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Help Tips for managing an underdog nation?


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Hi all,

Hope everyone is doing good!

I am just wondering if anyone has any tips or tactic suggestions for managing an underdog nation - teams excluding France, England, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Brazil, etc.

Obviously, when managing an underdog nation - such as Scotland, Nigeria, Ireland or N. Ireland, to name a couple - things are going to be quite tough, as you don't always have the ability to have players to fill the correct positions of your tactics.

Therefore, for a team like Ireland, what tips or tactical suggestions do you recommend to get some decent results?

I do enjoy managing underdog teams, as it makes the game more interesting compared to managing a big team, which gets boring after about 1 season or so - that's just my opinion.

I am wanting to start a new career managing an underdog nation, though, it is going to be tough trying to get some good results.

Lastly, if anyone has managed an underdog nation, how did it go? What results did you get?  Did you win anything? Did you carry out a giant killing?

Thank you. 🙂

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Great question. It may be obvious, but the main strategy is to manage a club which brings through that country’s youth. The questions are WHO + HOW?

Manage a club in a DIFFERENT country:
E.g. After getting Sunderland to the EPL and European Cups, I also took over Denmark. The Danes had a number of solid, older players, decent depth in most positions. So bought +20 young Danish players (16 to 25 years old) and either played them in my 2nd rotational team or sent them out on loans. The key was training them to be more positional flexible, better personalities (Through mentoring) - to try to build up the Danish squad’s depth / talent pool. Luckily I also got one youth who developed into a 1st team superstar striker, so my Danish tactics were about supplying him.

Also tried managing Ireland while in the English championship + later the Premier League. Ireland have some good youth players (GK Banazu!) so I tried to buy them (again 16-25 year olds), play them or loan them, while retraining / mentoring them. Again this built up the talent pool.

Manage a club in the same country.

Wales is a good choice with Swansea, Cardiff (or Wrexham?). Scotland another with Celtic, Rangers or (if you want a club challenge) any of the others.

The key is to develop your own (from your academy / best of the greyed our players) and supplement that with buying that country’s best youth players. I have given contracts to hundreds / thousands of greyed our youth players, released the ones with poor potential, and kept only the best 1 in every 100.

With Swansea and Wales in the full day game, my academy was (slowly) producing the new Welsh generation, while with Celtic and Scotland our academy / greyed our players very quickly became national team player. Actually I didn’t take the Scotland job, because I thought it was too easy with all the great Scottish players Celtic we’re developing & selling on.

These are some long term tips / views, perhaps you can find shorter term tactical / team guides elsewhere ... ?

Is this helpful? What club & nation were you aiming for?

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Hell yeah! International saves are a real joy to play, especially when you overcome all odds to win big trophies, although the wait between international tournaments is a real killer 😫 I've been fairly successful in my attempt in win all major international tournaments with underdog countries (managed to win three consecutive world cups with Australia, Ireland and South Korea before getting bored with USA) so I thought I'd chime in and say it's definitely possible.

Like DanEnglish recommends, managing a club team to both train your nation's youth and key players and influence their morale in between games gives a major boost. You don't need to own all the nation's players at your club, but of course, the more the better.

Tactics and formations largely depend on how much time you have to nurture your players on a club level. For instance, I lost the first two World Cups with Australia but by the time the third came around, I had the quality of my youth players entering their peak to dominate against the best countries so I played an offensive 3-4-1-2 or 3-4-3 mostly by that stage.

After succeeding with Australia, I left for Ireland and had two years to prepare for the World Cup so I played more defensively and mostly on the counter. 4-1-2-2-1 counter was my primary formation against fairly difficult opposition, 4-2-3-1 with pushed up wingbacks against weaker or equal opposition, 5-2-2-1 with 2 defensive midfielders were when I needed to park a double bus against nations I had close to no chance winning against 😆 You probably don't need as many formations but I find that being tactically flexible really helps.

With respect to player selections, some tips I have are to select players who generally 'thrive in big matches' or have high leadership stats. Having two dependable players in every position is always key for squad depth, while having utility players who can play in multiple positions can be incredibly useful (retraining at club level) e.g. having only 3 wingbacks rather than 4 since the 3rd wingback is a backup that can play on both wings.

