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Thread: [STORY] What Luís Olivera did next… a short story

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    [STORY] What Luís Olivera did next… a short story

    What Luís Olivera did next… a short story

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    Luís Olivera hit the red symbol to finish the call.

    The Dutch had been ringing him on and off for the last few hours demanding a quick decision. In lots of ways it was an attractive prospect – a famous football nation with a point to prove on the international stage; a talented pool of players, many of which he knew from his club management career; and a quick route into a national role after resigning his job with Real Madrid. But the England job was available too… and that’s the one he really wanted.

    After the summer’s European Championship the Belgium, England and Holland jobs had all become vacant. The tournament had been won by Pep Guardiola’s Spain. Five of the last six major international competitions had been won by the Spanish or Germans, the one exception being Russia’s surprise victory at the 2026 World Cup. But make no mistake about it, those two nations were dominant. Olivera had been thinking about international management for some time and was looking for an opportunity to take them on.

    He’d have ideally liked to manage Portugal, but Paulo Bento had done a decent job in guiding them to the semi finals at the Euros. Bento was unlikely to lose his position anytime soon and would probably get a clear run to the 2030 World Cup in Spain.

    Of the jobs available, England looked like the best option. They had a new wave of exciting players emerging as more familiar names retired. 20 year-old Chelsea defender Andrew Oliver, 22 year-old Villa striker Dom Ingram and 25 year-old Atletico Madrid attacker Shane Carter were among the rising stars. Luke Shaw, Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling were the old guard.

    He applied for all three vacancies in any case. The first to call were the Belgians, but by the time they did he’d already decided against going there. The golden generation had reached its end and he reckoned it would be an act of alchemy beyond even his skills to turn their successors into a winning team. Then the Dutch approached him… but they seemed to sense he was holding out. They’d given him an hour to think about it. He stalled, waiting for a call from the English FA. An hour passed. The phone rang again. It was the Dutch again. He stalled again. An hour passed. The phone rang again. It was the Dutch again. He told them no.



    Agitated, he turned on the TV as a distraction. Had he made the right call? Or would he be left high and dry without a job?

    Then he saw the headline flash up: ‘England announce James Beattie as new Head Coach’.

    Damn.

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    So story ended?

    Short and sweet

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    More to come I promise

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    The first two thirds of Luís Eduardo Pinto Olivera’s career had been defined by the act of taking outsider teams to the top. He started in management on his home island of Madeira by guiding União into the top flight of Portuguese football. Moving to the mainland, he was snapped up by Vitória de Guimarães. Within three seasons they became only the third team outside of Os Três Grandes to win the Primeira Liga, edging out Benfica and Porto by a single point in the 2017/18 season. Two years later, they added the Taça de Portugal. After almost five years with Vitória he moved on to La Liga, taking the helm at Real Sociedad and once again shocking the traditional elite by winning the title in 2022/23 (this time by a margin of two points from Barcelona).

    It wasn’t long before the big boys came calling. Real Madrid, after two seasons of under-achievement, sacked Carlo Ancelotti and replaced him with Olivera. Initially, the styles of manager and club did not mesh. Olivera’s teams had been broadly defensive in the past – holding the centre of midfield and attacking down the wings with crosses into the box for a big front two. But Olivera was a pragmatist and with better quality players at his disposal he committed more men to the attack. He built a formidable team with Riechedly Bazoer the midfield fulcrum, Memphis Depay and Ayoze Perez providing the creativity and Donis Avdijaj banging in the goals. They won everything: the Europa League, a Copa del Rey, a Fifa Club World Cup, a Champions League, an Intercontinental Cup, a European Super Cup, three Spanish Super Cups and four back-to-back La Liga titles. Olivera resigned the day after winning the last of them. After a decade and a half facing the daily grind of club management, he targeted a national role. He attended over 10 matches at that summer’s European Championship and awaited his opportunity…


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    After the England and Holland roles passed him by, not a lot happened for quite a long time.

    World Cup qualifiers took place over the course of the year, but nobody's job was really put in danger. The major players all made it through without too much fuss.

