Candelaria And Marquez national football team
|Nickname||The Big Blues|
|Most caps||Jacob Davies (106)|
|Top scorer||Danny Adams (57)|
|Highest KPB ranking||1st (After WC48)|
|First competitive international|
C&M 2 - 0 Vephrall
(Limassol Memorial, the Lowland Clans, BoF QFs)
|Largest competitive win|
C&M 6 - 0 Nationstates 4
(New Sausages Arena, Allemali,
World Cup 47 Qualifying, Matchday 11)
C&M 6 - 0 Albundania
(La Escalera Naranja, Onwere,
World Cup 50 Qualifying, Matchday 13)
Demot 6 - 0 C&M
(Barkham Park Stadium,
Parwood, Kura-Pelland, World Cup 38, Matchday 3)
|Highest scoring match|
C&M 8 - 2 Libertarian Governance
(Tristar Songstress Stadium, Albrecht,
World Cup 50 Qualifying, Matchday 11)
|Appearances||12 (First in World Cup 38)|
|Best result||Champions (World Cup 45, World Cup 49)|
|Cup of Harmony|
|Appearances||4 (First in Cup of Harmony 28)|
|Best result||Champions (Cup of Harmony 33)|
The Candelaria And Marquez national football team represents the Candelariasian republic at the World Cup and related events. Its affairs are controlled by the Candelaria And Marquez Association Football Association (the CAMAFA), which also runs the under-21 team and the C&M entries for non-mainstream events such as the Olympics and the Copa Rushmori.
C&M - or the 'Big Blues' - entered into competitive international football at the Baptism of Fire prior to World Cup 36, and have subsequently endured a bumpy run into the higher echelons of the sport. Qualifying for the World Cup finals on their third and fourth attempts, reaching the knock-out stages of the latter under admittedly fortunate circumstances; C&M were present at the following two Cups of Harmony – winning CoH 33 under Kris Healy before becoming consistent fixtures at the World Cup thereafter and firmly established inside the international top twenty.
With the arrival of manager Elgin Dannat the national team entered a whole new level of success, a surprise victory at the inaugural Vahala Invitational tournament preceding another run into the last sixteen as World Cup 44 co-hosts and winning their first World Cup title positioned just fifteenth in the KPB rankings.
Under Dannat’s eventual successor, Andy Le Lan, C&M would make the World Cup 48 final – losing to the Holy Empire but finishing the cycle as the multiverse’s top-ranked nation – before becoming one of a dozen national teams with multiply World Cup titles at the following tournament following a third encounter with the Holy Empire in as many finals.
The first cycle
As a former British colony, football in the Candelarias was always a hugely important sport and past-time, and a national team was first put together in the early twentieth century. The country's chances of further early development were damaged by the lack of genuine regional competition - with the team regularly hitting double figures in tours of the continent - and the lack of a professional and nationwide league structure. The idea of taking part in global competition was first seriously mooted in the 1950s, but the severe economic situation following the Civil War made the concept a non-starter.
A further difficulty was represented by the flow of Time within the Candelarias, a problem now rectified by the use of Time Dilation Devices. Though the effects of the exploitation of these creations are not always benign, they have at least had the effect of making it practical for the CAMAFA and CMSC to send their teams away to international events on a more-or-less equal footing to much of the rest of the world. In common with nations such as Cafundéu and Kura-Pelland, Candelariasian players and staff age approximately two years within a World Cup cycle, and a new Cup is therefore perceived to occur every twenty-four months.
With Mark Baker departing his post as Albrecht Turkish manager to take control of the newly formed national team, C&M first experienced extra-regional play at the notoriously weird Baptism of Fire 23. They finished second in their group with a 100% record, behind Daehanjeiguk on goal difference, and advanced into the last sixteen stage to face Vephrall. Given the unusual formats used in the group stage games, the CAMAFA and VFR both consider C&M's subsequent 2-0 victory to be both nations' first official match. The Big Blues were knocked out in the next stage by Daehanjeiguk, the eventual champions; loosing on penalties after a 3-3 draw.
Baker's side were placed in a difficult World Cup 36 qualifying group, facing three regular World Cup finals sides. A brief diplomatic tête-à-tête with eventual group winners Az-cz, serious racially-tinged rioting during a home encounter with Zwangzug and a 4-0 drubbing of Sorthern Northland were among the major features of the group, serving as a forewarning to the often controversial and, for C&M as a nation, uncharacteristically dramatic manner in which their international career would progress. Their subsequent Cup of Harmony ended in a defeat to the hosts Kura-Pelland in the first knock-out stage (C&M having avoided the repecharge round by winning their group), with their performance overshadowed by the disappearance of, accidental child abduction by, hostage situation involving, serious damage caused to a historical clock tower by, and subsequent imprisonment of, the right-back Lan Albret. Albret later vanished entirely and has not been heard of since - an act repeated years later by the anarchist dissident and left-back Lorenzo De Wilde.
Baker to Garcia
C&M's record improved during World Cup 37 qualifying, with impressive victories against Qazox and Yafor 2 secured, but the most notable feature was their remarkable tight defence. Marshalled by the Albrecht FC centre-half pair of Benji Fu and Sam Young, the Big Blues let in just nine goals - with only Bettia conceding less during the whole of qualifying. With more reliable goalscoring they might well have qualified with ease, but the strike force struggled during the crossover period between Steven Fritz and Ignacio Vélez. Wasteful draws against lowly opposition saw them finish two points behind Jeruselem in third, and face Dance 2 Revolution in a two-legged play-off, which ended in a disappointing defeat. The team subsequently failed to lose a single match in the CoH that followed, but were given a taste of their own medicine by the Vephrese, going out on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the quarter-finals.
The team's form continued to improve early into World Cup 38 qualifying, kicking off with a memorable 3-2 victory away against the Capitalizt SLANI. By this point, even the international media began to talk of the Big Blues in terms of genuine contenders - never mind for World Cup qualification but, perhaps sooner rather than later, the title itself. The country's popularity appeared to drop inversely with the football team's rise, particularly following a game against the mice of Miceland which took place in a field outside the village of Southerntown - unbeknownst to most of the Candelariasian public, who were treated to a facsimile of the game, sans mice, at the Millerman Sheppard Stadium several hours later.
The old curse of draws against poor opponents reared its ugly head later on, but real-life tragedy was to hit following a home defeat to Jeruselem. Manager Mark Baker was reported missing following the game, leading his long-time assistant Ricardo Garcia to take charge of the remaining group games that secured C&M's place that summer in Kura-Pelland. Following lurid stories concerning his private life, and gambling debts, Baker's body was dredged up in Morganstown Harbour three years later.
Garcia took charge of the team at the World Cup finals, which opened with a 2-1 victory over Turori. Even before the following 3-3 draw with Squornshelous, members of the squad became openly concerned at Garcia's erratic behaviour; which culminated, following the final group game - a 6-0 defeat to Demot that was, at the time, the worst by any side at a World Cup finals - in a suspected suicide attempt. Garcia was eventually called down from his ledge on the largest bank in Parwood, though it was many months before he returned to football management.
