Make new summer plans, it's going to end in tears
Back in December the World Cup seemed a lifetime away, and FourFourTwo just couldnÃ¢ÂÂt wait to see how Fabio's boys would get on in South Africa, so the folk behind Championship Manager were kind enough to invite us over to watch a simulation of the entire tournament using a specially-coded version of their latest title...
June 12England 3-1 USARustenburg
There are few surprises throughout the England side Ã¢ÂÂ although e-Fabio prefers Jermain Defoe to Emile Heskey up front.
After a slow start, England click into gear and goals from Lampard and Rooney give England a 2-0 half-time lead. But in typical fashion, complacency kicks in, and US midfielder Michael Bradley pulls one back just after the break. Fortunately Steven Gerrard smashes one in from fully 30 yards, and England hold on for a confidence boosting 3-1 victory.June 18England 4-1 AlgeriaCape Town
Brimming with confidence after a win in their opening match, England romp into a three-goal lead within half an hour, with two Jermain Defoe strikes sandwiching a Wayne Rooney belter.
But yet again, FabioÃ¢ÂÂs boys lose focus and allow their opponents back into the game, with the Algerian's bundling home from close range. As Algeria press for a second, England catch them on the break and Rooney pokes home his second of the match. England are on a roll.
June 23Slovenia 0-0 EnglandPort Elizabeth
With six points already on the board, EnglandÃ¢ÂÂs place in the last 16 is already secure going into the final round of group matches. ItÃ¢ÂÂs at this point in real life that hysteria would kick in back home, and youÃ¢ÂÂd start to see those little flags adorn roughly 91 percent of the nationÃ¢ÂÂs cars, endless fluffy news-pieces about people that have painted their house/pub/Labrador in support of the team, and people who show little if any interest in football for the other 48 weeks of the year start telling you that England have Ã¢ÂÂthe best team on paperÃ¢ÂÂ, but that Ã¢ÂÂLampard is sh*tÃ¢ÂÂ.
ThereÃ¢ÂÂs nothing like a drab stalemate to curb misguided optimism.
June 26England 3-0 AustraliaRustenburg
England face Group D runners-up and old sporting adversaries Australia in the first knock-out round, with the nation gripped by World Cup fever.The AustralianÃ¢ÂÂs barely muster a single attack as a rampant England side coast into a 2-0 lead within 28 minutes, midfield duo Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard with a goal apiece. Wayne Rooney makes it three midway through the second half before defender Craig Moore is sent off for the Socceroos. J
ust as the Aussies think things canÃ¢ÂÂt get any worse, Lucas Neill is sent off for mouthing off to the referee and the men from down under are forced to play the final five minutes with nine men. Of course, if this actually happens itÃ¢ÂÂll be impossible to get served a drink in London that night.
July 2Argentina 1-0 EnglandJohannesburg
A grudge match for a million blazingly obvious reasons, you can imagine the hype that would pepper the run up to this quarter-final clash, particularly with the likes of Germany, Brazil and the Netherlands already crashing out of the competition.
England get off to the worst possible start when John Terry gets turned inside out by Lionel Messi, who promptly smashes the ball past Paul Robinson to give Argentina a seventh minute lead.
In a tight, cagey match, England only manage to get three efforts on target, with Argentinean defenders Walter Samuel and Gabriel Milito able to quell the tide of England pressure. England are outplayed, outclassed and out of the competition. E-FabioÃ¢ÂÂs head has been superimposed onto a root vegetable and little effigies of the computerised John Terry are being strung up across the East End.
