Tag: European Cup (ECC)

The True End of Summer

PES2012 is no more. It has ceased to be. As of right now (well, sometime yesterday morning, actually) I am a former PES2012 player.

Season 18 of my Master League career, playing as a made-up Coventry City in a bogus Premier League, has finally come to a close. With it has ended one of the most extraordinary PES gaming years of my long football gaming life.

The best ever? Possibly, just possibly. Or perhaps not. I don’t know. I’ll do a proper retrospective-with-perspective sometime in September. I always do an end-of-year review on the blog. This year will be no exception. It should be an interesting one.

Season 18 turned out to be quite a ride.

After a terrible opening third of the league season, I had clawed my way back up to a position where I was just 9 points behind the leaders. Master League traditionally is very generous to its human teams. The CPU teams tend to lose and draw just enough of the time to keep things interesting.

And so it proved. Here is the table after 28 matches:

Yup, after being pretty much out of it earlier this season, I was now right back in it. With loads of matches remaining.

I fancied my chances, needless to say.

I lost one and drew two of my remaining 10 matches. Sadly, that one defeat was to Manchester City, at home. It was a six-pointer that I knew I had to win. They walloped me 1-4. Considering I was 0-4 down after 25 minutes(!), I felt lucky to get off lightly.

Manchester City drew one and won eight of their outstanding matches.

So I missed out on a final League title, but I was proud of my team’s form in the second part of the campaign. It would have been title-winning form in any other season.

Here’s the final table:

I loved my goal-scoring too. 92 is my best tally for a while. I really found my shooting boots this season.

In the FA Cup, I got to the Final. Where I met… Manchester City.

I started the match really well, thanks in part to having the kick-off. That always helps. I controlled the game for the entire first half, having about 10 shots, many on-target. I think Man City had one feeble effort. It was a world away from their recent shellacking of me in the league.

Straight from their second half kick-off, they scored. Sigh. Never mind. I had the whole half left to get the equaliser and then the winner, right?

Nope. The match ended 1-0 to Manchester City.

That’s them wearing sky blue in the picture. I was in my black away kit for this one.

So. No League and no FA Cup for me.

The Champions League was my sole chance of silverware in my last ever season on PES2012.

I battled my way to the final, easing past AC Milan in the quarters by 2-0 on aggregate. FC Lorient were my semi-final opponents—predictably, the toughest nut to crack yet. I squeezed past them 2-2 on aggregate, with away goals helping me out.

Real Madrid were the Champions League Final opponents. Yes, the picture at the top of the post kind of gives it all away. I WON. My last ever match on PES2012 ended in me winning the only tournament that I’d yet to win on Superstar. Not the Treble, nor even any kind of Double, but a satisfying sense of closure nevertheless.

The game itself wasn’t at all memorable. Very few such Finals actually are, so in this respect PES is totally realistic.

I was annoyed not to see a proper trophy presentation. (Or did I press through it?)

And so to the post-match, post-season, post-PES2012 wrapping up.

The FA Cup team of the year was packed with my players:

As was the League team of the year:

Forlan and Rooney did very well this season, getting a good chunk of my goal tally between them:

Before I quit PES2012 for the very last time, there was one other bit of business I had to deal with in the Main Menu.

I went along to Track Record, and checked my vital statistics.

994 matches played. Some people would deliberately play another 6 matches just to get it up to the magic 1000 mark. But not me. I’ve really had enough of PES2012 now. I don’t even want to play one more match.

In another Track Record screen I discovered that I’ve had just 13 penalties across all 994 matches. That’s not good at all for a game that aspires to simulate the game it’s based on.

Here’s the screen that really counts—the true tale of the tape:

430 hours played. 421 of those hours on Master League.

(Not even a single minute of playing squeeze-yer-controller online. Tee-hee!)

PES2013 has got a tough act to follow. For now, I will move onto other things—other football games, and other games. PES2012 is firmly in the rearview mirror.

Class of 2012—dismissed.