    Olivera waited and watched. He watched as Brendan Rogers took over at Real Madrid and led them to a La Liga and Champions League double. He was pleased for his old club, but frustrated that he was missing out on all the action.

    Job offers in club management came and went. Espanyol and Betis both came calling. He wasn't tempted. Vitoria, his old side, wanted his services again. He politely declined. Around Christmas he got a phone call from – of all people – Josep Maria Bartomeu, the Chairman of Barcelona. The Catalans had been going through an awful spell and finally sacked Iñaki Bengoetxea with the team languishing in the bottom half of La Liga. The job of restoring them to glory was a high-profile and well-rewarded one. But come on. Would the Barca fans really want him? Would the Real fans ever forgive him? No. This was a job for anyone else... never for him.

    The summer came. The summer went. A new season began. Pep Guardiola's Spain warmed up for their home World Cup by storming through the Confederations Cup. They would be huge favourites when it all began. The big nations - Argentina, Brazil, England, Germany, Holland and Portugal - all qualified.

    Olivera was getting desperate. He couldn’t be choosy anymore. He’d take any national job that came up now - literally anything.

    And once qualification finished, a call finally came.


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    Interesting.

    You must have been getting desperate!

    In reality, they are always there or there abouts when it comes to qualifying for tournaments so should be an interesting challenge in terms of earning them a few extra points in campaigns.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ebfatz View Post
    You must have been getting desperate!
    I was just getting bored of clicking 'continue game'

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    Just over 49 years after Scotland and England played the first ever international fixture, the Polish national team joined the football world. They lost.

    Qualifying for their first World Cup in 1938, they were drawn against Brazil. They lost. But they lost impressively – 5-6 after extra time in one of the all time classics.

    It would be 36 years before they’d play in another World Cup. They suffered four failed qualification efforts, but all that would be put behind them with the appointment of Kazimierz Górski as Head Coach in 1970.

    They put down a marker by winning the gold medal at the 1972 Olympics.

    They shocked England to qualify for the 1974 World Cup. Once there, they won all three group games (including beating Argentina and Italy) and saw off Sweden and Yugoslavia to set up a showdown with Germany in the second group stage. That match would become famous – for all the wrong reasons – in Poland.



    In conditions more suited to water polo, the Germans won by a single goal scored by Gerd Müller. Poland had massively overachieved… but it was little consolation.

    The second group stage claimed them in 1978 before they enjoyed another great run in 1982. Inspired by Zbigniew Boniek, they defied the cynics who felt the team was too old by thumping Peru and then Belgium. They ran out of steam in the (newly introduced) semi final match, losing 2-0 to Italy.

    Since then, there had been little to cheer for the Polish fans. Until 2002 they did not qualify for a single European Championship or World Cup. At the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, they qualified but exited at the group stage. That also happened at the 2008 European Championship and at the same tournament in 2012 when they were joint hosts.

    They’d missed out on every major competition since then, aside from the 2018 World Cup when they achieved a small success in reaching the second round. Over ten years of disappointment then culminated in a qualification performance for the 2030 World Cup that was nothing short of pathetic, finishing bottom of a group that included Belarus and Lithuania. From Gdansk to Krakow, the fans were hungry for change.
    Last edited by Fourfourtwo; 24-05-16 at 11:00 AM.

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    Spain, of course, won the World Cup. They stormed through their group matches by a combined score of 12-1. Elsewhere, there was a shock as Germany were edged out by France and Senegal in group D. It was a case of trying to squeeze one tournament too many out of an ageing and tired squad. And it left the hosts without any obvious competition for the trophy.

    Switzerland revealed themselves as the dark horses by knocking out England in the second round whilst Guardiola's team breezed past the Senegalese. The Swiss run continued, shocking Argentina in the quarters. Spain found the going tougher against Uruguay, winning by a single goal. Both semis were then settled by penalty shootouts – Switzerland over Japan and Spain over Brazil.

    The final was a predictable mismatch. Spain took the lead just before half time, doubled it in the second half and never really looked ruffled by Gilardi's response. Joan Imaz, a player Olivera had sold when at Real Madrid, settled matters six minutes from time. The hosts had landed 16 shots on goal against one for the Swiss.


