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FM21: Interesting Nations to Manage

13 January, 2021
14 January, 2021
8 min read

International management on Football Manager can be very polarizing. It's not an area of the game that Sports Interactive have changed much over the years, which for some is off-putting, but for a more casual player or somebody who has achieved everything they can at club level it can be an interesting challenge. After all, a World Cup win will always look handy on a virtual CV!

Of course you could manage any of the world's major nations and set about global domination, but scratch just slightly below the surface and there are plenty of nations full of talent, just looking for a hero to lead them.

In this article I've picked out 7 nations that I think are interesting challenges.

Canada

Continent: North America
World Ranking: 75th
Top Players: Atiba Hutchinson, Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Scott Arfield, Cyle Larin, Stephen Eustáquio.

Canada are a country that have struggled to make any kind of impact on the footballing world, only ever reaching one World Cup back in 1986, losing every game without scoring. They've had more success on their own continent, winning the Gold Cup twice, in 1985 and 2000, but have struggled since and last reached the semi-finals back in 2007.

The current squad has a lot of talent, most notably Bayern sensation Alphonso Davies, but he's ably supported by Jonathan David, Liam Millar and Stephen Eustáquio plus the more experienced heads of Junior Hoilett, Scott Arfield and Atiba Hutchinson.

The immediate aim for Canada is to use their developing talent to challenge for Gold Cup titles again, while also working towards qualifying for the World Cup on a regular basis and starting to make an impact.

Costa Rica

Continent: North America
World Ranking: 46th
Top Players: Keylor Navas, Bryan Ruíz, Joel Campbell, Oscar Duarte, Celso Borges, Álvaro Saborío

Costa Rica took a long time to qualify for a World Cup, failing with every attempt between 1958 and 1986, a run of 8 unsuccessful qualifying campaigns. They finally qualified for a World Cup in 1990 and reached the round of 16, and have qualified for 4 more tournaments since. Their most famous performance came in 2014 where they topped a 'group of death' containing Italy, Uruguay and England, all former competition winners, en route to the quarter-finals.

Los Ticos have won the Gold Cup three times, albeit in it's earlier form as the CONCACAF Championship, in 1963, 1969 and 1989. Since it's reformation as the Gold Cup we know now, their best finish is as runner-up in 2002.

Costa Rica have a decent side with some recognizable names, led by world-class goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Joel Campbell, Bryan Ruíz and Christian Gamboa will be known to most, too.

The aim first and foremost has to be a Gold Cup win to break the drought before some of the older heads retire, but matching or even exceeding that quarter-final run at the World Cup could be achievable in the not too distant future with a fortunate draw.

Venezuela

Continent: South America
World Ranking: 37th
Top Players: Salomón Rondón, Yangel Herrera, Roberto Rosales, Tomás Rincón, Darwin Machís, Josef Martínez

Venezuela are the least successful side in today's list despite having some extremely talented players in their history, especially since the early 2000's, mainly due to the strength of the other South American nations. They didn't participate in World Cup qualification until 1966, and as of yet are the only South American side to have never qualified for the tournament. It took the nation until 2002 to win more than one match in a qualifying campaign, and have never won more games than they've lost in a campaign.

It took until 1967 for Venezuela to enter the Copa América, finishing fifth at their first tournament, which remained their best ever finish until 2011 when they reached the semi-finals, losing to Paraguay on penalties. In 2019 Venezuela reached 25th in the world rankings, the highest ever for a nation that has never played at the World Cup. Despite a lack of success at senior level, the Venezuelan U20s won the World Cup for their age group in 2017, highlighting the potential of the nation's youngsters.

The aim for anybody willing to take the challenge has to be to get Venezuela to a World Cup. Players like Yangel Herrera, Wuilker Fariñez, Adalberto Peñaranda are all young, hungry and full of potential, add in established stars like Josef Martinez and Salomón Rondón and they could be real dark horses. Somebody needs to get them there first, though.

South Korea

Continent: Asia
World Ranking: 29th
Top Players: Son Heung-Min, Lee Kang-In, Hwang Hee-Chan, Paik Seung-Ho, Jung Jo-Gook, Ji Dong-Won

South Korea are the most successful side in Asian football history, having qualified for more World Cups than any other nation with 10. They first qualified in 1954, losing both games, and then didn't make the tournament again until 1986, but since then have qualified on 9 consecutive occasions. Their most memorable run was back in 2002, where managed by Guus Hiddink they shocked the world by not only winning their first World Cup game, but reaching the semi-finals, defeating Portugal, Italy and Spain in the process. The controversy that surrounded that run is too in depth to cover here, but I'd recommend reading HERE to learn more.

