#7: FC Barcelona hosts Real Madrid

After the surprising and satisfying result of playing the Manchester Derby in FIFA 12 last week–resulting in a win for my Manchester City squad–I decided this week to engage in another high-profile soccer rivalry for this entry: El Clásico between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.  Both of these Spanish teams are practically all-star teams in their own right, with each team filled with players from the recent Spanish National Team which took home a World Cup victory in South Africa last summer.

Even though Barça holds a slight ratings advantage over Real Madrid in FIFA 12, I decided to stay true to my “club” in EA SPORTS Football Club and take control of the side which boasts arguably the world’s best player today, Lionel Messi.

Just as in last week’s showdown, however, I knew that despite the talent of my squad a win would not come easily.  Taking an elite team against another elite team is always difficult in sports video games, but perhaps most so in FIFA 12.  At my current “form” I find myself playing against not only the opposing team but also against my own skills and comfort level playing the game.

Much to my surprise, I was able to score early on in the match by utilizing the forward striker abilities of David Villa.  With an early lead, I felt an uncommon level of comfort and a belief that–if only I could manage to keep my cool and stay ahead of any scoring chances by the team on the other side of the pitch–I would be able to reach Full Time with a slim but hard-earned victory.

Unfortunately for me, this wait-and-see method proved unsustainable once the game moved on into the second half.  Through no fault of my own but being too conservative with my play and attack, Karim Benzema was able to take position in front of the goal and head home a well-placed cross to even up the score line at 1-1 in the 62nd minute of the match.  Though both teams had more chances later in the half, neither were able to convert before the 90th minute and the Full Time declaration

Though the CPU took advantage of its three available substitutions over the course of the match, I only made a single substitution about halfway through Extra Time.  In retrospect, I wish I had made better use of my entire roster because my midfield was significantly fatigued by the end of 120 minutes of play.  I was too nervous to pull out any of my talented “Starting 11” in favor of a better-rested but less skilled backup, so aside from a single move my squad was significantly tired by the time the final whistle blew and the game was set to be decided by Penalties.

Contrary to my penalty shot deficiencies in NHL 12, I am actually decently confident in my ability to successfully convert–and save–penalty kicks in FIFA 12.  That said, I knew that this particularly instance of Penalties would truly tax my goalkeeping abilities.  As it happened, neither keeper was very successful at stopping the shots.  The first four shooters for each team easily converted their attempts, and then it was time for Dani Alves to try and continue the scoring for my team.  Unfortunately my attempt was easily stopped by Iker Casillas, setting up Ángel di María for an attempt to win the game for Real Madrid.  Though I tried my best to read which direction he was planning to send his shot, I guessed entirely wrong and was left to watch my team’s rival celebrate a victory on my home pitch.

Most frustrating from this game was my clear shot advantage–9 shots on target to Real Madrid’s 2–yet inability to make good on all but one of those chances.  Far too often my shots were heading directly at the keeper and were too easily handled by a World Cup Champion keeper.  The rest of the game stats were pretty even between the two sides–though my passing accuracy still needs improvement to truly keep up with the CPU–so my failure to find ways to turn Shots on Target into Goals was the primary contributor to the game going into Extra Time in the first place.

After winning the first five entries of STAT BOX STORIES, two consecutive penalty shot losses across NHL 12 and FIFA 12 have spoiled my strong start.  Now I must turn to the first fan-voted entry tomorrow–which pits the Oregon Ducks against the Stanford Cardinal in NCAA Football 12–to try and take a win and salvage a 2-2 record for my games in the blog series this week.

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