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Interview with mastercyb, the present U-20 Hattrick’

World Champion
November, the 3rd 2008

By: Li0ns

Hi, mate.

First of all thank you for your availability and the opportunity you give us to
learn more about mastercyb.

Hi all, I've always been quite close to the Portuguese community,

as I have been constantly talking to Sunfire(your u20 coach for 3
times now). And thank you too for deciding to talk to me:).

1) Can you tell us who the person behind mastercyb is? Where do you live
and what do you do in real life?

My name is Dragos, I am 27 years old, married. At the moment I live

in United States, and I am a PhD student in mathematics. Hopefully,
I will end up having an academic career, but we'll see what happens
in the future.

2) Although you had become known by the HT’ world community after the
conquest of the U-20’ World Cup, you already have a long way in this
game as you started in April 2003. How did you get in the game?
Somebody convinced you?

In April 2003 I was a college student in Bucharest. I had plenty of

time online, and was unsatisfied with the games that I was
playing(CM), because it's not that fun to play against computers. At
some point you do understand how they work, and then you can
win whatever you want. But what is the satisfaction of doing that?

Therefore, when in April I saw a link in a sports newspaper to

hattrick, I immediately signed up, excited to finally be able to
compete against other people. So, I didn't need much convincing,
all it took was a link in the Romanian sports magazine:).

3) How was your team’s start? Did you managed to understand the game in
a short period (did you have a mentor?) or you just got used to it with

At the beginning I was training with intensity lower than 40%(and

of course general or stamina), as I read in the rules that lower
training intensity decreases the chances of a player getting injured.
And I didn't want my weak players to get injured:)).
At the same time I was writing a lot of htmails to the best users in
Romania, trying to find out as many things as possible about the
game. When I realised that in order to progress you need to train
well, I decided to go for goalkeeping, as it really is the best training
as far as learning the game and developing your team is concerned.
With this training I was able to quickly promote to the IV'th
division(1season in VI, 3 seasons in a very difficult V series).

Then in the IV'th division, even though my team was still evolving I
was having a lot of troubles against much better teams which
better financial situation. Therefore, a good friend convinced me
that I should start a more profitable training, as this is the only way
of achieving my dream of reaching the top division(he knew I was
dreaming like that, he knew I was obsessed with tactics, but he
also knew that I was a disaster at making money, at buying and
selling players, etc:). Anyway, after two seasons in the IV'th
division, I decided to go for defending, bought 10 defenders and
trained them as well as I could. After 4 seasons my team was
already much better, and I was starting to think about the
promotion which at some point I didn't think it was possible.
Finally, the training cycle was over and I decided to attack
promotion, even though I didn't have the best team in the series,
nor the highest salaries(actually I have never been in the situation
to have the best players). I didn't have patience to build an
unbeatable team, because I was in ht only for the tactical side of it,
so once I smelled blood(i.e. chances of promotion) I went for it:).

4) On the period between November 2006 and June 2007 you won straight
your series, on seasons 18th, 19th and 20th, and reached the Divizia A. This
was a golden period for your team but after it you seemed to have slow
down. Any special reason for that?

The period was certainly a great one for the club team, especially
as I managed something that nobody really thought I would be able
to do. Anyway, the true is when I reached Divizia A, my team was
not good enough to play there and I didn't have a very good
financial situation(I needed a new plan but no friend to help me and
save me this time with his advice:D). Moreover, when I got to the
Romanian first division, I was starting my first season as U20
coach, and the time spent for the club team was decreasing more
and more. Anyway, I did everything possible to not relegate from
Div A, and I almost did it with a way weaker team than my
opponents. At the qualifying game, my opponent bought some
huge players, he had salaries two times bigger than mine, so even
though I gave him a great tactical battle, he was able to win in
extra time and relegate me. I still regret not trying to buy at least
one midfielder, which could have saved my place in the first

Anyway, after relegating, I sold almost all my team(as expected,

with very low prices) and started buying other players(younger,
etc). It was the biggest mistake that I ever did in hattrick, as it
weakened my team a lot. Moreover, I didn't have time to think a
plan to rebuild my team so basically the next 3 seasons I struggled
in the II'nd division, without really training anything and with little
time to think about my club team. It really was a miracle that I
didn't relegate, all the seasons had some amazing finishes which
somehow saved me:). Now, that my adventure with U20 is over, I
decided to start training again(as the club team is also not very
exciting now after coaching a nt time for so long), and maybe in the
future I will have a team good enough to win the first league.