So, if this simulation is anything to go by, England look set to go out with a whimper at the quarter-final stage, just like they had done four years previously, and in five World Cups prior to that. It might not be the most encouraging simulation ever Ã¢ÂÂ but you canÃ¢ÂÂt deny itÃ¢ÂÂs believable. How the Rest of The Tournament Panned Out
The biggest casualties of the group stage were Germany, who on the verge of finishing second in Group D, before a late Asamoah Gyan goal saw them lose 1-0 to Ghana and crash out of the competition.Ã¢ÂÂ¨
The last sixteen saw Spain beat Brazil 1-0, Portugal overcome Chile and penalty shoot-out wins for Slovenia and Italy against Denmark and Holland respectively.Ã¢ÂÂ¨In the quarter-finals, Ghana came from behind to beat France after extra-time, Portugal knocked out surprise packages, Slovenia, and Italy won a thrilling encounter against Spain 4-3.Ã¢ÂÂ¨
GhanaÃ¢ÂÂs dream died in the semi-finals with a 2-0 defeat to Italy, while Argentina battled to an extra-time win over Portugal.Ã¢ÂÂ¨ World Champions Italy faced EnglandÃ¢ÂÂs conquerors Argentina in the final, where a first half Alberto Gilardino goal was enough to give Italy a typically tight 1-0 victory.Player of the Tournament
Davide Santon, ItalyThe Inter Milan right back didn't make Italy's squad for the so-called 'real' World Cup, but announced himself onto the world stage with a string of brilliant performances for the eventual computerised winners. The most notable of which came in the final, where he managed to keep a leash on Lionel Messi (not literally Ã¢ÂÂ that would be weird and inappropriate).
Michael Essien, GhanaÃ¢ÂÂThe BisonÃ¢ÂÂ may be spending most of the next month sprawled across a sun lounger, but he was the star of the simulated African sideÃ¢ÂÂs unlikely (and unreal) run to the semis, scoring goals against Serbia and France. The Chelsea star probably also kicked a few people and smiled a lot.Liedson, PortugalThe Brazilian-born striker switched allegiances to Portugal earlier this season, and made up for lost time, winning the Golden Boot after scoring eight goals. Two of those came against the country of his birth, which could lead to an awkward atmosphere next time he pops back to his parents' place for tea and to get his washing done by mumsy.Classic MatchesPortugal 7-2 North KoreaLiedson and Cristiano Ronaldo both grab hat-tricks as Portugal hammer the gallant North Koreans Ã¢ÂÂ who would probably have just been happy to have scored twice, were it not for the fear of impending Ã¢ÂÂdisciplinary actionÃ¢ÂÂ back home. Gulp.France 3-2 NigeriaThe Super Eagles have France boss Raymond Domenech sweating again, before Thierry Henry grabs a late winner Ã¢ÂÂ presumably with his hand, or possibly some kind of stick.Italy 4-3 SpainWe know what youÃ¢ÂÂre thinking Ã¢ÂÂ the AzzuriÃ¢ÂÂs results usually read like binary code, and there seems little chance theyÃ¢ÂÂd win in such a fashion. Maybe Marcelo Lippi had his team sheet back to front...
ShocksHondurasÃ¢ÂÂ 2-1 victory over Spain in the second round of matches blew Group H wide open, with SpursÃ¢ÂÂ midfielder Wilson Palacios scoring a 67th minute winner against the European champions. It's hard not to imagine Cesc Fabregas sobbing like a small child whoÃ¢ÂÂs lost his teddy.Brazil blew a 2-0 lead against lowly North Korea, with Nigel Pearson look-a-like Lucio giving away a last minute penalty, and picking himself up a red card for his troubles. Striker Choe Kum-Chol slotted the spot-kick past Julio Cesar, and earned a famous draw for the side ranked over 80 places below the five time world champions in FIFAÃ¢ÂÂs rankings. At least the Brazilian press canÃ¢ÂÂt complain it wasnÃ¢ÂÂt entertaining...Ghana were surprise winners of Group D Ã¢ÂÂ sÃ¢ÂÂthe Group of DeathÃ¢ÂÂ (human casualties: zero), after beating Germany 1-0 in their final group match. A late goal from curiously old looking Rennes forward Asamoah Gyan was enough to dump the 2002 finalists out of the competition.