Lloyd Donnelly and the coup
Having taken the under-21s to the second Di Bradini Cup title, former Albrecht FC manager Lloyd Donnelly was the clear choice to succeed Garcia, despite his age. Donnelly got off to an excellent start, revitalising the team with a 2-3-2-1-2 formation that saw former youth team charges such as Matteo Corradini and Özkan Yalçin introduced straight into the first XI, along with forward Ramiro Novo alongside Vélez. C&M lost only to Az-cz as they eased to a second qualification, but Donnelly remained curiously unloved by supporters. His deeply un-PC outbursts struck a cord with some, but his relationship with Baker's widow Elizabeth did not go down at all well. It was impossible to argue with his results however, with included twice putting four goals past Northern Bettia, and a total of six victories by three goals or more.
Donnelly's World Cup in the Elves Security Forces (or the 'Eesseff', as it has long been invariably known in the Candelarias, where public discussion of real-life 'elves' would be looked upon as a sign of madness, or at least deep delusion) started extremely brightly, with Az-cz held to a draw and Demot beaten. Coming up against Starblaydia, C&M lost 2-1 and propelled the group into a bizarre situation with each team having registered four points, and four goals scored and conceded each. It came down to the drawing of balls as to which sides would advance, and the reigning champions Az-cz were knocked out, with Starblaydia and C&M progressing. The Candelariasians' draw saw them take on Milchama, who comfortably won 3-1 en route to the final. The game was marred by crowd trouble involving both sets of supporters - the CAMAFA introducing major changes to their vetting procedure for Candelariasian travelling fans following the incident.
C&M were granted what appeared at first glance to be a simple qualifying group ahead of World Cup 40, but Donnelly's relationship with the press had by this point completely broken down. He was continually browbeaten for supposedly failing to play to C&M's strengths, ignoring the wealth of wingers available and playing O'Sullivan Caras too far inside the park. Switching to a 4-4-2, Donnelly also introduced a largely new defence which, while going on to provide C&M with its backline for years to come, struggled early on in international football.
Despite this, and a bad away defeat to Bettia, C&M cruised through the first half of qualifying. In the second half however, the squad was hit by a series of serious injuries - several of them putting their victims out for months at a time - and the team's performances became increasingly sporadic. A final matchday defeat to Septentrionia left the team third, and therefore facing the more difficult play-off draw. They faced Dance 2 Revolution yet again; a tie seen at first as a blessing but which soon turned sour with a 3-1 defeat ending the Big Blues' hopes. In the aftermath of the loss; the team's doctor, Alex Malventi, and left-back Lorenzo De Wilde both disappeared from the team hotel, and it remains an unsubstantiated but logical conviction among many Candelariasians that the former at least was heavily involved in the squad's injury nightmares. Neither he nor De Wilde has, to date, been heard from again.
With most key players back fit, C&M started the thirty-second CoH as the highest-ranked side and favourites, but got off to a disappointing start with a draw against Kelssek and defeat to Rennidan. What exactly occurred following that result is uncertain, but from that point forth the involvement of Donnelly and his assistant in team affairs ceased completely. The 'coup' by veteran goalkeeper Ozzy Stefano and the former C&M right-back and coach Damien Sono was warmly applauded by most Candelariasian fans and pundits, who felt that only drastic measures could put the team back into contention for the title. Although in hindsight many of those same individuals have questioned the backlash against Donnelly; the change in management to the inexperienced pairing appeared to work a treat - the team won the rest of their group games 2-0 every time, and brushed past KaMaRi in the quarter-finals. The fairy tale was ended by Rennidan, and the tournament ended in distressing scenes for Candelariasian fans despite a thumping third-place play-off victory over Jeru FC, after the confirmation that O'Sullivan Caras had lost the lower part of his right arm following a dressing room accident. Caras never played for C&M again, though his professional career in Cafundéu continued for some years.
Kris Healy and CoH33
There was little clamour among C&M supporters for Stefano and Sono to remain in their roles, and the CAMAFA moved to bring in Albrecht Turkish manager Kris Healy as the new head coach. His tenure got underway with victory in the four-nation Second 'And' Trophy, but Healy did not find life easy as the national team manager; reasonable initial results against the Archregimancy and Valanora contrasting with truly dire performance against Zarbli and the Algal States. C&M ultimately failed to qualify for the World Cup once more, and the criticism of Healy by ex-players in particular was heated. With many expecting him to resign, the CAMAFA President Owen Jones proved the fall-guy instead, but the Candelariasian public had little hope ahead of the second straight Cup of Harmony in which their team were the highest seeds.
All the early press surrounded the shock call-up of Dionísio, a Cafundelense-born midfielder who had impressed massively for Caires City since his arrival in the Candelarias, and who (supposedly) qualified for C&M through citizenship. Playing as part of a 4-2-3-1, Dionísio proved an important player as C&M won their group, suffering just the one defeat. The other major feature of the early stages was the loss to injury of the captain Corradini, who was ruled out after being set upon by a Rennidanian player, Robert Golos, with whom Corradini had previous following the last CoH. The Albrecht FC player received serious facial injuries, and a mask he wore during a brief appearance the Macabees and again in the final has quickly become a ubiquitous sight in the stands at Scorpions and C&M games. Such controversies helped to distract from the Big Blues' progress, and the team eventually qualified for the final in Spenson, Zwangzug after overcoming Jeru FC in extra time. Even without Dionísio, who was pulled out at the last minute, C&M faced and beat Kereca, Joe Cunningham scoring the late winner.
With the CoH title now under his belt, Healy faced immense pressure to take C&M to the World Cup once more, particularly with the next CoH due to be co-hosted in the Candelarias. With Oberon Martinez and Ignacio Vélez having retired from international football, the manager experimented with new younger players Joel Sbaïz and Tom Smith, but the base of the side remained Corradini, Mengucci, Cohen and Madeira Lobos.
In a potentially difficult group, stormed to a record-equalling 5-0 victory in Kosovoe, with Smith scoring twice, but their status as a side realistically seeking only a play-off spot for third place was enhanced by another defeat in Bettia and a 1-1 home draw with Zwangzug. The Big Blues continued to notch up heavy victories against the likes of An Blascaod Mór and the United Island Empires, and were in second place at the half-way stage. The second half of qualifying opened with a 4-1 win against Kosovoe in Caires – notable for seeing the first appearance and goal of Vicia Faba, one of the more controversial and lesser known C&M internationals of all time.
The ninth game in the group provided one of C&M’s more memorable results, a 3-1 home win over Bettia that sent the Big Blues top of the group. A 4-0 defeat in Zwangzug and 1-1 draw in appalling conditions in An Blascaod Mór left them third however, but the withdrawal of Krytenia from the competition allowed the Candelariasians to qualify automatically as the best-placed third-place side.
The World Cup in Septentrionia itself saw C&M make something of a breakthrough. 2-2 and 1-1 draws with the Capitalizt SLANI and Demot bookended a 3-1 beating of Bettia, sending the Big Blues to a last sixteen clash with Starblaydia. The subsequent 2-1 victory over the reigning champions was noteworthy enough – but made even more so by the sudden appearance, on the seventy-third minute, of Mark Baker – the former C&M manager long thought deceased appearing on the pitch, seemingly out of thin air.
Facing Zwangzug again, C&M lost the quarter-final 5-0, with debate over Bakergate somewhat overshadowing the team’s efforts up to this point, and for months to come. The highlight of the World Cup 43 qualifying group saw C&M beat Cafundéu 2-0 in Albrecht, but this was otherwise a difficult campaign, notable for the team’s failure to take more than a point from the encounters with newcomers Cassadaigua. It was Matteo Corradini who captured much of the media attention meanwhile, after a revenge incident in the highly-charged match with Rennidan saw the captain labelled as a national embarrassment.