Pace was probably my most preferred trait for inside forwards and poachers when playing on the counter, and typically I would have a backup target man and winger if things go bad (although some countries aren't blessed enough with aerial like when I managed South Korea - that said, you can still win without them!). Oh and yes, get yourself a decent keeper! Can confirm, Bazunu saved me countless times!

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2 hours ago, Thirsk said:

managed to win three consecutive world cups with Australia, Ireland and South Korea

Wow. That is impressive.

I’ve never managed a ‘tournament win’ with an underdog - getting into the knockouts is usually the best I‘ve done before being knocked out by Brazil, France, etc. So am impressed.

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4 hours ago, DanEnglish said:

Wow. That is impressive.

I’ve never managed a ‘tournament win’ with an underdog - getting into the knockouts is usually the best I‘ve done before being knocked out by Brazil, France, etc. So am impressed.

Yeah, I think it could be the game getting a little easier the further into the save, since AI doesn't really know how to train regens so they rarely reached their peak potential. That said, it still was a nice challenge that really gets your heart racing in the knockout stages 😄

 

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On 26/06/2021 at 04:30, DanEnglish said:

Great question. It may be obvious, but the main strategy is to manage a club which brings through that country’s youth. The questions are WHO + HOW?

Manage a club in a DIFFERENT country:
E.g. After getting Sunderland to the EPL and European Cups, I also took over Denmark. The Danes had a number of solid, older players, decent depth in most positions. So bought +20 young Danish players (16 to 25 years old) and either played them in my 2nd rotational team or sent them out on loans. The key was training them to be more positional flexible, better personalities (Through mentoring) - to try to build up the Danish squad’s depth / talent pool. Luckily I also got one youth who developed into a 1st team superstar striker, so my Danish tactics were about supplying him.

Also tried managing Ireland while in the English championship + later the Premier League. Ireland have some good youth players (GK Banazu!) so I tried to buy them (again 16-25 year olds), play them or loan them, while retraining / mentoring them. Again this built up the talent pool.

Manage a club in the same country.

Wales is a good choice with Swansea, Cardiff (or Wrexham?). Scotland another with Celtic, Rangers or (if you want a club challenge) any of the others.

The key is to develop your own (from your academy / best of the greyed our players) and supplement that with buying that country’s best youth players. I have given contracts to hundreds / thousands of greyed our youth players, released the ones with poor potential, and kept only the best 1 in every 100.

With Swansea and Wales in the full day game, my academy was (slowly) producing the new Welsh generation, while with Celtic and Scotland our academy / greyed our players very quickly became national team player. Actually I didn’t take the Scotland job, because I thought it was too easy with all the great Scottish players Celtic we’re developing & selling on.

These are some long term tips / views, perhaps you can find shorter term tactical / team guides elsewhere ... ?

Is this helpful? What club & nation were you aiming for?

Thanks for that detailed information - it has helped me quite a lot. I see what you mean in terms of developing your own players for the national team. Initially, I was just aiming to manage a nation alone, but now you mention it, I think the most appropriate approach is to manage a nation and club. I was thinking of managing Austria - not sure about what club yet.

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On 26/06/2021 at 08:34, Thirsk said:

Hell yeah! International saves are a real joy to play, especially when you overcome all odds to win big trophies, although the wait between international tournaments is a real killer 😫 I've been fairly successful in my attempt in win all major international tournaments with underdog countries (managed to win three consecutive world cups with Australia, Ireland and South Korea before getting bored with USA) so I thought I'd chime in and say it's definitely possible.

Like DanEnglish recommends, managing a club team to both train your nation's youth and key players and influence their morale in between games gives a major boost. You don't need to own all the nation's players at your club, but of course, the more the better.

Tactics and formations largely depend on how much time you have to nurture your players on a club level. For instance, I lost the first two World Cups with Australia but by the time the third came around, I had the quality of my youth players entering their peak to dominate against the best countries so I played an offensive 3-4-1-2 or 3-4-3 mostly by that stage.

After succeeding with Australia, I left for Ireland and had two years to prepare for the World Cup so I played more defensively and mostly on the counter. 4-1-2-2-1 counter was my primary formation against fairly difficult opposition, 4-2-3-1 with pushed up wingbacks against weaker or equal opposition, 5-2-2-1 with 2 defensive midfielders were when I needed to park a double bus against nations I had close to no chance winning against 😆 You probably don't need as many formations but I find that being tactically flexible really helps.