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    And now the real business begins.

    Lets hope you don't draw Spain in your group!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by ebfatz View Post
    Lets hope you don't draw Spain in your group!!
    They have a stupidly good squad. Theory - if you only have a couple of leagues switched on, those nations end up dominating the international game. Sort of stands to reason as the data will include more players of those nationalities?

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    Luís Olivera, a renowned manager, had signed a contract to take Poland through to the 2034 World Cup. It was surprising enough to get quite a bit of media attention initially. But by the time the tournament in Spain had finished, he was able to go about his work a little more quietly.

    Olivera had met as many of the established squad as possible before the World Cup. He’d tried to pick up a bit of Polish and already knew a bit of English, which some of the players spoke. Most of the talking had to be done through a translator though, which made things frustrating and slow.

    He spent a few weeks in Poland watching league matches. He saw Legia Warsaw and Lech Poznan several times. He travelled across the country meeting players, officials and scouts.



    But with relatively few top quality players to choose from the manager stuck with experience when it came to naming his first squad. Manchester United right winger Dariusz Sidorczuk and Ipswich striker Oskar Zawada would remain key men. He also recalled 35 year-old Michal Grunt to the squad. He had signed Grunt at Sociedad and the striker had been prolific for him, scoring 23 goals in the 2023/24 season. Despite being at the end of his career, Olivera hoped he would at least contribute valuable goals from the bench. Aside from these few players dotted around Europe, most of the squad was based in Poland. And the established names were complimented by some new blood - right back Rafal Ziolkowski and defensive midfielder Macin Kulawik (both 21) especially.

    He set the team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. After two friendly fixtures in Austria (a draw and a win) Olivera's first job proper was the qualification campaign for the 2032 European Championship in Norway. Poland were drawn with Bosnia, Bulgaria, Northern Ireland and... Portugal. The manager didn't know how to feel about coming up against the land of his birth so soon.

    Home wins over Northern Ireland and Bosnia bookended a narrow defeat in Bulgaria. It was a decent start. Further encouragement was offered by an impressive 0-2 away win in a friendly against Columbia.

    A long winter break followed before the next two qualifiers – away in Ireland, but first Portugal.

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    Portugal hadn’t had a great start to qualification, losing away in Sofia. In the lead-up to Poland’s visit a number of newspapers had speculated about whether the national team would be better off with Olivera in charge. Those comments looked silly once the match was over though. Poland started competitively but the Portuguese gradually took control and scored three unanswered goals. Olivera was bitterly disappointed.



    He asked the players to pick themselves up for their next assignment against Northern Ireland and couldn’t have been more pleased with the response he got. He had decided to start the veteran Grunt up front with Zawada tucked in behind. Both played blinders, ably assisted by Sidorczuk who set up three of the goals. It was an excellent team performance.



    That result left the team third in the table… but still well in touch with Bulgaria and Portugal.



    Three games remained and there was everything to play for…

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    A real challenge there, assuming Portugal still have a strong team!

    Do you use default tactics with the 4-2-3-1 formation?

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    Quote Originally Posted by samsami View Post
    Do you use default tactics with the 4-2-3-1 formation?
    Thanks Samsami. I've changed a few arrows and player instructions, but haven't messed with wib-wob.

    Keeping my fingers crossed that this will be Southampton's year in your story!

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    There was a gap from March to August 2031 before the qualifiers were back. It was bridged with a couple of friendly games against Austria (a 1-1 draw) and Scotland (a great 2-0 win). Up until this point Olivera had gone with a fairly settled line-up but he used these matches to try out a few options, especially up front where Michal Grunt could only continue for so much longer. Robert Piatek was the man who grabbed his chance with a goal and an encouraging all round performance in the Scotland game.

    That experimentation turned out to be a good move. Grunt, Oskar Zawada (who Olivera had made captain) and two other squad members all announced their retirements over the summer. Looking over his options with his coaches, Olivera picked out his new first eleven, with Dariusz Sidorczuk taking the armband.