Never the less, C&M finished second in their group, behind Cafundéu on goal difference only, before finally losing their undefeated record in friendly internationals with a heavy home defeat to Valanora. The World Cup proper was a disaster however – the Big Blues lost all three of their matches, including a 5-0 loss again to Valanora, and Healy resigned.
Having led Caires City to seemingly implausible back-to-back league titles, Dannat was the obvious choice to succeed Healy. With C&M having won the right to co-host World Cup 44, the new manager knew that he would be forced to take every preceding game seriously, with the Vahala Invitational Tournament his first challenge. A first example of Candelariasian senior involvement in such an event, C&M finished second in the table having lost only one game – the now traditional thrashing at the hands of hosts Valanora. Making the final of this round-robin tournament, Dannat put out arguably the most defensively-minded C&M team in history – but the plan worked, his side holding Valanora to a goalless draw and eventually taking an utterly expected title on penalty kicks.
As hosts of WC44 C&M did not have a qualification campaign, though Dannat used a series of friendlies as an opportunity to try out a vast array of potential players. Come the tournament proper however he went with a relatively conventional line-up, which surprised many by beating Ad’ihan and taking a draw off Dancougar, before beating Bears Armed 3-1 and winning the group.
The Big Blues faced the Capitalizt SLANI in the next round and arguably outplayed them over ninety minutes, despite a backdrop of civil unrest in Zapata. They still managed just a 1-1 draw however, and conceded twice in extra time to exit the competition.
World Cup 45
Though public confidence in Dannat remained high as the Big Blues’ tenth World Cup cycle got underway, the qualifying draw sparked considerable pessimism. Alongside top seeds the Han Empire, C&M found themselves drawn up against past bogey side Cassadaigua and a Taeshan team with plenty to prove – but the notion of failing to make the World Cup itself remained unthinkable. Dannat’s popularity among the most hardcore of supporters began to take a significant battering after he strongly criticised fans who had booed his team in their friendly defeat to Yafor 2 however, describing them as ‘spoilt’ and ‘mindless’.
Having rubbed the country’s travelling army up the wrong way, the manager soon seemed unable to do right for doing wrong. Despite two opening away victories, the team were slammed for conceding two goals apiece against Achtervolging and Greal, and the knives were truly out after the third round of matches – in which C&M suffered a startling 3-0 defeat at Taeshan, Dannat labelling the performance as ‘truly woeful’ and many of his critics proving even less kind.
For the first time in arguably a generation, the ‘passion’ and commitment of the C&M players was brought into question, alongside the first true murmurings of discontent regarding Dannat’s tactical decisions and set-up of the defence. A narrow defeat against the Han seemed all but inevitable but, though the team rallied against Cassadaigua, the final fixture of the first half of qualifying would see the Blues crumble to a 2-1 home defeat to unranked Mo Land 3, leaving them fifth in the group. Suddenly, a Cup of Harmony campaign appeared far from out of the question.
It is widely believed to be at this point that a desperate Dannat enlisted the help of veteran former manager Mark Baker, without the support or sanction of the CAMAFA. The true scale of Baker’s involvement remains shrouded in mystery, as does the circumstances surrounding his sudden disappearance several matches later, but the effect was certainly dramatic. Heavy victories over Achtervolging and Greal followed and, while the team once again faltered at home to Taeshan and the Han alike, a new confidence had clearly enveloped the squad. With Harvey Vavasour breaking into the first XI; the combination between he, Ibadulla and the wide men Cohen and Kortsarian were steadily becoming worth fearing – and the team finally took out their earlier frustration in an astonishing 6-2 drubbing of Cassadaigua that took them into the World Cup finals.
Hopes of any kind of success were still far from high, though little indication as to the team’s form could be gleamed from the post-qualifying friendlies – particularly the trip to Little Clotaire for Lee Waywide’s testimonial, for which a significant number of the C&M squad declined to travel after a spate of fatal swan attacks across Sorthern Northland. The team lost 2-1, with St Patrick's F.C. trainee Jake Swailes becoming the youngest ever player to represent C&M at senior level, and worse was to follow with the confirmation of a daunting group draw.
Against recent rivals Rennidan however, C&M lived up to their ranking with a confident 2-1 win, and went into the encounter with Valanora with little to lose. A seemingly inevitable defeat followed, though Dannat could be pleased enough with the 1-0 scoreline, and his side went on to cruise against Bazalonia in the first ever meeting between the countries.
After this relatively sedate group stage, few could have anticipated the drama that would follow. Against the Archregimancy in the following round, C&M were forced to give up the lead no fewer than three times, before substitute Lawrence Amey slotted home in the ninetieth minute – in a match broadcast live and unedited in the Candelarias. For the government of the day however, the Big Blues’ World Cup run proved a massive boon – helping to distract the public from events in Gordon Bay City. Once more, against the youngsters of Bostopia, the game proved a rollercoaster ride like few others, before Ibadulla was granted a penalty to put the team 3-1 up and book a place in the World Cup semi-finals.
Fate – and the draw – would have it that C&M would face Valanora once more, in a record eighth meeting between the two teams at senior level. On this occasion, the Big Blues took the lead – but an equaliser from Ikles Razov soon after condemned Dannat’s side to an hour or more of desperate defending, well into extra-time.
With moments left before penalty kicks, Sbaïz produced one final punt upfield and Cohen earned a corner he took himself – from which veteran centre-half Enrique Silva de Aviz shinned the ball into the back of the net for the winner.
A new World Cup champions was now guaranteed, with the Holy Empire – veterans of the very first World Cup – also inching through into their debut final. It was always destined to be a full-bloodied affair. At full-time the match stood at one-all, with Amey’s opener equalised by Rug-Ug and C&M suffering innumerable minor knocks. Dannat made a bold change as extra-time approached, bringing on big Zachary Adekunde for an exhausted David Spooner – and it soon proved to be one of the most crucial substitutions of any World Cup final. Moments after the restart, Adekunde had headed down for Ibadulla to walk the ball into the net, before adding a header of his own.
With ninety-nine minutes on the clock, the leaders broke away once more and Amey added his second of the night, effectively handing C&M the trophy and sending the country into thoroughly secular raptures.
World Cup 46
Naming a squad showing only a handful of new faces and containing the majority of the experienced World Cup winners at his disposal, Dannat’s champions hit an initial hiccough in loosing the Rushmori Cup 1-0 to Nethertopia; but upon the start of qualifying proper C&M soon re-emerged as a world-class force to be feared.
Brushing aside both accusations of flukiness, and their previously awkward record in World Cup qualifying, the Small Blues opened up with a 5-1 away thrashing of Pasarga, in their neighbours’ first home international, and the clinical displays continued throughout the first half of qualifying – winning every game and scoring twenty-one goals in the process, a finer record than any other nation involved and by a significant margin. Crushing Pasarga 6-1 in Albrecht, with the goals once again spread around the team and C&M seemingly capable of scoring at will against almost any possible opposition, the team’s serene progress into World Cup 46 appeared utterly assured.
But, not for the first time, C&M would almost prove the architects of their own undoing. Relations between the CAMAFA and the FAA were already at a significant low after the visitors to Arrigo had turned up late for their Matchday Two clash – unavoidable, following late changes to the fixture list – to find C&M already two goals to the good. The failure of the Candelariasian side to ignore the referee and wait for their counterparts to take to the field irked many supporters and even the players themselves, despite the public protestations of both the CAMAFA and FAA, and some had openly talked of handing Achtervolging at least one ‘freebie’ goal early in the return fixture.
