Belmondo Diary

Belmondo October 2019

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TUESDAY October 2nd, 2019

I sense a problem coming up this week. N.E.C. plays Inter in Italy tomorrow. The U.S. plays Guatemala in Canada on Friday. N.E.C. plays AZ at home on Sunday. The U.S. plays Canada in Canada on Sunday.

Sunday looks like a complicated day.

I finish my game in Nijmegen at 4:30pm and the Canadian game starts at 7:30pm in Vancouver. It takes about two hours to get to Schiphol and I need at least an hour to check in. So that puts me on a plane at 10:30am Vancouver time. That flight takes about 10 hours. Clearly I need someone to book a private plane. Or I could just manage the U-23 team via Skype…

THURSDAY October 3rd, 2019

Game day. Inter v N.E.C. Europa League Group D.

I’ve finally managed to find a proper pizza in Italy. How many years have I been coming here? My friends back home can’t believe the Italians haven’t worked out to make a Domino’s. I guess having the world headquarters up the road has spoiled us.

The first half was terrible. Nothing worth noting. I mean, the guys played well away from home against one of Europe’s greatest teams, but we didn’t score. And that’s why we play the game.

The second half brought some shots. In the end, we had four each on target. Their shot in the 88th was the closest to converting. It bounced off the crossbar and up, way up, into the air. Kian Hansen headed it out of play, thankfully. And so, we got a point away from home. Four points in the first two games is a good start.

The U.S. Federation has promised me they’ll organise all of the flying, so I don’t need to worry. I am going to have to take plenty of sleeping tablets with me on numerous planes in the next few days.

FRIDAY October 4th, 2019

Game day. U.S.A U23 v Guatemala U23. Olympic Qualifying (NAM) Group B.

I’m here in London. Ontario, not England. I got off the plane and straight into meet with the team before the game. Brooks Lennon looked as good as I felt. He had to start though. He’s the only player I recognised. Thankfully the team shirts had names on them.

I created a 4-1-5 for this squad. I only had one central midfielder, so I had few options. It’s an attacking option, but the U.S. is the most offensive country in the world, we might as well play our soccer that way too. I made Josh Hernandez the captain. He’s tall and red-headed – easy to spot when I need someone to yell at. Quite handy considering the other centre back is also called Hernandez.

We got our first shot on target in the second minute. Not bad. A man named Griswold scored for us in the 15th. His name isn’t Clark, but obviously that’s what I called him. None of my U23s understood. Uncultured buffoons.

Brooks scored a penalty in the 27th. I will definitely trying to buy this guy at the end of the season. He’s playing in France, so I can only assume he’d be desperate to get out of there.

We kept scoring. Four goals before the half. I would write more, but there’s no way I’m going to remember any of these guys for long. Once we win the Olympics I’ll be moving onto a bigger job. The names aren’t worth talking about.

For my half time talk, I just started a U.S.A! chant. It worked – all the boys joined in. I took Brooks off in case I needed him to be healthy for a future game. The guy who replaced him scored another two and we won 6-0. Standard.

SATURDAY October 5th, 2019

I don’t actually know if it’s Saturday. It probably is. I’m writing this after barely keeping the plane’s chicken meal down. The federation spared every expense on this flight. They promised me the Sunday flights will be much better. I can’t believe I’m sitting in coach after a 6-0 win. Surely this won’t happen again. It was just a hazing thing, right? The guy sitting next to me doesn’t even know he’s rubbing elbows (literally and annoyingly) with a world-renowned manager. Basically royalty. Oh the stories he could tell his friends.

SUNDAY October 6th, 2019

Game day (Part 1). N.E.C. v AZ.

Slept okay all things considered. Up for a late breakfast before the AZ game. The boys welcomed me home and told me how proud they were of my 6-0 result. Obviously. But it’s nice to actually hear the praise sometimes.

The game kicked off when Zorba pounced on a loose ball in the box and struck it with supreme power. I honestly never expected a Greek player to be this good and especially not an attacking player. Trujillo narrowly missed a second goal with a goalpost clanger. Thankfully Lemar scored a screamer of a free kick just before the end of the half. 2-0 at the half is always nice.

Trujillo made it 3-0 half way through the second half. It was a tap-in courtesy of a Fetfatzidis cross. Some good defensive work kept AZ scoreless just after the 70th minute. A few attempts were rebuffed brilliantly. The team is just singing lately. And just when I thought the game couldn’t have anything more, the crowd was treated to another Vegemite Sandwich celebration as Fogarty crossed to a darting Sekkers. Their victim (filling) this time? Bastian Schweinsteiger. The German has never looked less happy.

AZ scored two goals in the last ten minutes as my team turned off with a four goal lead. Fair enough. I had to leave before the end of the match anyway – my plane was waiting.

Game day (Part 2). Canada U23 v U.S.A U23. Olympic Qualifying (NAM) Group B.

Just made it to Vancouver in time. Gave the boys a nod as they headed out on to the pitch. I emailed the team sheet over while I was sipping champagne on the chartered plane. The chair I was in actually folded down completely into a bed. Amazing.

Brooks started again, despite being nowhere near fit. He didn’t need to be very fit to score in the first minute, though. We got a second in the eleventh as a shot bounced off the keeper’s ass and into the net. We got a third goal courtesy of Clark Griswold in the 33rd and I took Brooks off to rest.

Canada had the gall to actually score against us just after the second half started. I blame the Tottenham player in my side, Carter-Vickers. I only found out he played for Tottenham during the game. I don’t think I’ll start him again. I hate that team.

