With Euro 2020 finally kicking off today, I ran an experiment to see how Football Manager 2021 sees the tournament playing out. To warn you, there are some pretty drastic results…
I used the Mozza save file, which begins on 23 May, the day of the Euro squad selections in-game. Then created new managers for every nation participating at this summer’s Euros. That allowed me to build the real-life Euro squads that have been selected by all the participating nations – with some forced exceptions. And if you want those squads, then you can download my save game file here.
For example, Tyrone Mings, Ilkay Gundogan, Giorgio Chiellini, Pablo Sarabia, Christoph Baumgartner, Christian Benteke, Ante Budimir, Adam Nagy, Tim Krul, Stephen O’Donnell, Emil Krafth, Manuel Akanji, Umut Meras are all injured in game. Mats Hummels and Thomas Muller had to be asked to come out of international retirement. Rafael Toloi refused to represent Italy and Che Adams refused to represent Scotland and Aymeric Laporte wasn’t allowed to represent Spain because he already had 5 caps for France. While Thomas Vermaelen and Ridvan Yilmaz weren’t in the game.
The in-game selections of the real-life squad attracted plenty of criticism, with the new national managers criticised for leaving out the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Nick Pope, Sergio Ramos and Saúl, Virgil Van Dijk and Myron Boadu, Alexis Saelemaekers, Andreas Ulmer, Filip Benkovic, Pione Sisto, Dominik Szoboszlai, Arkadiusz Milik, Anton Shunin and… Aymeric Laporte (by France, because he’s French). While the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Poland, Scotland, Slovakia, Spain and Ukraine announcements were greeted with scepticism of several “shock inclusions,” such as Pedri, Adama Traore, Marcus Thuram, Giacomo Raspadori, Karol Swiderski, Craig Gordon, Tomas Hubocan and Heorhii Sudakhov.
I then saved the game the day after the squad announcements to create two new save games:
- Scenario 1: A game in which I resigned from all the roles and simmed the tournament
- Scenario 2: A game in which I remained in charge and holidayed all the managers through the tournament
Scenario 1: Simmed Tournament
I resigned as all managers and simmed through the tournament, which gave each nation an opportunity to hire a real manager. For example, England hired Sean Dyche, Croatia hired Carlo Ancelotti, France hired Claude Puel, Germany took Thomas Tuchel from Chelsea, Italy hired Maurizio Sarri, Portugal hired Andre Villas-Boas, Belgium hired Rafa Benitez, Scotland hired Derek McInnes, Spain hired Ernesto Valverde and Wales re-hired Chris Coleman.
Group Stage: The opening night of the tournament began with a shock as Turkey beat Italy 2-1. Two days later Harry Kane was on fire with a brace as England thumped Croatia 4-1. More shocks saw Slovakia beat Spain, a young Ukraine side beat Holland with an Oleksandr Zinchenko brace and Poland draw 2-2 with Spain.
Given the nature of the group stages there were very few surprises. But the biggest were probably Wales, Scotland and Sweden going out having lost every match and, in Wales’ case, not even scoring a goal. Russia were also eliminated with just 2 points, while Spain qualified third behind Poland and Slovakia.
First Knockout Round: The second round saw some big games as England beat Belgium 1-0 with an Alderweireld own goal, while Germany beat Holland 2-0. The biggest shock – or not, based on the groups, was Turkey beating Spain 1-0, while Portugal needed extra-time to beat Austria 2-1. France beat Switzerland 3-1, Poland beat Ukraine 2-0, Denmark beat Slovakia 1-0.
Quarter-Finals: The quarters were straightforward as England thumped Turkey 4-0 with another Kane brace and goals from Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish, Italy thrashed Denmark 4-1, France hammered Poland 4-0 and Portugal edged Germany 1-0.
Semi-Finals: The semis were much tighter as France, who left Kylian Mbappé out of the matchday squad, beat Italy 1-0 in extra-time thanks to a 110th-minute goal by Wissam Ben Yedder. The other semi saw England, who played Dean Henderson ahead of Jordan Pickford, beat Portugal 2-1 with Marcus Rashford and an 81st-minute John Stones strike either side of a Cancelo equaliser.
Final: The Euro 2020 Final was equally tight as a Thomas Lemar goal was enough for France to beat England 1-0. However, England had 16 shots to France’s 6 and a superior xG of 1.47 to 0.49, so they’ll feel sorely hard done by.
Kane won the Golden Boot with 7 goals in 7 games and won the Best Player award. Dejan Kulusevski won the Best young Player award with an average rating of 8.00 and 1 assist in 3 games. While the Team of the Tournament was dominated by 7 English players, 3 English players and Wojciech Szczesny.
Simulated Winner = France
Scenario 2: Holidayed Tournament
Group Stage: This version of the tournament saw drastic differences at the group stage. First up, France, who won the last tournament, exited the group with just one point! While Hungary finished second ahead of Germany in the dreaded Group F. Wales – who lost every game without scoring in the other version – won every game without conceding, including thumping Turkey 5-0, to top their group!