Events transpired to give the match extra notoriety, with the most recent additions to the C&M squad found by Achtervolging authorities to be carrying improper visas, and subsequently barred from playing in the match. In desperation to avoid putting out a woefully understrength team, Dannat recalled three players used in the previous qualifying round’s trip to the Wysterian nation – Caleb Christmas, Joel Mercado and Tom Smith – to the squad, with all playing their part in a 1-1 draw, Smith even scoring.
C&M’s campaign began to trail off after their return home, with the CAMAFA devolving into infighting as blame for the cock-up was apportioned, but C&M still managed to emerge undefeated and qualify top of their group for the first time.
Named among the favourites, the Big Blues took confident victories in all three group games – including a 3-1 drubbing of rivals Rennidan and a defeat of eventual champions Dancougar – though their World Cup would become overshadowed by events back home, including the country’s brief disappearance from reality and the declining situation in Gordon Bay City. In the last sixteen, Septentrionia held the team to a draw – and C&M exited on penalties.
With Dannat having not lost a competitive match outside spot kicks since Valanora in the WC45 group stage, he could still leave his post with his reputation among his countrymen and the wider footballing community intact, while a significant number of key players – including Niv Cohen, Aaron Kortsarian and Joel Sbaïz – would announce their international retirements soon after, and pave the way for a changing of the guard at all levels of the national game.
Andy Le Lan
Le Lan, the second man to move directly between the Albrecht FC and C&M jobs, was widely considered the obvious choice to succeed Dannat, having one almost all available honours at the Scorpions both domestically and at the ICCs. Though recognised internationally as one of modern football’s finest managers, most C&M supporters appeared to accept that Le Lan would require significant time to bed into his new role, while the players would also need to adjust to the coach’s quieter, more tactical and less physiological approach to management.
Albrecht FC players unsurprisingly formed the basis of his team, with three regularly appearing in the midfield – including veteran Fred Foster out wide and exciting youngster Jesse Nakatsuru in the centre – while other key partnerships saw Ibadulla and Adams combined up front and the MarquezOW duo of O’Brien and Jacob Davies at the back. His campaign got off to a reasonable strong, if unspectacular start, with a disappointing home defeat to Quakmybush and blips against both Unreal229 and now regular opponents Cassadaigua. The second half of qualifying represented a distinct improvement however, with big victories that included the country’s first ever by a six-goal margin, and the Big Blues qualified with ease.
Dominant performances in pre-WC47 friendlies set up considerable hopes for Candelariasian success, though widespread and long-lasting strike action from the National Union of Journalists badly threatened the country’s enjoyment of the World Cup. Beating both Bostopia and the Yaforites by a goal to nil, C&M qualified before contriving to lose 3-0 to Jeru FC. That result left Le Lan assured that he could rely only on his preferred first XI, who snuck through against Kelssek in the last sixteen after being reduced to ten men following another moment of madness from Zec.
In the quarter-finals, C&M faced long-time rivals Kura-Pelland for only their third competitive meeting – a goalless draw and an exit on penalties, as it would turn out, with substitutes Ishmael Dolphin and Harvey Vavasour failing to put away their spot kicks. The result, and Ibadulla’s subsequent retirement from international football, left Le Lan scratching his head when it came to finding regular goalscorers against top teams, with his C&M side rapidly garnering a reputation as flat-track bullies.
World Cup 48
There were a handful of notable inclusions in Le Lan’s next squad, brought together in the aftermath of the rank failure of the ‘B’ team sent to contest the second Vahala Invitational and the organisational nightmare that was the 11th Di Bradini Cup – a unchanged defence being joined by the returning Francisco Avola at the base of the midfield and Zachary Adekunde as an option up front. Youngster Koviljko Randjelovic was handed a regular starting spot on the left, while the twenty-three also included Jhanna Young – the first child of a former C&M international to make a squad and, more to the point, the first female player to earn a senior call-up.
As reigning CMSC Young Player of the Season, Young’s presence was no great shock but she would struggle to make an impact – with Le Lan instead relying on the presence of a rejuvenated Avola and the increasing reliable back four. Amey, meanwhile, grew into his new role behind Adams as the cycle progressed, while an unexpected new star was found in the form of Lee McKenzie – an Outlian native playing in Valanora, who ousted Diego Fernando Pappas from a starting spot on the right early on and emerged as C&M’s top goalscoring for the campaign.
Qualification proved almost ludicrously easy, the single blot on the landscape coming in a 3-3 draw at home to Vephrall. They were the first side to qualify and ended the stage with the best record from their fourteen matches.
Many experts in and outside the game and the Candelarias remained less than confident over their chances however, fearing for the team’s man-for-man ability against top-class opposition and being mindful of Le Lan’s record at club level of needing time to fully imprint his vision on a side. However, and despite a slow start – a narrow if well-earned 1-0 victory over Peisandros and 1-1 draw with the Archregimancy – C&M continued to look supremely effective if far from thrilling, topping the group with a 3-1 victory over regular rivals Kelssek.
The result proved costly however – with Nakatsuru injured and ruled out for the tournament, Vavasour taking his place for the second round game against Starblaydia. As the World Cup holders and number one ranked side, the Starblaydis were naturally favourites, but C&M would come from behind to complete a famous 3-1 victory, seemingly helped along the way by the improbable onfield arrival of former manager Lloyd Donnelly in a carbon copy of the WC44 incident, as well as a truly below-par showing from Starblaydia.
The draw saw C&M finally meet the country from the other side of Lake Bekk, Krytenia, in the quarter-finals – a workmanlike performance and a single header from Adams, who played his club football for Dunboor FC, the residents of the last eight stadium, enough to see C&M through to face Sarzonia.
The match against the Stars will be remembered as a genuine classic, but it was so nearly an embarrassing failure for C&M against a much lower-ranked opponent, even given the Sarzonians’ record in decades gone by. Dominated from the off and two goals down after the first hour, fatigue was hitting the Big Blues rather more severely than their rivals but, as time ticked away, C&M made the most of a questionable Sarzonian substitution to pull a goal back and heap on the pressure. With minutes to spare and several of his team walking wounded, Le Lan finally made a triple change – with all three Marquezian new arrivals combining in the move that saw Gabriel Macanás put away the equaliser with the whistle between the referee’s lips. Both teams appeared emotionally shattered come extra-time and prepared for penalties, but C&M’s poor record from the spot no doubt lingered at the backs of their minds and, with mere moments once again to spare, Adams capitalised on a defensive mistake to score his second of the night.
The final itself would see an almost total reversion of fortunes from six years earlier. Amid surprise that Le Lan had once again omitted Young in favour of the barely mobile Vavasour; C&M kicked off against the Holy Empire in dominant form, the Frostican ‘keeper forced into a string of early saves as the Big Blues controlled the match without finding the opener. The tide would eventually turn through the introduction of Juan Tzimisces and Simeone Di Bradini at half-time – the presence of arguably the two greatest players in international football history, despite their great age, soon having a harrowing effect both emotionally and physically on the Candelariasian opposition. A header on sixty-sixty minutes, with Ug-ug generally credited with the final touch in most sources, ultimately handed the Holy Empire a legendary World Cup victory – though regretfully, at least as it stands, the bulk of the Candelariasian populace have little idea just how memorable and worthy their team’s defeat was.