We scored three more goals in the second half to secure a second six-goal haul in a row. Is international management supposed to be difficult?

I get to stick around in Canada for a while now. If we keep winning, we’ve got another nine days. If. Ha.

TUESDAY October 15th, 2019

Game day. U.S.A U23 v Mexico U23. Olympic Qualifiers (NAM) Final.

After winning 3-0 and 8-1 we made it to the final with an aggregate score of 23-2. Not bad. I don’t really know how this qualifying things works. Surely more than one team from North America plays in the Olympics. Either way, this was not a game I was going to lose. Mexico are our big rivals.

Brooks Lennon started again, of course. He had to. Not that I was too worried considering our lead up games.

The game started with a great save from their keeper. Point blank shot from Overgard. The ensuing corner from Brooks was useless, but he’s tired. Can’t blame him. Well, I mean, I did blame him, but I imagine most observers wouldn’t blame him.

In the 30th minute, we scored. Koreniuk pounced on a rebound and shot wide of a prostrate keeper. Mexico had a pair of chances in the last minutes of the first half, but one fast break was chased down and then the shot from the ensuing corner hit the bar and deflected away. At half time, I asked the guys where the next five goals were going to come from.

Nowhere. I doubt ESPN would be able to even find anything worth showing in a highlight package from the second half. So, we won 1-0 and I guess that means we qualify for the Olympics in August in Japan. Job done. There didn’t seem to be a trophy, but I assume that comes later.

THURSDAY October 17th, 2019

Today, I signed an out of contract Brazilian named Valdívia who used to play in Brazil. He’s not actually named Valdívia, of course. His name is Wanderson Ferreira de Oliveira. I might just call him the Wanderer because Valdívia sounds like a luxuriant shampoo. He’s an attacking central midfielder, which we definitely don’t need more of. However, he is already the best player in the squad and apparently worth $20 million! Diarra is my next most valuable with a $7 million estimation. So, that’s probably (definitely) the best bit of business ever done by N.E.C. You’re welcome.

FRIDAY October 18th, 2019

Game day. N.E.C. v Vitesse.

I brought The Wanderer straight into the team and stuck him next to Diarra. High hopes… The regular boys know how serious this game is. Vitesse are not to be allowed to ever feel superior to us again. Not even for a few days.

Lemar got a shot off within the first minute, but it was straight to keeper. In the 15th minute, Vitesse’s attacking players showed off some silky moves that left my defenders a bit embarrassed. Thankfully, Van der Hart was up the task, parrying the shot. He’s really made a difference this season. It’s amazing what a good keeper can do.

Another fifteen minutes later, Trujillo twisted and turned to take a shot that nearly broke their keeper’s fingers and then also bounced out off the post. We couldn’t buy a goal. Not that I’d ever try that. Players don’t take bribes in soccer, right?

The half ended with a goalless draw. I reminded the players about the importance of this game. I thought that was going to be unnecessary, but apparently not.

The boys went out suitably serious. But as this always goes, they conceded three minutes later. Seriously, I am about to lose it with these guys. We’ve got a league title to win here and they don’t seem to get how important this is. To my career.

The goal was scored by Van Neelst – his first ever for Vitesse. That seems to always happen to me as well – we’re great providers of ego boosts to players who have never scored before. AND he’s a right back!

We were still behind at the 70 minute mark, so I changed to the American tactic in the hope we could come back. It worked for a bunch of no hopers in the U23 team, maybe our rag tag Dutch pretenders could be coaxed into scoring a goal or two.

San Francisco Jackson was the sole midfielder while Zorba, the Wanderer, Lemar, Trujillo, and Shrek went into the attacking positions. And it worked. Duh. Rooney got the ball just outside the box and drew five defenders to him. Five! He sent the ball out to the side, then Lemar hit it to Trujillo who was standing unmarked five feet from the keeper. More please!

The second goal came with six seconds left in regular time. It was a true scramble on the goal line as about ten players all tried to get the ball either in or out. “In” won the day.

And so, our fans are overjoyed with the exciting finish. The players are thrilled that they pulled it out. I am furious. But hiding it well.

THURSDAY October 24th, 2019

Game day. N.E.C. v Lokomotiv Moscow. Europa League Group D.

We got twice as many shots, twice as many on goal, and 12% more of the possession. They got twice as many fouls and twice as many yellow cards, and 10000% more calls their way. The game ended 0-0.

SUNDAY October 27th, 2019

Game day. N.E.C. v SC Cambuur.

We got twice as many shots, six times as many shots on goal, and 18% more of the possession. They got three times as many fouls and twice as many yellow cards. But this time the ref hadn’t been bought off by Russian mafia, so we actually won 1-0. One. Nil. What is going on? We’ve got the best team in our history and are struggling. One bright spot is Thomas Lemar who keeps winning man of the match awards. A pity that he’s only on loan.

THURSDAY October 31st, 2019

Game day. N.E.C. v FC Den Bosch. Dutch Cup 3rd Round.

Our fifth home game in a row. That’s an unusually kind turn of luck. I left a lot of the normal starters out for this game because they clearly need a break after a long month. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Schweinsteiger got a rare start and took advantage of it. Not that his performance against a minnow team is going to get him more game time. Let’s be serious. Nevertheless, it was a good game by all involved. We scored five goals, which is refreshing. Rooney and Uth both scored, which I hope means good things in the future for them.

And that’s how I spent my Halloween. Most of it anyway. In lieu of handing out (or getting) candy, I bought four packs of stroopwafels and gorged while writing up the recap. Bring on November.

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