With respect to player selections, some tips I have are to select players who generally 'thrive in big matches' or have high leadership stats. Having two dependable players in every position is always key for squad depth, while having utility players who can play in multiple positions can be incredibly useful (retraining at club level) e.g. having only 3 wingbacks rather than 4 since the 3rd wingback is a backup that can play on both wings.

Pace was probably my most preferred trait for inside forwards and poachers when playing on the counter, and typically I would have a backup target man and winger if things go bad (although some countries aren't blessed enough with aerial like when I managed South Korea - that said, you can still win without them!). Oh and yes, get yourself a decent keeper! Can confirm, Bazunu saved me countless times!

Thanks so much for that. Great to hear that you won three consecutive world cups - absolutely impressive. Thing is, with an underdog nation, I plan on parking the bus and playing ultra defensive, hoping to get a draw.

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5 hours ago, AnandP812 said:

Thanks so much for that. Great to hear that you won three consecutive world cups - absolutely impressive. Thing is, with an underdog nation, I plan on parking the bus and playing ultra defensive, hoping to get a draw.

No worries, I sometimes can't believe it myself actually 😄 I never used to play international careers (especially not underdog nations) so defensive tactics were completely out of my comfort zone, but now after doing so, I can say that defensive tactics are 100% viable and you can indeed be the Jose Mourinho of international football! I don't play as much these days but I just remembered some methods I used to use after looking over some old, nostalgic screenshots.. 

I'm no tactician but I think the biggest puzzle in international management is in determining what the best formations and tactics are for the players you have - although that's also the case for a club level, there's now a smaller pool of quality players to select from. The method I use to select the best players of the nation was based on either individual scout reports (from club scouts) or by calling up the most expensive players and using the Suggested XI from Team Report. Both methods can be influenced by player form but I find the stars in Suggested XI more reliable in comparing player quality on an international level (start of new seasons is the best indicator of current ability as they haven't factored in player form yet). 

I would treat international friendlies not only as a means of player training and gaining international experience (usually try to get players to at least 26 caps so they show up with 'international experience' in reports), but also to test new formations and tactics, in order to have a contingency plan for every situation. 

Another annoying reason why club management is necessary is that set pieces are invaluable to underdog nations. The only real way to see which players are best for free kicks, corners and penalties is through scouting. The best way to capitalise on this is by training designated corner takers in crossing, free kick takers in shooting etc. Some other benefits in club management are bringing in older talent for mentoring your nation's youth, or the ability to discipline your players to improve their hidden mental attributes.

Since I usually manage a club in the same country, the players eventually all plateau in development and require playing at a higher level to further improve. Before this happens, I try to retrain them to all possible positions to natural (best time is whenever they need to mature before further developing), before finally selling them to a larger club.

On season start, try scouting your country's 16 year olds with the highest market values (though even $1k players at unheard of clubs can have world class potential), to mould them early into players who can fit into your formations. Sometimes taking in fringe players can be just as important. Use them as impact players and train them only in select stats eg. pace/heading/shooting/crossing to make use of late game instructions like early crosses, shooting on sight or through ball. The good news is that they don't need stamina as they'll be your super-subs. With keepers, I prefer ones with high natural agility, good reflexes (and okay handling) as they seem to perform the best for penalty shootouts, although age and maturity of course helps.

Some other tips I have are a bit more general. On a tactical level, I find it useful to check next game reports to see what formation the opposition manager favours, check their predicted XI to see where the key players and main goal threats are and to plan accordingly, whether to play narrow/wide, have 1 or 2 defensive midfielders, have an extra CB, short/direct passing, or focus down the middle/wings eg. if they play a 4-1-2-2-1, you don't have to play too defensively with defensive midfielders. If the opposition plays attacking football, you have the opportunity to counter; if they play control, defensive or contain tactics might be best. Balanced if you believe you can win the midfield.

Most of ultra defensive tactics are on the far left side of the sliders. Things like contain, narrow (maybe wide if you have 5 at the back and they play on the wings), slow, disciplined, deep, sit back, and time wasting I found work very well together. Other things I found useful were defensive full-backs to negate wingers/inside forwards, CBs with good positioning to block shots and aerial for set pieces, good tackling BWM's to stifle the midfield (preferably two in contain and sit back tactics to prevent opponents from shooting from distance), maybe one DLP with passing and creativity to spark counters (must also be good defensively), and pace at the other end of the field.