Aggregate aggravation

After qualifying from my Champions League group pretty easily, I was drawn against Sporting in the first knockout round. This filled me with some dread. On Superstar difficulty, the Champions League mode is absolutely brutal and unforgiving of even the slightest lapse.

So when I lost 3-0, away, in the first leg, it seemed as if I was out. I hadn’t even grabbed an away goal, which would have given me some sort of hope. Away goals are like gold-dust in Master League European tournaments, as in real life.

For the return leg, I cultivated one of my special PES feelings. You know, that certain glow before a big game where you face a tough opponent and/or impossible odds and/or a juicy prize awaiting? The feeling that you’re going to take this game by the horns and by the scruff of the neck, and damn well impose yourself on it.

I licked mental lips and set up my team. My gameplan was simple. Go all-out from the first whistle, 5-bar attacking, and get an early goal. My minimum requirement was to be 1-0 up by half-time. I’d back myself to get two in the second half and take things to extra time.

I played with four up front—two CFs with a flanking SS on either side—and an advanced AMF just behind them. One solitary DMF and my back four were going to have an important role.

My players seemed up for it! From the first whistle they felt responsive, nimble, aggressive, skilful—everything you could want your team to be. It was a ‘good’ night on the pitch, clearly. I got my goal after 20 game minutes. A nice Forlan header. I punched the air. Game on.

1-0 to me on the night, but I was still 1-3 down on aggregate. I was still playing catchup. And here’s where it all went badly, horribly wrong.

The CPU team had no idea that it was still leading on aggregate. Sporting switched instantly into hyper-aggression mode. And my team were more or less switched off.

Suddenly my players couldn’t run, pass, trap a ball, cross, or shoot. It was total and blatant handicapping. I adjusted my formation to a more moderate, defensive one, trying to prevent the drearily inevitable.

From the time I scored my goal until half-time, it was almost total possession from Sporting. They were forcing the goal. You can feel it. You know what the CPU is doing, what it’s aiming for, what it’s going to get.

Just before halftime, the killer Sporting away goal went in. And it was bullshit. A CPU striker squirmed through, evading five solid challenges and one last-ditch vicious scything tackle that he just ran though as if it wasn’t even there.

1-1, and now I needed to score 5. It didn’t happen.

My team and players had been handling wonderfully, as free-flowing and intuitive as I’ve ever known them. Until I scored. Until I scored! That triggered a typical PES CPU response script that should never have been triggered, because I was actually still behind.

After all these years, PES still can’t manage to model the behaviour appropriate in matches where aggregate scorelines are a factor.

I took the defeat well. Season 17 is winding to a close anyway. In league title race news, I lost another game. Against Millwall, in the last minute. I had 14 shots on goal, Millwall had 2. They scored one of them. I scored none.

Which gives Manchester United a 6-point cushion with only 8 matches remaining. I’ve already played them twice, so there’s no 6-pointers. Season 17 might be ending trophyless. There’s almost certainly only one more season of PES2012 remaining. At least I know I will finish in the Champions League spots whatever happens. There will be one last crack at the Treble.

My Sibona

Do anything for long enough, and you’ll see some strange things in that thing. Lifelong sailors will tell you stories about waves that look like perfect glass pyramids. Train drivers often see mysterious will-o’-the-wisps floating alongside their cabins like benign UFOs.

PES players see crazy things too.

It was nil-nil in a tricky away tie against Celtic. They’re one of my ML world’s true minnow team, but like all minnow teams they can be damned hard to break down at times.

I was knocking the ball around, looking for a turn-and-shoot goal. I played the ball into Sibon, turned, shot, and scored.

Something about Sibon’s finish made me look closer—and I couldn’t believe what I saw.

Sibon is a big lumbering giant of a player. A fading 30-something in my current squad, who certainly should not be doing this:

That’s Sibon doing a Recoba, as I call them; or a Rabona, as the majority of the rest of the PESverse calls them. For those who can’t see the clip, it’s a trick move (some might call it a dick move) where the player’s stronger foot comes behind the weaker leg to dink the ball past the keeper.

