#4: Manchester City hosts Manchester United in FIFA 12

Of the four games I will be playing as part of the STAT BOX STORIES here for the blog, FIFA 12 is the one that I will have the best chance of embarrassing myself with by sharing failed game results against the CPU AI opponents.  While I have been playing the FIFA series for a while, my skillset with the game is still that of a relative beginner due to the fact that I don’t get to watch as many real-life soccer game broadcasts as I would like; as a result, my knowledge of strategies being used in the game at present is limited.  However, the challenge is something I hope to embrace as I put myself to the test each week.

For the first FIFA 12 entry of STAT BOX STORIES, I decided to go with an classic rivalry of two teams sharing the same city; Manchester City and Manchester United.  Although Manchester United gets most of the publicity due to its recent success and personalities like Wayne Rooney–who graces the cover of FIFA 12 and the menu screens–Manchester City won the most recent meeting between the teams in real life by a comfortable and unexpected margin.

For my virtual engagement in the “Manchester Derby,” I took control of Manchester City at their home pitch of Etihad Stadium against the visiting Manchester United squad.  The difficulty level was set to Professional, all sliders were untouched in their default settings, and the game was played with 6-minute halves.  For all FIFA 12 games for this blog series, games tied at Full Time will go to Extra Time (not golden goal) and then Penalties if the game is still tied after 120 minutes.

 

One of the interesting things about playing four different games in three different sports for this blog series is how different it can feel when similar things happen in each game.  If I give up an early touchdown to an opponent in NCAA Football 12 or Madden NFL 12, or if I give up an early goal to NHL 12, I tend not to get too frustrated; I feel confident that there is enough time–and I will get enough chances–to try and equalize the score.  In FIFA 12, however, conceding an early goal tends to cause an early onset of stress.  Thus, when Wayne Rooney carved his way through my midfield and easily struck the ball into the netting in the 17th minute, it was  a deflating early game occurrence.

With an early 0-1 deficit, I turned to a gameplan based more on possession and ball control so that I could learn more about the abilities of the players on Manchester City; it was only my second time taking control of the team.  To my surprise–and happiness–at the 40th minute I was able to equalize the scoreline to 1-1 after a solid strike in the box by Edin Džeko.  As the first half drew to a close, I was feeling confident about my chances now that the game was essentially “new” again.

To begin the second half, each team seemed content to let the ball sit in the middle of the field, unwilling to hang themself out to dry by potentially jeopardizing their positioning.  In the 77th minute, however, a well-timed cross from Javier Hernández–better known to fans as “Chicharito”–to Wayne Rooney allowed the English striker to put Manchester United back in front.

While early goals can be frustrating, late goals are even worse to concede in FIFA 12.  Though there was still 13 minutes left to play–plus any stoppage time–I began to get frantic knowing that I did not have the time to be concerned with my play being “pretty.”  I rarely use substitutions in Exhibition games of FIFA 12–the games are usually well-decided as wins or losses without personnel decisions playing a role–but in the 81st minute I tried to counter a pair of Manchester United subs by bringing in Nigel de Jong in my midfield for fresh legs.  A number of attempts in the offensive half of the pitch went begging until finally, in stoppage time, I had a shot deflected out of bounds by a Manchester United player to win a corner kick.  Knowing that it would probably be my last chance to get the ball on goal–since the final whistle would likely blow if I didn’t keep possession off of the set piece–I set my kick power and hoped for a last-second miracle.

To my surprise–and relief–Edin Džeko found a way to get free and put his head on the ball, sending it into the back of the net and tying the score at 2-all.  As soon as Manchester United kicked off at midfield, the referee blew the final whistle for Full Time and the game was set for Extra Time.  MUFC used their final substitution to begin the bonus period and I decided to utilize my final two substitutions at the same time, opting to bring more fresh legs to my midfield positions instead of taking out anybody in the offensive portion of the pitch.

At the 105th minute, my decision to stick with my forward players paid off when Sergio Agüero struck home a go-ahead goal to bring the score line to 3-2 in the first Extra Time period.  A quick three minutes later–after switching ends for the second half of Extra Time–Edin Džeko put his third goal of the game in the back of the net and suddenly it was a two-goal lead.  As the 120-minute mark and the end of a remarkable come-from-behind victory drew near, Džeko and Agüero worked together to get another goal for Manchester City and finalize the score line at 5-2.

In all of my time playing the FIFA series, this may be the favorite game I have ever played.  Each time Manchester United put goals on the board, I worried that my chances of victory were gone.  When I got the first goal back, I was elated, but that soon changed once Rooney’s second goal went in.  I was all but sure that I would be writing about my first loss of the week here for STAT BOX STORIES until that last-second corner kick went good.  A comeback victory in any of the other three games I’m playing each week would be nice, but not nearly as sweet as completing a comeback in a game like FIFA where I’m still trying to improve myself with every game I complete.

The clear choice for Man of the Match was Džeko, of course, whose four shots on target resulted in three goals for himself and the one rebound goal potted by Agüero in the waning moments of the game.  Agüero and Rooney made strong cases for match honors as well, with each player scoring as many times as they managed to put the ball on goal.

Well, that wraps up week one of STAT BOX STORIES.  As always, any thoughts or feedback in the comments would be greatly appreciated.  Come back tomorrow for a chance to vote on one of the game match-ups in Week 2 of this blog series.

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