Big surprises saw Finland beat Belgium 3-1 in their opening game and topped their group, knocking out Denmark and Russia. England lost their opener 2-1 to Croatia but progressed in second, while there was more misery for Scotland and Sweden as they again lost every game.
First Knockout Round: More massive games were served up again in the second round. England edged past Italy on penalties after a 1-1 draw, with Bellingham converting the fifth penalty. Germany also got through on penalties, beating Spain after a 1-1 draw, while Belgium beat Holland 2-1. Elsewhere, Croatia and Portugal needed penalties to get past Austria and Czech Republic after 2-2 draws. Slovakia beat Finland 5-3 after extra-time, Wales beat Hungary 3-0 and Poland beat Ukraine 1-0.
Quarter-Finals: The biggest game in the quarters saw Portugal beat Germany 1-0 with a goal from Cristiano Ronaldo. Wales were unlucky to lose 1-0 to Belgium through an Axel Witsel goal, while England beat Poland 2-0 with second half goals from Declan Rice and Kane. But a big surprise saw Slovakia make it through to the semis on penalties after a 1-1 draw with Croatia.
Semi-Finals: A big semi-final clash saw Belgium defeat holders Portugal 2-1 with a Romelu Lukaku brace, although Bernardo Silva was denied a brace by a disallowed goal in the 84th minute. In the other semi, Slovakia and England drew 0-0 before Mason Mount’s goal in the second minute of extra-time sent England, again playing Henderson ahead of Pickford, through to the Final.
Final: The Euro 2020 Final saw Eden Hazard come back to haunt the nation he made his name in. The winger bagged a hat-trick to lead Belgium to European glory with a 3-1 win. Hazard scored after 5 minutes, Phil Foden equalised on 48, but Hazard scored in the 78th and 88th minutes to win the Euros. However, England again bossed the Final with 11 shots to 9 and an xG of 1.82 to 0.98.
Hazard also won the Golden Boot with 5 goals, then duly retired from international football. He was followed by Cristiano Ronaldo, who also retired from international football, on 4 goals. Hazard won the Best Player award and Goal of the Tournament for a solo goal in the Final and Mason Mount won the Best Young Player award. Interestingly, only the Italy manager got sacked following the tournament.
Holidayed Winner = Belgium
Scenario 3: My Euro 2020 Campaign
It would be remise of me not to actually play some FM21 for this article. Spain really struggled in both versions of the simulation, so I decided to see if I could do better. I retired all managers except for Senor Spain and it was immediately easy to see why Spain struggled.
Their squad looks extremely light in defence with only 3 centre-backs, 1 right-back in Cesar Azpilicueta and 2 strikers. As a reminder, the Spanish squad without Laporte and Sarabia is:
GK: David de Gea, Unai Simón, Robert Sánchez
DF: José Gayà, Jordi Alba, Pau Torres, Eric García, Diego Llorente, César Azpilicueta
MF: Thiago Alcántara, Sergio Busquet, Koke, Marcos Llorente, Dani Olmo, Rodri, Fabián Ruiz, Ferran Torres, Adama Traoré, Mikel Oyarzabal, Pedri
FW: Álvaro Morata, Gerard Moreno
I created a 433 DM gegenpress, a slightly more attacking 424, and a narrow 4132 that took advantage of some solid midfield options. But I was a little conflicted in knowing which approach to go with.
Group Stage – Game 1: The group began against Poland in Munich, where it was just 4 degrees! I eventually decided on the 433 formation with a lineup of: De Gea; Azpilicueta, P Torres, Garcia, Gaya; Busquets; Koke, Fabián; Oyarzabal, Olmo; Morata.
Nothing happened until 55 minutes when Slik got sent off, and a minute later Gaya crossed for Morata to head home the opener. The same combination provided a second goal on 68 minutes before another Gaya cross teed up Pau Torres for a third. Annoyingly, Gaya picked up a knock right at the end but he’ll only be out for a week or so.
Group Stage – Game 2: Neither winger did anything in the first game, so I decided to go with the 4132 for game two against Sweden. And we lined up: De Gea; Azpilicueta, P Torres, Garcia, Alba; Busquets; Thiago, Koke, Fabián; Moreno, Morata.
Again, nothing happened in the first half but this time it was Azpilicueta to turn creator as he his cross laid on the opener for Morata. The striker missed two huge chances before finally wrapping up a 2-0 win with another header, this time from an Olmo cross, on 87 minutes. After two games, we already had more points than Spain managed in both simulations and Morata was the top scorer in the competition.
Group Stage – Game 3: The group finished against Slovaki, who reached the semis in our second simulation and had beaten Sweden but lost to Poland. I decided to make a few changes and we lined up: Simón, Azpilicueta, D LLorente, Garcia, Alba; Rodri; Olmo, M Llorente, Pedri; F Torres, Morata. Despite only having 3 shots, Slovakia somehow scored twice from crosses in the first half! Oyarzabal scored a screamer off the bench to make it 2-1 and ensure we topped the group.
