Things are getting pretty serious in season 2020 of my ongoing career in Master League on PES2008. That’s the PS2/PSP version of PES2008—I always like to reiterate this fact in case any new visitors read that I’m playing PES2008 and assume that I mean the so-called next-gen version. I definitely don’t mean that version. I wouldn’t play that version ever again if it was literally the last football game on earth.
In my opinion, Pro Evolution Soccer jumped the shark (or nuked the fridge) with the PS3/360/PC version of PES2008. Whether the version was a genuine mistake—rushed out prematurely due to commercial pressures—or a deliberate, fateful foray into the ‘yoof’ market, remains to be seen. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see a great version of PES on the next-gen consoles for another year or two, but I’m just an old cynic.
In the mid-season negotiations I picked up a third goalkeeper from the Youth list. I got Petr Cech as a 17-year-old Regen, for a nominal yearly salary. Partway through this current season, Frederiksson was called up for international duty, leaving me with just Buffon to play in every game. In a couple of games I had to play him with half of his stamina bar gone. Then Frederiksson returned with half of his stamina bar gone, so it was an awkward situation all round. I conceded a couple of bad goals during this fiasco.
Having a third goalkeeper in my squad would have resolved the problem, but I didn’t have one. Well, I’ve got one now—and what a good one. Cech should be the top keeper in the game when he gets to his mid-20s. I’ve bought him specifically to fill in whenever my senior keepers have to do international duty, but I’ll play him for the odd game here and there anyway.
My squad is starting to feel a little bloated again. A few seasons ago I trimmed it down to 26 players, but it’s started creeping up once more. I’ll be having a long hard look at several of my squad in the off-season, and doing some pruning.
Along with going for the usual Treble of League, Cup, European Cup, I’m also trying for a couple of other lofty targets. I want to remain unbeaten in the League, and I want to concede less than 20 goals whilst doing so.
I’ve come close for the past few seasons, but this season I feel it’s ON. I’m way, way out in front at the top of the league with 17 games played. I’m still in both Cup competitons. All of that is important, but I’ll confess to having been caught up by the excitement of maintaining my unbeaten run, and of conceding as few goals as possible.
There was some business to take care of in Europe. I made the crass mistake of taking an early game in my European Cup qualifying group lightly, which I lost, thus endangering my qualification for the knockout stages. It was Galatasaray whom I took lightly, back in game 2. When will I ever learn? Nearly 10 years I’ve been playing PES/ISS, and I still get caught out by the CPU when I least expect it. This is a good thing, I think.
Happily I beat Galatasaray 2-0 in our return fixture to make my qualification assured. It’s a relief and a great weight off my mind. As every seasoned Master League player who’s going for a Treble knows all too well, the European qualifying groups can be a minefield. It can be so, so easy to lose a game and get eliminated too early. All’s well that ends well, though.
I was cheered up, briefly. Sadly, what happened next was one of the single most disappointing things that has ever happened to me in almost a decade of playing PES/ISS games. I am not exaggerating.
I lost game 17 in the League. Valencia wielded the knife and plunged it in. They beat me 2-1. It hurt.
I was actually more disappointed by this than I have been about any single game in this Master League so far. I can’t even blame scripting, really. It was my own stupid fault. My grasp exceeded my reach. My eyes were bigger than my belly. Worse things really did happen at sea…
I knew it was a dangerous fixture before it started. Valencia have consistently been my most dangerous opponents for just about all of this ML career. (I almost cannot wait for the probable emergence of another great team in the seasons to come. My money’s on it being Barcelona. Real Madid are actually getting worse, season after season. This year they’re down in mid-table.)
Against Valencia I went 1-0 up and thought: Ah-ha, that’s it… I got complacent, and conceded a dumb equaliser whilst pushing for a second killer goal. A Valencia striker broke through my defence a long way out. I charged my keeper towards him, and the Valencia player simply lobbed me from 25 yards. It was a great goal of the kind you rarely see from the CPU.
1-1, and in retrospect I should have just settled for that, shut up shop, maybe grabbed a winner for myself on the break. But no, I carried on attacking. I was full of myself, thinking I was invincible, that all I had to do was want to score a winner enough for it to become reality. The success of my season so far made me think I’m a much better player than I really am.
Valencia broke through on my goal again. This time I wasn’t risking it, and cynically chopped down their striker with Roberto Carlos. It was a justified straight red card. Even then I still could, and should, have held on for the draw, and preserved my unbeaten record.
I should have subbed one of my three CFs and brought on Chivu to slot in at left back, and gone to a 4-3-2. But instead of doing the logical thing, I had a moment of madness. I believed I could win the game with 10 men using a 3-3-3 formation. I was asking for trouble, and got it.
I started attacking, and had some good possession but couldn’t get through. I’d left myself wide open for a sucker-punch, which wasn’t long in coming. Valencia seemed to gleefully walk the ball through what remained of my defence, and into the net. 1-2 down with several minutes left, I could see the unbeaten record flashing before my eyes. How could I have been so careless?
I really tried everything to get the goal back that would have secured an undeserved draw. But it wasn’t to be. When the final whistle went I was – what was I? What’s the word? GUTTED. That’s the word.