Off the back of making the final, Le Lan and the CAMAFA confirmed that he would remain in place for at least another cycle – one in which C&M would start their campaign as the number one ranked side in the world, finally bringing to an end the Vanorian and Starblaydi duopoly.
World Cup 49
The following tournament saw Le Lan refresh his squad with eight new arrivals, with the presence of young Green Island players Jhanna Young and Jameson Aldren as part of the midfield five behind lone striker Adams considered to be of particular importance to C&M’s hopes. Despite Le Lan’s apparent intentions however, Young failed to start under what may in hindsight be considered to be somewhat suspicious circumstances, and the rest of the team were affected by a considerable malaise. Early defeats at home to Mantwenic and away at the Las Vegas Gamblers sent shockwaves throughout world football – Le Lan’s side having been the first Big Blues team to slip to two straight defeats since WC36 qualifying – amidst a backdrop of similar upsets across World Cup qualifying.
Reports of match fixing would never be substantiated, with the CAMAFA and the C&M squad maintaining resolute and forthright denials that any matches had been thrown, and situation appeared to be confirmed as having been a blip as Le Lan’s team and their other top ten contemporaries steadily returned to form. The Big Blues remained anything but convincing however, drawing against Quintessence of Dust and Akbarabad and labouring to victories over Toyur and Voltronica, with Le Lan’s squad selection – principally, his failure to include older players such as Amey and Vavasour who had yet to formally retire from international football whilst playing at a consistently high level domestically – and preferred new formation coming under considerable criticism by supporters and the Candelariasian press alike.
Doubts over qualification remained until late and, even though C&M would ultimately top their group thanks primarily to the efforts of Young and newcomers including right-back Ricky Archer, midfielder Toirdhealbharch O'Airmeadhaigh and goalkeeper Aaron Turner, confidence in the country’s chances at WC49 were as low domestically as they were internationally. After another round of changes, that saw Le Lan largely revert to the original starting XI that had so struggled in qualifying a year earlier, C&M’s long string of poor displays continued into the group stages.
Despite impressing no-one, the Big Blues finished Group E undefeated and in second place on five points, setting up a meeting with the Dancougan side that had already replaced them as international number ones. A Candelariasian victory appeared highly improbable – but here C&M would benefit from a considerable stroke of fortune, with several key members of the Black Wings squad complaining of food poisoning and producing a significantly below par performance that their opponents were able to take advantage of, albeit only thanks to Nakatsuru’s winner in the eighty-sixth minute.
Remarkably, lightning would strike for a second time, just days later, when C&M’s quarter-finals opponents Qazox would be stricken by a virulent strain of influenza within their camp. Qazox were affected even more badly than Dancougar, with a scratch side featuring several young players and bench-warmers and plainly not fit to play a competitive football match were simply overrun, the game effectively rendered little more than a training match following the first half.
Thrust into a second straight semi-final clash against Sarzonia, C&M remained underdogs – but it was clear that the side were just beginning to find their rhythm, with the midfield partnership of Nakatsuru and Young finally starting to click both with each other and Adams up front. The trio would indeed perform against Sarzonia, along with an improving defence marshalled by Davies and featuring an inspired Christian Fernández Montes in goal; and, what was more, team spirit appeared to have grown considerable during the month in the Babbage Islands.
A 2-1 victory propelled C&M into the final – where, as fate would have it, they would yet again meet the Holy Empire. Despite being unable to start with regular holding midfielder Ogus Kures – Jordan Hawker taking his place following his return from the international wilderness – and going an early goal behind; C&M appeared much the better side for much of the game against a subdued Frostican team apparently suffering the ill-effects of too many matches decided penalty shoot-outs on the way to the final. In the pouring rain at the Tundra Falls Proving Grounds; a Nakatsuru equaliser in the first half and a spot-kick put away by Adams set the Candelariasians up for what was ultimately a relatively simple victory capped off with a superb Young finish nine minutes from time. Le Lan stepped down from his managerial role mere minutes after the final whistle.
World Cup qualifying
|World Cup 36||4th of 8||14||5||4||5||16||20||-4||1.36||No|
|World Cup 37||3rd of 8||14||7||5||2||16||9||+7||1.88||Play-off versus Dance 2 Revolution, lost 1-0 agr.|
|World Cup 38||3rd of 8||14||6||4||4||21||15||+6||1.57||Yes|
|World Cup 39||2nd of 8||14||10||2||2||40||16||+24||2.29||Yes|
|World Cup 40||3rd of 6||10||5||3||2||20||11||+9||1.8||Play-off versus Dance 2 Revolution, lost 4-2 agr.|
|World Cup 41||3rd of 6||10||4||2||4||19||14||+5||1.4||No|
|World Cup 42||3rd of 7||12||8||2||2||29||10||+19||2.2||Yes (Best Third-Place team)|
|World Cup 43||2nd of 8||14||9||3||2||31||11||+20||2.14||Yes|
|World Cup 44||Yes (Automatically as co-hosts)|
|World Cup 45||2nd of 8||14||9||1||4||31||18||+13||2||Yes|
|World Cup 46||1st of 6||10||8||2||0||31||7||+24||2.6||Yes|
|World Cup 47||1st of 8||14||10||2||2||40||12||+28||2.3||Yes|
|World Cup 48||1st of 8||14||13||1||0||34||6||+28||2.9||Yes|
|World Cup 49||1st of 9||16||11||3||2||39||12||+27||2.25||Yes|
|World Cup 50||1st of 11||20||20||0||0||84||15||+69||3||Yes|
|World Cup 51||1st of 10||18||13||3||2||41||14||+27||2.3||Yes|
|Cup of Harmony 28||Quarter-Finalists||4||1||2||1||5||6||-1|
|Cup of Harmony 29||Quarter-Finalists||5||2||3||0||6||4||+2|
|World Cup 38||Group Stage||3||1||1||1||5||10||-5|
|World Cup 39||Last Sixteen||4||1||1||2||5||7||-2|
|Cup of Harmony 32||Third Place||8||5||1||2||17||6||+11|
|Cup of Harmony 33||Champions||9||7||1||1||23||9||+14|
|World Cup 42||Quarter-Finalists||5||2||2||1||9||10||-1|
|World Cup 43||Group Stage||3||0||0||3||1||10||-9|
|World Cup 44||Last Sixteen||4||2||1||1||5||4||+1|
|World Cup 45||Champions||7||6||0||1||16||9||+7|
|World Cup 46||Last Sixteen||4||3||1||0||8||4||+4|
|World Cup 47||Quarter-Finalists||5||3||1||1||3||3||+0|
|World Cup 48||Runners-up||7||5||1||1||12||6||+6|
|World Cup 49||Champions||7||5||2||0||14||6||+8|
|World Cup 50||Quarter-Finalists||5||4||0||1||13||6||+7|
|World Cup 51||Quarter-Finalists||5||3||1||1||12||10||+2|
All statistics are somewhere in the region of correct, up until World Cup 49, and include games in normal and extra time only
|Mark Baker||BoF 23||55||22||20||13||40%||78.4%||65||46|
|Ricardo Garcia||WC38 Qs||5||1||3||1||20%||80%||6||11|
|Lloyd Donnelly||WC39 Qs||37||20||9||8||54.1%||78.4%||88||49|
|Demario Sono/Ozzy Stefano||CoH 32||6||5||0||1||83.3%||83.3%||15||3|
|Kris Healy||WC41 Qs||62||36||12||14||58.1%||78.9%||129||73|
|Andy Le Lan||WC47 Qs||75||56||13||6||74.7%||92%||182||62|
|Carlos Panadero||WC50 Qs||51||40||5||7||78.4%||88.2%||154||52|
- Main article: Candelaria And Marquez international football players
Includes only those players considered 'squad captains' on a permanent basis, rather than for particular games. Players did not represent C&M while at those clubs listed in italics.