It’s only my second ever Recoba/Rabona in PES.

In honour of this most unexpected one, I will be calling it the Sibona from now on, forever.

I was pretty much gobsmacked. 7 years since my last Sibona (with Recoba, in PES5), and now it comes with Sibon?

Never mind. It’s a computer game, and computer-gamey things happen in computer games.

League form is up and down. Man Utd lost another match, but I had a few draws (pure bullshit games, needless to say). Still playing catchup.

My goalscoring record is a touch disappointing this season. I suppose it’s a reflection of my diminishing involvement with the game. I still love PES2012 when I play it, but I play it for shorter sessions that are spaced more widely apart. I’m starting to loosen the ties that bind, clearly. My FIFA12 fortnight is not far off.

I came through strongly in the Champions League group after an iffy start, and eased through in top spot:

It wasn’t quite as comfortable as it looks. Going into the last match against Bayern, away, I was on 10 points and needed a draw. Only a thumping Bayern win would have cost me my place in the knockout phase. I won 1-0 with a stylish glancing diving header from Rooney in the second half.

I might only have one or two more seasons of PES2012 left in me, you know. The breaks are getting longer and the sessions shorter. Here at the tail-end of the footy game year, it’s great that the game can still surprise and amuse me, as the Sibona did in bucketloads.

Make mine a Single

Season 16 has ended. From an early stage, I felt I had a great chance of winning the Treble.

There was just something about the way my team clicked this season. I went on an extended unbeaten run in the League. I progressed relatively smoothly in the FA Cup and Champions League. I was defending well and scoring goals. There was magic in my team like never before.

And now the season is over—how did I do? Treble? Double? Single? Nothing?

Single. I won the League, and nothing else. The final table:

Tottenham inflicted a second league defeat of the season in my final match.

After spending most of the season top of the League, usually with a 6-point cushion, it was mine to lose. The game did its best to make me wobble me in the last few matches. I had to put up with a strange and very puzzling 2-2 draw at home to a superpowered West Ham.

Happily, my nearest challengers for the title, Arsenal, drew that week as well—and we were the Champions. Again.

Perrotta happened to be wearing the Captain’s armband when the final whistle went. That’s him pictured at the top, doing the post-match TV interview. Perrotta is 25 now in my ML world, and has slowly—very slowly—turned into arguably a better player than Farinos. And his PES2012 player model, with its hint of a Scouse moustache, always reminds me strongly of the Coventry City goalscoring legend, Micky Quinn (right).

The Best XI featured more players from my team than ever before.

My morale was a bit low by this late stage of the campaign. I’d already crashed out of the Champions League at the semi-final stage. Real Madrid were my executioners.

They led 1-0 after the first leg. I needed a storming second leg performance at my place, but somehow it was all weak and tentative.

In truth, I felt that PES2012 was strangling the life out of my team. I couldn’t get a thing going. Real scored midway through the first half and effectively ended it all right there. The away goal is such a powerul force in European football, and even more so in this digital representation of it.

I got a lucky goal back late in the second half, but I needed another two goals, pronto. I never got a sniff. Gutted.

And then I went and lost the FA Cup Final. Gutted x2.

My opponents, Sunderland, were one of the division’s lesser teams. I could and should have beaten them. But this is how the match happened—see if you recognise the scenario: they kicked off and scored a goal immediately. No matter what I did for the rest of the match, that’s how it ended. 1-0 to the CPU.

I really felt that the magic drained out of my team towards the end of this season. I was still playing the same way, with the same players. Perhaps the difficulty was scaling up and up as the trophies approached. Particularly in the Champions League.

I’ve still only won that competition once, on Professional, many seasons ago now. I wonder if I’ll ever win it on Superstar, or indeed if I’ll ever have a Treble chance as good as this season’s again.

Despite the disappointment of missing out on both Cups, it was a thoroughly enjoyable season. I anticipate more of the same next. As ever, the positive side of failure is that success will taste even sweeter. Bring on season 17.