    Sidorczuk was a regular part of the Manchester United team. He was as bald as a coot and ugly as sin. But he worked hard, had a deceptively good touch and put in crosses of great accuracy from the right wing. And he had an even temper and a sharp mind (for a footballer) so he made a good captain. During the matches he’d overseen so far, Olivera had already thanked God several times for making at least one top class Polish player.

    The new skipper led the team for the first time against Bulgaria. Macin Kulawik was injured and was replaced by Jakub Swierczewski. Piatek shone again with an impressive performance, netting the opening goal in a 2-1 win. The result left the Poles third in the group - a point behind Bulgaria with a game in hand.

    By now, Olivera was getting used to the job. Being an international manager meant feeling constantly displaced: scouting a game in Almeira, meeting an injured player in Gdansk, back home to Madrid for a week, then a game in Bosnia. He lived out of hotels. Nice hotels admittedly, but hotels. His possessions were rarely in reach. His friends and loved ones were occasional luxuries. At the same time, he liked the sense of weightlessness it gave him. He was unbound – his reputation kept him from scrutiny. His schedule was his own. He was as free as he ever would be.

    The next game - a trip to Bosnia - showed the team were growing into the relationship with Olivera too. The Poles stormed out of the blocks, bringing back memories of the 1974 side, and were 3-0 up by half time. Robert Piatek was again to the fore with two early goals. A tired second half display almost saw them throw it all away, but they hung on...



    The upshot of all this was that Poland would need a point at home against Portugal in their final match to secure a play-off spot. A tough assignment awaited...


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    Yep. Bulgaria will win for sure!

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    Portugal were a strong team. Bernardo Silva may have been pushing 40 but he was still a fine player. And Chelsea’s Fabio Mota was a world-class attacker in his absolute prime. As an international coach, Olivera was allowed a vote for the Ballon d’Or – he’d chosen Mota.

    So the game. The Portuguese were well on top early on as Poland’s nerves got the better of them. As the first half went on things became more even. 0-0 at the break. The players asked about the Bulgaria game at half time and the news wasn’t good – their rivals were ahead against the Bosnians and level with Poland on points. Conceding would push Poland out of the play-off spot. But they didn’t freeze. They started the second half positively and Robert Piatek again made the difference with a superbly taken goal. The lead only lasted five minutes as Mota showed exactly why Olivera rated him so highly. After that, there would have been every reason for the Poles to get negative and try and defend their point. But they didn’t – if anything they looked more likely to score. The goal didn’t come for either team though…



    …and Poland had secured a play-off spot…



    …they would meet Turkey for a place in the European Championship.

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    Well done! Told you Bulgaria would win, but you got the draw!
    Turkey should have a strong team, too, though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by samsami View Post
    Turkey should have a strong team, too, though.
    Well they've got more choice than me. 114 Poles in the database. Over 300 Turks...

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    Turkey had finished a distant second to Holland in their qualifying group. Their main man was Zafer Aydin, who had scored 17 international goals in his 40 caps. The first leg was played in Istanbul and was rollercoaster for the fans of both sides. Poland went behind, came back to take the lead and were pegged back again… all in the first half. Both sides were more measured in the second period but it was Poland who edged ahead thanks to left-winger Mateusz Wolski. Wolski had become one of the unsung heroes of the team. His performances had been solid ever since Olivera had come in and he was consistently in the first eleven. The goal was his biggest moment in a Poland shirt so far.



    The second leg was easier on the nerves. The fans had developed a new motto in recent months and it was: ‘Piatek always scores’. He lived up to it again. The striker had been a great find and had made a mockery of claims that the team would be lost without Zawada and Grunt. His opening goal pretty much settled the tie and his teammates added the gloss.



    For the first time in over a decade they would be going to a major championship. Robert Piatek, with seven goals already in his six internationals, was a big part of the reason why. And the fans started to wonder: with a star striker and a big name manager, how far can we go?


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    Hell of a qualifiation. Well Done. Turkey were 'stuffed'!!

    Piatak has made a great start to life in international football as well.

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    Congratulations on the qualification, bringing in Piatek looks to have been an excellent decision!

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