Elsewhere in the groups, Wales again topped their group ahead of Italy and England topped their group. Scotland managed to beat Czech Republic to qualify but Sweden once again lost every match. Ukraine won all their games to qualify ahead of Holland and Germany were knocked out of the group of death with France winning all three games.
First Knockout Round: The second round drew us with Austria, for which Gaya was just about fit but our only right-back Azpilicueta got food poisoning the day before. I returned to the 433 and we lined up: De Gea; D Llorente; P Torres, Garcia, Gaya; Busquets; Koke, Fabián; Oyarzabal, Olmo; Morata.
We started well as a brilliant Olmo run teed up Morata to tap home after 3 minutes, but the ref immediately gave Austria a dubious penalty that Alaba tucked home 3 minutes later. There was nothing dubious about it as Onisiwo was red carded for a savage two-footer on Olmo after 13 minutes. Olmo then punished the Austrians as he scored his first goal for Spain and created another Morata goal before half-time. We somehow allowed Arnautovic to score straight after half-time and managed to not score again despite having 26 shots to their 6. But we just about won 3-2. But Olmo was fantastic in this game.
Elsewhere, there was no Final heartbreak for England as they managed to lost 2-1 to Poland. Scotland won an all-British affair, defeating Wales on penalties after a 1-1 draw, while France managed to win 5-1 after extra-time in a World Cup Final repeat against Croatia. Holland beat Belgium 3-1, Switzerland edged a classic 4-3 against Ukraine and there no heroics from Slovakia as they got spanked 7-1 by Portugal, which equalled the tournament’s biggest win.
Quarter-Finals: We’d already gotten further than the AI managed in our simulations and we faced a tough next in an Iberian clash against Portugal. Azpilicueta was back so we lined up: De Gea; Azpilicueta, P Torres, Garcia, Gaya; Busquets; Koke, Fabián; Oyarzabal, Olmo; Morata.
Despite there being plenty of attacking talent on show the two sides put an absolute borefest that saw a combined 1.1 xG through 120 minutes. That meant penalties which, with De Gea in goal, didn’t fill me confidence. But the keeper came up big to save Portugal’s fifth penalty taken by Renato Sanches, and Busquets cooly converted the decider.
In the other quarter-finals, Italy beat Holland on penalties after a 0-0 draw, France beat Switzerland 2-0 and Poland beat Scotland 3-1. Which made me think our quarter-final draw was a little harsh.
Semi-Finals: The semis pitted us against Italy, which made me suspect another 0-0 was on the cards. I had a slight selection dilemma as Koke was knackered and several players underperformed against Portugal. Given the lack of creativity, I switched things up to: De Gea; Azpilicueta, P Torres, Garcia, Gaya; Busquets; Olmo, Koke , Fabián; Moreno, Morata.
But I was wrong as Koke turned home a Gaya through ball after half an hour, which was his first goal for Spain after 46 caps! Azpilicueta won a penalty early in the second half which, for some reason, Moreno took and missed. But Italy offered little except for an Immobile header that was brilliantly cleared off the line by P Torres. And, despite a knackered side, we held on to win 1-0 with Italy only mustering 9 shots to our 17.
Unsurprisingly, France beat Poland in their semi but only won 1-0 with a Ben Yedder goal in the 4th minute.
Final: I stuck with the 4132 formation but made one change to drop Moreno, as we lined up: De Gea; Azpilicueta, P Torres, Garcia, Gaya; Busquets; Olmo, Koke , Fabián; Oyarzabal, Morata. While France selected Thuram and Sissoko ahead of Mbappé and Griezmann.
We had three players booked inside 18 minutes but had the best chances as Morata spurned three one-on-one opportunities in the first half. Mbappé came on and they suddenly looked more danagerous as he created a great chance for Rabiot, which De Gea saved. We weren’t helped as Busquets received a second yellow card and I went cautious – which is apparently the new attacking as, in the fourth minute of injury-time, Gaya broke down the left and put in a cross that even Morata coudn’t miss! Spain were Euro 2020 Champions!
In the final three knockout games we scored two and conceded none, which says a lot about our approach! Morata won the Golden Boot with 7 goals, ahead of Lukaku on 5 and Kevin Nisbet on 4. Gaya won the Best Player award with 5 assists and 5 clean sheets and anm average rating of 7.88. Mbappé won the Young Player award with an average rating of 7.72, which makes you question why wasn’t he starting the final?
Managed Winner = Spain
So there you have it, according to Football Manager, France will either win it or go out in the group stage and Belgium have a decent chance. England are likely to make it to the Final and lose or just bottle it in the first knockout round. While Sweden will be truly awful, Slovakia, Poland and Ukraine could spring a surprise, and Spain will probably be rubbish unless they go defensive or rely on the God that is Jose Gaya.