Closer to home they have won the Asian Cup twice, although not since 1960, and won the Asian Games in 1970, 1978, and 1986 before it became an U23 tournament in 2002.

South Korea, led by Spurs wide man Son Heung-Min, have a talented squad with younger players such as Lee Kang-In, Kim Min-Jae and Hwang Hee-Chan able to be mainstays in the squad for years.

Winning the Asian Cup should be a priority and quite plausible with the talent at hand, despite the strength of other Asian nations such as Japan, Australia and the emerging Qatar.

Turkey

Continent: Europe
World Ranking: =31st
Top Players: Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Merih Demiral, Uğurcan Çakır, Arda Turan, Gökhan Gönül, Dorukhan Toköz

Turkey have a reputation for being a good side with some very good players, but have been deceptively poor at qualifying for major tournaments, only reaching two World Cup's and five European Championships, including the postponed 2020 tournament.

Turkey first played in the World Cup in 1954, getting knocked out in the group stage, but didn't reach the tournament again until 2002, where alongside South Korea they shocked the football world and reached the semi-finals, narrowly losing to Brazil. They did their country proud and managed to unite some of the most passionate rival fans in the world, but they haven't qualified again since.

They've had more success getting to the European Championships, first qualifying in 1996, and then again in 2000 where they reached the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time. Astonishingly though, after finishing third at the 2002 World Cup, they failed to qualify for Euro 2004, losing to minnows Latvia 3-2 over two legs. 2008 saw another qualification and a marked improvement, finishing third in the tournament, courtesy of a 90th minute Philipp Lahm goal to seal a 3-2 win for Germany.

Should you fancy the challenge, the next step is to take a talented Turkey side to Euro 2020 (2021 now, I guess?) and try to match their semi-finals feat of 2008. After that? Get them to another World Cup, they deserve it.

Ivory Coast

Continent: Africa
World Ranking: =60th
Top Players: Franck Kessié, Jeremie Boga, Gervinho, Nicolas Pépé, Wilfried Zaha, Eric Bailly

Ivory Coast are a nation that arguably had their best ever side as recently as the mid 2000's, as between 2006 and 2014 they qualified for the World Cup for the first and only three times in their history, boasting a squad including stars like the Touré brothers, Dider Drogba, Emmanuel Eboué, Gervinho, Salomon Kalou and others. Despite never getting past the group stage, they gave a good showing on every occasion and were considered for a while to be the best side in Africa.

They won their first of two AFCON trophies in 1992, with the other coming in 2015, just as their Golden Generation were starting to run out of chances.

As the generation of Drogba, the Tourés, Kalou and the like all retired, in their place have stepped Wilfried Zaha, Nicolas Pépé, Eric Bailly, Serge Aurier and other talented players who should give the nation, and any potential virtual managers out there, cause to be optimistic for the future.

Norway

Continent: Europe
World Ranking: 43rd
Top Players: Erling Haaland, Martin Ødegaard, Rune Jarstein, Sander Berge, Pål Erik Ulvestad, Jonas Svensson

Saving possibly the best until last, we have Norway, and the devastating talent of a certain Erling Braut Haaland.

Norway don't have a great record of qualifying for major tournaments, only ever reaching 3 World Cups and a single European Championship. They lost their only game at the 1938 World Cup and had to wait a painful 56 years to try again, failing to make it out of the group stage in 1994 on goal difference. They made it out of the groups in 1998 before losing to Italy, and then qualified for their only Euro's campaign in 2000, again losing in the groups. Despite the results, qualifying itself was considered a great achievement, and the mid 90's is considered the most successful period of Norway's history, even managing to climb to second in the world rankings at one point.

With not many achievements to surpass, a squad containing the mercurial Haaland, surely a future Ballon d'Or winner, should provide the basis to take Norway to new heights. He's not alone either, as he has able support in Ødegaard, Jens Petter Hauge, Kristoffer Ajer, Sander Berge and Alexander Sørloth, all aged 24 or younger.


So those are my 7 picks as interesting national challenges to take on in Football Manager 2021!

For those of you who don't know me, I'm Adam and this is my first article for FM Base! If you do decide to take on any of the challenges from today's post, I'd love to hear about it on Twitter and if you'd like you can also check out my personal blog where I have a save going in Uruguay, I've left links to both down below.

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