|#||Name||Period as captain||Clubs|
|1||Peter Waddington||BoF 23 to CoH 28||Alvery Blades, Candelaria-Allemali, Gamboa FC, Clube Imperial|
|2||Benji Fu||WC37 Qs to World Cup 39||Albrecht FC, Radyukevich CSC, Candelaria Arsenal|
|3||Ben Head||WC40 Qs||Green Island|
|4||Matteo Corradini||CoH 32 to WC43||Albrecht FC|
|5||Connor Mengucci||Vahala to WC44||Albrecht Turkish, Candelaria-Allemali, América, Petardos S/A|
|6||Niv Cohen||WC45 Qs to WC46||AFC MN Smith, Albrecht Turkish|
|7||Eric O’Brien||WC46 Qs to WC48||AFC MN Smith, Marquez-Onwere|
|8||Oliver Wilkinson||WC49 Qs to WC50||El din Marbles, Arrigo Portuguese|
|9||Jhanna Young||WC51 Qs to WC51||Green Island|
Most capped players
|1||Jacob Davies||WC47 Qs to WC51||106||3||DC||Marquez-Onwere, Cafundó do Juta, Porto Lacruz, |
C&M All-Party Parliamentary Football Club
|2||Danny Adams||WC44 Qs to WC50||97||57||FW||AFC MN Smith, Albrecht Turkish, Central United, Dunboor FC, Petardos S/A|
|3||Matteo Corradini||WC38 Qs to WC43||95||6||DM||Albrecht FC|
|4||Jesse Nakatsuru||WC47 Qs to WC51||94||43||AM||Albrecht FC|
|5||Gwynfardd Lopulalan||Vahala 1 to WC48||88||3||DR||KT Hotspur|
|6||Connor Mengucci||WC37 Qs to WC44||88||2||DM||Albrecht Turkish, Candelaria-Allemali, América, Petardos S/A|
|=7||Joel Sbaïz||CoH32 to WC46||87||0||GK||KT Hotspur, Chelmar FC|
|=7||Eric O’Brien||Vahala 1 to WC48||87||1||DC||AFC MN Smith, Marquez-Onwere|
|9||Ignacio Vélez||WC37 Qs to CoH 33||85||49||FW||Marquez-Onwere, Cafundó do Juta|
|10||O'Sullivan Caras||BoF 23 to CoH 32||84||11||MR||Arrigo Portuguese, Caires City, Central United, Clube Imperial, |
|#||Name||Career||Caps||Goals||Goals per game|
|1||Danny Adams||WC44 Qs to WC50||97||57||0.59|
|2||Ignacio Vélez||WC37 Qs to CoH 33||85||49||0.58|
|3||Jesse Nakatsuru||WC47 Qs to WC51||94||43||0.46|
|4||Jhanna Young||WC48 Qs to WC51||81||41||0.51|
|5||Abdul Ibadulla||WC43 Qs to WC47||83||34||0.41|
Though C&M senior internationals have occasionally been formally unattached whilst winning caps for the national team – such as former captain Peter Waddington, prior to his move to the Cafundelense league – the overwhelming majority have been drawn from professional club sides – with more than fifty clubs supplying full internationals.
Unsurprisingly, the islands’ own CMSC has supplied the most – and, as of the WC51 finals, twenty-one different Candelariasian clubs had been represented on the Big Blues team by one or more player. Albrecht FC had supplied the most, with nineteen players having won caps whilst being on the club’s books, followed by Albrecht Turkish (sixteen), Marquez-Onwere (thirteen), Arrigo Portuguese (twelve), KT Hotspur (eleven) and Green Island (ten).
Away from C&M, twelve different clubs in Cafundéu have sent Candelariasians to Big Blues squads, to a total of twenty-five players (seven of whom played for C&M whilst at two or more different Cafundelense clubs). Holger Pi became the first foreign footballer in Kura-Pelland when he played for United Trilan – that club providing two further players, with five other Kura-Pellandi sides also represented by C&M cap-winners.
Other foreign-based players have been drawn from four Yaforite clubs, three from Valanora, two each from Daehanjeiguk, Krytenia, Nethertopia and Sargossa and one each from the Capitalizt SLANI group, Dancougar, Jeruselem, Newmanistan and St Samuel. Despite all this however, just three foreign-born players (barring Green Island nationals) have been capped at senior level – Caires City’s Cafundéu native Dionísio, Northlandish two-cap wonder Jake Swailes, and Squornshelous-born winger Koviljko Randjelovic.
C&M's first home international, a 2-2 draw against Qazox, was played at the Millerman Sheppard Stadium, since the Albrecht ground was the largest by capacity in the country. The plan always was to have a revolving list of stadia, but not until the eighth matchday of World Cup 38 qualifying did another ground host a competitive match. The Estadio Arrigo Nacional, in the country's second city, had been built partly with this purpose in mind, following criticism of the MSS's atmospherics and pitch condition over previous seasons, especially with the Albrecht stadium hosting home games for two major clubs as well as the national team. The EAN and MSS together hosted the bulk of C&M's home games since then, though from the start of World Cup 42 qualifying the new Soldarity Stadium in Albrecht became the country's primary national arena, with the Tristar Songstress Stadium likewise effectively replacing the Solidarity during World Cup 50 qualifying.
