I'm excited today as I have done something I have only ever done twice before in eleven years of playing the Championship Manager series; I have won the World Cup.
After years as manager of AC Milan including two Champions League titles, I was invited to take over the reins of the Italian national side. Consecutive 3-0 friendly wins put the side in good form for the tournament, and then I sprung a surprise by selecting an uncapped keeper for the opening match.
The form in the group stage was poor - a 0-0 draw against Spain was followed by a narrow 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia. A draw was enough in the final game and a 0-0 stalemate with the Ivory Coast secured qualification.
A confident 3-1 win over a talented French side and a straightforward 3-1 victory over the Uruguayans led to a semi-final showdown with Colombia. The first half was a cat and mouse affair and the sides went in 0-0 at the interval. However, a change in attacking focus and a team growing in belief brushed aside the South Americans in the second half recording a one-sided 4-0 victory with two goals from Antonino Lazzari.
The other semi-final saw the Czech Republic beat England on penalties (art imitating life) and so an all European final would decide the fate of the 2018 World Cup. I stuck with my trusted "first choice" eleven that had served me so well.
1. Paolo Ferri (Messina)
2. Antonio Barbieri (AC Milan)
3. Gaetano Oliva (Juventus) - captain
4. Guiseppe Palermo (Juventus)
5. Guiseppe Maffei (Manchester City)
6. Matteo Messina (Arsenal)
7. Paolo Milani (Middlesbrough)
8. Antonino Lazzari (Atalanta)
9. Michele Catalano (Arsenal)
10. Massimiliano Bruno (Brescia)
11. Arturo Lupoli (Newcastle Utd)
18. Christian Corvino (Lazio) for 7. Milani
19. Davide Catalano (Juventus) for 10. Bruno
20. Gennaro Franceschini (Atalanta) for 11. Lupoli
For an hour, it was a close affair with Italy slightly on top. On 63 minutes, Arturo Lupoli ran onto Catalano's excellent through ball, rounded Petr Cech and put Italy ahead. In an attempt to close out a win, I threw on three subs with ten minutes to go, but an injury time from Czech winger Petr Zavadil sent the tie into extra time. Neither side could find a winner and 1-1 was how it ended.
A nail-biting penalty shootout saw both teams score their first effort, before an amazing seven consecutive misses. It was left to Arsenal midfielder Michele Catalano to sidefoot an effort past Cech and to secure a 2-1 shootout win for the Italians, and a fifth World title.
The Italian FA were quick and lavish in their praise for me, as I joined the hall of fame of legendary Italian managers. And all that with only one of my "own" Milan players and half a starting eleven playing their football in the Premier League. That how it's going to be in a decade, you think....?