remaining as Federico Chiesa poked home from close range – securing a joint record fifth World Cup win.
Messi won the Golden Boot with 7 goals and Thiago Almada won the Young Player award.
More wheeling and dealing
January represented another opportunity to move on a few of the Khaliza players I didn’t fancy and continue rebuilding the squad. The first move was Erik Lamela departing the club to Boca Juniors for £5 million. As I suspected, he was truly dreadful when I gave him a chance.
Winger Daynanda Bjerre moved to Mufala for £3.7 million and we somehow got £17.25 million from China for inept midfielder Isaie Antuniez. Another average midfielder Ivan Sunjic also moved on, going to Young Boys for £5.75 million.
The incomings began with three Czech wonderkids arriving on the first day of the transfer window in attacking midfielder Ladislav Brezina, centre-back Jiri Soucek and midfielder Robel Tekalign. All three look like great prospects.
Then we brought in a familiar face as Rune Azevedo, our goalkeeper at Zagora, joined me for £20k, as his contract was running down in the summer.
These transfer dealings took our total incomings with Khaliza this season to £114 million, while we’ve spent £66 million – so a profit of close to £50 million!
Stengs takes centre stage
We got back to action at home to SCM. I made a subtle tweak to the tactic before the game, changing Dirk Proper from a roaming playmaker to a mezzala, and he repaid the shift by smashing home on the volley from 20 yards out. Not too much happened for the rest of the match and we snuck a 1-0 win.
That was swiftly followed by a trip to Mufala Malikiy, our former club Zagora’s senior affiliate. Before the game I’d be mulling over whether to risk Sirajuddeen Chritiansen, who’d carried a knock into the game. I eventually decided to and he ultimately made the difference with an excellent solo goal to put us one-up just after the hour mark. And we sealed it with a goal as Ranta poked home from a free-kick in the last minute.
Hadria Oskat came to town next and we were two goals down inside nine minutes. Stengs got us back into it just before half-time then substitute Mari grabbed us a late equaliser to make it five games without defeat. And we extended that to six as Stengs and Trincao were on target to ease us to a 2-0 win at Talat, then Trincao was at it again with a late winner to defeat Hamjar 1-0.
Despite being in excellent form, our striker Nieminen was on a concerning run of 8 games without scoring and only 1 goal in his last 12 matches. But luckily, the wingers had been bailing him out. And it looked like that was happening again as we visited snowy Chelbah to face bottom of the league CSSC. Stengs scored a brace, as well as missing an early penalty, that sandwiched a goal from Trincao. But Nieminen brought the barren streak to an end as he finished a lovely move to wrap up a 4-0 win.
Our strong form and that of Calvin Stengs led to him winning the Libando di la Mes (player of the month) and Medo di la Mes (midfielder of the month) awards for January.
And it was that man Stengs once again who extended our fine form, scoring a penalty this time to edge us to a 1-0 win at FC Lakhra. That was his 6th goal in 6 games since coming back from injury and his 10th goal in 15 league games this season.
Furthermore, that now extends Khaliza’s unbeaten run to 9 and 4 straight wins. And that takes us up to the lofty heights of second in Liga Regale, although some of the teams around us do have plenty of games in hand.
However, we have a big game up next as reigning champions Aswijan Malikiy up next at home. Join us next time to see how we fare against them and how we get on in the second half of our first season with Khaliza.
I’m still enjoying this Aswijan adventure and hope you are enjoying reading about it! If you have any questions about it or want more info on specific players in the squad, just let me know in the comments or get in touch on Twitter.