Several other grounds have seen matches including;
- La Neuva Decimoterica, El din ~ cap. 27,227, hosted 4-0 over Nire and Nire (matchday seven, WC39 Qualifying)
- Marlow Park, Zapata ~ modern cap. 44,144, hosted 1-1 with Zwangzug (friendly, mid-WC38 Qualifying); 4-0 over Illegal Immigrants (matchday one, WC40 Qualifying); 0-0 with Dancougar (matchday two, WC44); 3-1 over Bears Armed (matchday three, WC44); 1-3 (AET) against Capitalizt SLANI (last sixteen, WC44)
- Tomes Street Stadium, Caires ~ cap. 38,838, hosted 1-1 with Endmile (matchday eight, WC39 Qualifying); 3-0 over Nire and Nire (matchday one, the Second 'And' Trophy); 4-0 over Kosovoe (matchday eight, WC42 Qualifying); 1-3 against Yafor 2 (friendly, pre-WC45 Qualifying); 1-0 over Yafor 2 (matchday two, WC50 Qualifying)
- Khatib Together Stadium, Khatib-Gassett ~ cap. 27,044, hosted 1-1 with Bettia (matchday eight, WC40 Qualifying); 4-0 over Land de Wood (matchday eleven, WC43 Qualifying)
- The McNeil Bingo Arena, Caires ~ modern cap. 40,144, hosted 1-1 with Yafalonia and Bazor 2 (matchday two, the Second 'And' Trophy); 2-0 over Ad'ihan (friendly, post-WC44 Qualifying); 4-0 over LeDoucheland (matchday five, WC47 qualifying); 1-2 against Las Vegas Gamblers (matchday four, WC49 qualifying); 0-0 with Mount Shavano (matchday eleven, WC51 qualifying)
- Hilltop Stadium, Clotaire ~ cap. 31,093, hosted 2-0 over Kose and the Turkomans (matchday three, the Second 'And' Trophy); 1-0 over Urna Electrônica (matchday nine, WC46 Qualifying)
- Wallpark Road, Abiodun ~ cap. 30,092, hosted 1-1 with the Algal States (matchday five, WC41 Qualifying)
- Estadio Francisco Álvarez, Onwere ~ cap. 30,538, hosted 0-1 against the Archregimancy (matchday seven, WC41 Qualifying)
- Hallowfield Park, Allemali ~ cap. 29,876, hosted 4-0 over An Blascaod Mór (matchday seven, WC42 Qualifying)
- Little Road Stadium, El din ~ cap. 28,520, hosted 4-2 over Colbourne (matchday seven, WC43 Qualifying)
- La Escalera Naranja, Onwere ~ cap. 56,512, hosted 0-0 with Nethertopia (friendly, mid-WC44 Qualifying); 1-1 with Jasī’yūn (matchday eight, WC46 Qualifying); 3-1 over Valladeres (matchday ten, WC48 Qualifying); 3-1 over Voltronica (matchday nine, WC49 Qualifying); 6-0 over Albundania (matchday thirteen, WC50 Qualifying); 2-0 over Kazzoria (matchday eight, WC51 qualifying)
- The Marble Ground, El din ~ cap. 40,052, hosted 1-0 over Ad'ihan (matchday one, WC44); 1-1 with Unreal229 (matchday three, WC47 Qualifying); 0-1 against Sargossa (friendly, pre-WC51 qualifying)
- New Sausages Arena, Allemali ~ cap. 46,208, hosted 4-0 over Achtervolging (matchday eight, WC45 Qualifying); 6-0 over Nationstates 4 (matchday eleven, WC47 qualifying); 4-0 over Dalaborn (matchday nine, WC48 Qualifying); 3-1 over the McLaughlin Islands (matchday twelve, WC50 Qualifying); 1-0 over Barnettsville (matchday one, WC51 qualifying)
- The White Palace, Rose of Sharon ~ cap. 41,472, hosted 1-1 with Taeshan (matchday ten, WC45 Qualifying); 3-0 over Mantwenic (matchday twelve, WC49 Qualifying)
- Harper Street, Clotaire ~ cap. 26,600, hosted 2-0 over Pljevla (matchday eleven, WC48 Qualifying)
- City of Bove Stadium, Bove ~ cap. 20,568, hosted 3-0 over Quintessence of Dust (matchday fifteen, WC49 Qualifying)
- The Wall, Hodgehill ~ cap. 21,867, hosted 5-2 over Miceland (matchday seven, WC50 Qualifying)
The Field, Southerntown (cap. 312, all standing) should be added to the list, though this is not formally acknowledged by the CAMAFA.
Though initially sceptical about the prospect of a C&M side involved in international football, the Candelariasian press and public soon warmed to their new heroes. The progress of the team is now followed in obsessive detail, and their perceived successes and failures have been seen to greatly affect to general mood of the nation. Though not as relentlessly critical as some countries, the media are still happy to call for the manager's head after poor results; but new players are usually given time to bed in before any particularly vociferous criticism begins, and the mass booing of the team by home fans is still fairly unusual.
The harshest criticism is generally reserved for off-field behaviour, with both the right- and left-leaning press and public predisposed to detest the supposedly hard-drinking and sexually overexercised lifestyles of pampered sportsmen, coupled with their very public and gross displays of extreme wealth. Such attacks reached a head during the fourth Di Bradini Cup, when critical comments from the then Unionist MP Francis Jeans provoked international debate. On-field bad behaviour, such as diving and the conning of referees, is also regularly condemned, though not as vocally as when foreigners are guilty of the same sins.
Early in the country's sporting career, concerns were regularly raised in various sectors of the media to the effect that a successful national team could damage the very fabric of a society which prided itself on its very normality, and unassuming nature. Others on the right were less discontented, claiming that the drive for very public success from a few, high-profile members of society could help to combat C&M's particularly bad case of the 'tall poppy' syndrome, though there were also concerns expressed that too many young men could now become convinced that football was a realistic career path, and furthering the country's severe youth unemployment. Such ideas were not conserved only to football, and there remains allegations of match-fixing involved in early tournaments, such as the Justantina Cup and World Championship in Field Hockey, in an attempt to stop the C&M teams from progressing too far too quickly, and vastly increasing public expectations for their nation as a whole.
C&M's long-standing and institutional nonhuman denial, and general attitude to the non-existence of multiglobal weirdness, has at times been threatened by the national team's involvement in the World Cup, with all its elves, dwarves, aliens, talking mice and monks from imaginary realities. Recent years have seen a considerable clampdown on press freedoms and the free use of the internet by the Candelariasian government, as well as the regular use of propaganda and state-created conspiracy theories. The rise in such (as yet largely successful) techniques has gone hand-in-hand with the rapid increase in the average Candelariasian's knowledge of the wider world; though their understanding, particularly of countries such as Valanora, is usually badly flawed.
Perhaps the most important cultural impact of the national team, albeit also the most subtle, has been the acceptance shown towards ethnic and cultural minorities within the squad, and an ensuing improvement in the social cohesion in society in general. Though for many decades a distinctly multicultural country; the innately isolationist Candelariasians - particularly those considered to be of 'Anglo' origin - have not always taken to waves of rainbow immigration. The naming of a goalkeeper of African origin (Reuben Uwakwe), two players of Arab origin (Mamdooh Momtaz and Yasser Zaghloul) and two of oriental origin (Benji Fu and Speed Wang]]) in the first squad, and their subsequent importance to the squad, is often credited as representing a major step forward in the public perception of such individuals, to the point that the background of Matteo Corradini was barely considered noteworthy when he was appointed captain, despite coming from the often unloved Italian speaking community. Goalkeeper Harry Primrose meanwhile is a rare example, at least in the Candelarias, of an openly homosexual sportsman.
Most importantly though, is the role that Hispanic players have played in the national team's development. Marquezians such as O'Sullivan Caras, José Felipe Cassumba Domingos, Oberon Martinez, Ramiro Novo and Ignacio Vélez have long been considered among the country's finest players, and fêted as national heroes, by Candelarian journalists and supporters alike. Such is the status of football in the second island that Marquezians, both Anglo, Hispanic and otherwise, made up fully half of the CoH 33 winning squad.
While it would appear unlikely that Candelaria And Marquez will ever install themselves among the list of truly legendary footballing nations, the modern success of the Big Blues (and, indeed, the Small Blues before them) has certainly caused not inconsiderable ripples among the multiverse’s football community. Principally, the country’s relatively small population and relative lack of wealth and historical sporting infrastructure, as well as the almost entirely human make-up of its populace, has provided considerable hope for similar national FAs that may not have perceived any significant likelihood of ever being capable of breaking into the international elite, prior to the Candelariasian example set during World Cup 45 and beyond – not least within Rushmore itself.