When behind, I find bringing on big leaders can inspire the team to a comeback or fast players late in the match when opposition defenders are leggy. If it looks like the game is going to penalties, and I still have an unused sub, I usually take out a defender/midfielder and bring on a good penalty specialist.

When ahead, due to lack of quality in squad depth, I'd take off key players to rest them for future games. Good stamina management I find can be quite advantageous in the final tournament rounds (opposition teams are generally exhausted). I'd switch to cautious tackling or take off important aggressive players to prevent them from accruing yellow cards. Also I like to sub on players with poor morale (or even play them in the starting XI in group stages/weaker teams) to improve their morale in case I need to count on them for later games (due to possible injuries). Plus it's a nice way for them to earn the trophy at the very end.

Finally, very sorry for the great wall of text but hopefully some of these will help you as they did me!

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5 hours ago, Thirsk said:

I'm no tactician but I think the biggest puzzle in international management is in determining what the best formations and tactics are for the players you have

That “wall of text” was a really good read - I enjoyed (and agreed) with it.

In particular the quote above is something I agree with. Once you get +10 seasons in, you have an advantage over the AI in terms of youth development, so your nation should improve vs others. BUT before that / in the shorter term you’ve got to use the players you have. 

Denmark - after Erikson’s FM retirements, how should you setup to use a slow defence, utilise your best midfielder (Holbjerg) and when/how to use the very tall Striker Poulsen? The answers are different for weaker vs stronger opposition.

Wales - a few years in, as Bale & Ramsey are close to retirement, how should you setup Wales to make the best use of them, bring through some youth AND organise a decent but unspectacular squad to overachieve?

Ireland - just how quickly can you develop the youth / regens to take over the national team? And how do you setup what you have in the meantime?

And then if you don’t have decent squad depth, and a critical player gets injured, what are your backup plans. Urgh this question is painful as it occurs so often.

Fun times.

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On 28/06/2021 at 08:32, Thirsk said:

No worries, I sometimes can't believe it myself actually 😄 I never used to play international careers (especially not underdog nations) so defensive tactics were completely out of my comfort zone, but now after doing so, I can say that defensive tactics are 100% viable and you can indeed be the Jose Mourinho of international football! I don't play as much these days but I just remembered some methods I used to use after looking over some old, nostalgic screenshots..

Hi, thanks for the amazing "wall of text" - it was a great read with some really useful tips. So, thank you very, very much for that helpful information.

I am glad that you also agree that defensive tactics are "100% viable". I find that the majority of people are against using ultra defensive tactics, but I think it is fun - especially, screwing up your opponent's all out attack tactics.

Likewise, I will try my best to be the Mourinho of international football.

Thanks again.

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On 28/06/2021 at 13:53, DanEnglish said:

That “wall of text” was a really good read - I enjoyed (and agreed) with it.

In particular the quote above is something I agree with. Once you get +10 seasons in, you have an advantage over the AI in terms of youth development, so your nation should improve vs others. BUT before that / in the shorter term you’ve got to use the players you have. 

Denmark - after Erikson’s FM retirements, how should you setup to use a slow defence, utilise your best midfielder (Holbjerg) and when/how to use the very tall Striker Poulsen? The answers are different for weaker vs stronger opposition.

Wales - a few years in, as Bale & Ramsey are close to retirement, how should you setup Wales to make the best use of them, bring through some youth AND organise a decent but unspectacular squad to overachieve?

Ireland - just how quickly can you develop the youth / regens to take over the national team? And how do you setup what you have in the meantime?

And then if you don’t have decent squad depth, and a critical player gets injured, what are your backup plans. Urgh this question is painful as it occurs so often.

Fun times.

Thanks for those tips there.

That is the thing that makes it a challenge to manage an underdog in the shorter term: using the players you have.

I will take your advice there and try hard with developing the youth.

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6 hours ago, AnandP812 said:

Thanks for those tips there.

That is the thing that makes it a challenge to manage an underdog in the shorter term: using the players you have.

I will take your advice there and try hard with developing the youth.

Am interested to know - who are you going to manage? Any particular challenge / decision to make with them?!

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