The Candelariasian contribution to football on the field is rather less in evidence, with successful C&M sides over the years have relied on what they at least would consider to be ‘standard’ formations based around a 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 and often playing in a direct and tactically conservative manner. In regards to sheer joie de vivre, as well as tactical innovation, C&M’s World Cup winning teams cannot be compared to those, in the recent past, of Ariddia, Az-cz, Bettia, Starblaydia, Valanora and their ilk, though the Big Blues’ exceptionally well-drilled team play and consistent ability to meld together players from club sides playing a wide variety of styles has certainly been a cause for admiration among other footballing nations lacking in particular stars and hoping to rely on the collective ability of their XIs.
The infinitely greater exposure of C&M the country, since its national team first took part in the Baptism of Fire, has come at a certain cost however – principally, the degree to which the wider international community now has knowledge of the true level of media censorship and political suppression in the Candelarias, with C&M’s international standing thereof having been as damaged by the emergence of the Big Blues into the multiverse’s sporting consciousness as it has been enhanced.
Though the region of Rushmore is today one of the pre-eminent forces in international football, for much of the Big Blues’ history C&M flew the flag of the region largely alone. The neighbouring island state of Nethertopia was the first Rushmori power to follow the Candelariasian lead and enter into World Cup qualifying; centuries of geographical proximity ensuring a largely friendly rivalry between the two countries that would soon extend onto the sports field.
Though the Falcons would be considered the Big Blues’ major sporting foes – and vice versa – by most Candelariasian supporters; encounters between the two countries have been limited to regular friendly internationals. Be they played in the Candelarias or Nethertopia, these meetings are inevitably ‘lively’ affairs – particularly on-field, helped by the fact that the majority of most Nethertopian squads play their club football in the CMSC, either for Candelariasian clubs or the two Nethertopian sides within the Candelariasian domestic system – but the long-standing disparity between the two countries’ talent pool means that the Big Blues have long held the upper hand over their foes. A similar situation exists with C&M’s other neighbours, Sargossa and West Zirconia – the latter relationship being particularly pronounced in this regard with C&M having won the two countries’ previous seven friendly meetings to an aggregate tune of 25-6.
Beyond the region, some of the team’s oldest rivalries established in their early international history remain in place to this day. C&M would ultimately emerge as the leading footballing power among the ‘club of 36’ – those nations that entered the World Cup for the first time in qualifying for that particular edition – but several other countries among that number remain highly competitive at the highest level. Vephrall were the Big Blues’ first formal foes at the Baptism of Fire, and rare meetings between the two sides remain eagerly awaited occasions, though the Vephrese were soon surpassed by their own neighbours, Kura-Pelland, as C&M’s first major sporting rivals.
The two countries’ similar age, size and social and historical backgrounds would help set the groundwork for a long-standing history of international co-operation in and out of sport, alongside considerable early intertwinement between the Candelariasian and Kura-Pellandi domestic football leagues; with a rivalry fermented as much after regular meetings in both forms of hockey, sailing and other events as in football. On the field, Kura-Pelland have the upper hand in major matches, though the two nations have not met since World Cup 47.
C&M’s ethnic make-up has ensured the creation of a small number of fixtures given particular prominence in the media – games against Sorthern Northland being key among them, owing to the high number of both Northlandish settlers in the Candelarias, and their decedents, and Candelariasians in Sorthern Northland. This is, however, a rivalry primarily rooted in rugby union where migrants and the children thereof have played a major role in the fortunes of both national teams; in footballing terms, competitive meetings since WC36 qualifying have been limited to under-21 games – generally crushing victories for the Small Blues – while the CAMAFA currently refuses to play friendly matches in Sorthern Northland owing to the ongoing, bird-based security situation.
Most rivalries have been formed more directly on the football field, generally as a result of regular meetings. In World Cup fixtures, C&M’s most frequent opponents – with seven games apiece – are Kelssek and Rennidan. The former were formerly considered a consistent bogey team for the Candelariasians – a status also enjoyed, albeit to a lesser extent, by Cassadaigua – and, though the Big Blues’ have won the most recent two encounters, their status is enhanced by the high regard in which the country as a whole is held by certain, largely left-leaning, sections of the Candelariasian media and the inevitable equal and opposite reaction against them by the right-wing press. The rivalry with Rennidan, meanwhile, began at CoH32 – when C&M were beaten twice – and continued at the following tournament when Big Blues captain Matteo Corradini was badly injured by a Rennidanian player during a violent exchange still etched in many Candelariasian supporters’ memories.
For various reasons, Candelariasian supporters would also be keen to see victories against the likes of Achtervolging and Bostopia, but the most recent few years spent inside the international top ten have seen the Big Blues seek – and find – more natural adversaries from amongst their new peer group. Sarzonia are one such, though this is largely a one-way enmity with C&M beaten the Stars on three high-profile occasions over the last decade, with the Holy Empire certainly another – though the particular nature of this land and its teams have ensured that the Candelariasian media takes trouble to calm public interest in Frostican fortunes.
Today, however, perhaps C&M’s most significant foes are Valanora. Besides the long-time presence of key Candelariasian and Vanorian internationals playing their club football in each other’s domestic leagues; the countries’ senior teams have met on nine occasions and have been each other most regular opponents at youth level as well. Until WC45, the Big Blues had never beaten the Marauders – they are still yet to do so over ninety minutes – but this is another rivalry forged as much off the field as on it, owing to the manner in which the very concept of sentient non-humans, such as the elves of Vanorian, has been treated in the Candelarias. The distaste with which Vanorian authorities and its public alike had viewed their Candelariasian counterparts has softened of late, owing largely to certain revelations regarding the original reasons for the Candelariasian state’s denialist stance, but their previous attitude of contempt remains echoed in that of other non-human nations – from the now defunct state of Az-cz, regular early opponents for the Big Blues, to Bears Armed and the mice of Miceland.
C&M B is a secondary football team created at the same time as the main senior (or ‘A’) team, though in practise no squad was assembled no manager appointed prior to the second Vahala Invitational tournament following World Cup 47.
The CAMAFA had originally intended to enter a full side, managed by Andy Le Lan, with which to defend their title, but circumstances dictated that a badly under strength twenty-three would be sent instead – a squad containing no WC47 players, nor any drawn from the concurrent Di Bradini Cup, and only four players with senior international experience.
Managed by one of Le Lan’s assistants, former C&M international Rudy Clark, the team duly finished bottom of the six-team round-robin stage; with three draws, no victories and just two goals scored. The nature of the squad means that, unlike the inaugural tournament, the CAMAFA did not hand out full caps for appearances and results are not considered to represent part of the Big Blues’ overall tally – though their opposing FAs may well have a different take on the matter, particularly Cassadaigua and Sorthern Northland who both put out complete sides.
Lower age levels
- Main article: Candelaria And Marquez National Under-21 Football Team
The CAMAFA also operates a team exclusively for the Olympic Games, consisting of under-23 players along with three overage players (none of whom can have received senior caps, though this does not apply to their younger colleagues.
Women’s national team
Though the women’s team was formed at the same time as the modern men’s side, the absence of the Women's World Cup during the era of Candelariasian involvement in international sport has rendered the team all but defunct – with their only outings coming at the Olympic events in Columbia and Aeropag.
Given the lack of involvement in women in the senior, nominally unisex side; it was unsurprisingly that the C&M team failed to make it out of the group stage at the Third Summer Olympics, though they impressively held Qazox to a draw. The side sent to the Fourth Summer Olympics meanwhile was much improved, featuring CMSC1 regulars and a number of talented players on the fringes of the “men’s” squad.