But to answer your question more specifically, I would not say I

have slowed down. As I told you I only play ht for the tactical side
of it. So given the fact that I had an amazing season in Divizia A,
and then 3 great seasons in II(with a team with very low salaries
and weak compared to my opponents), I can be quite satisfied with
my overall performance, tactically the challenges have been great
and I managed to play well against them.

Now it's time to train again, especially in a moment when I don't

have much time for ht, as I have a PhD to finish. That's why now I'll
probably relegate, the team isn't strong enough for the III'rd
division, so it's not a surprise that this season is a disastrous one
for me. I hope that I will make up for the many economical mistakes
that I made while being an U20 coach, and at some point I'll have a
decent team again(I don't really want to create a monster team as
it would be no fun to win the first league with clearly the best team
in the competition.

5) Why did you decide to become the U-20 national coach? Was that an
intention which was already in your mind or a number of special factors
made you move forward in that intention?

Becoming U20 national coach was my biggest dream since I started

understanding hattrick. U20 World Cup is really my favourite
competition in ht, because there are so many good teams, and even
the weak one aren't weak enough to not have to worry about them.
Once I got the chance to run for U20, and I felt I can win an
election, I went for it as I wanted to try the ultimate challenge in
hattrick, coaching an U20 team and trying to win the gold medal.
During my first run as U20 coach, I was eliminated in a group with
Italy, England and Norway. I was very dissappointed, but my team
was weaker than all the opponents, we had lower experience(which
is important at the u20 level) and very poor specialties. Therefore,
even though I tried everything, the opponents were too strong, I
was too unlucky(with forms and game engine), too unexperienced,
so I had to accept my loss. However, I ran for the second time, as I
knew all the combination of bad luck cannot come together again,
and even though we had a really really poor generation, I felt I can
achieve something great with it.

6) Your U-20 staff was carefully selected and/or did you take in
consideration any relevant criteria?

In my first term, I had a carefully selected team which couldn't

continue for the second one. Therefore, in the second term, I made
a team made according to requirements. I knew which people I was
going to talk about tactical stuff, I knew which people would help
me with following the opponents, scouting the players, etc..So this
second time, it wasn't a small team, but in fact I involved the
community more, I let more people help me with everything while I
just focussed on the tactical preparation of games, training plans
and squad decisions.

7) Before the U-20 World Cup (Finland) qualifications what were your
expectations? Did you really have the intention in becoming world
champion or even winning a medal?

Yes, I was dreaming and hoping I can win a medal, but I knew(and
still know) that in order to do that you also need some luck along
with great tactical decisions all the way. Before qualification, I was
just trying to get to the world cup(as I had a difficult group); if you
want to win a medal, you first have to be among the participants:D.
But really, my goal, and my dream has always been the medal.

8) Romania started the Qualifications with a 1-0 defeat in Lebanon and also
had drawbacks on match 4 against Liechtenstein and on # 5 versus
Austria. By this point were you still confident? Later you played home
against Austria, in a decisive match, and won 3-1. How was this
important match prepared?

Wow, that was an amazing campaign, at some point I wasn't really

convinced I can make it, but as I always do, I played as well as I
could 'till the end, hoping miracles will happen(and they did:D). The
game against Lebanon was a memorable one, it was the most
embarassing loss in the history of Romania and in my ht history.
However, that loss motivated me even more, as these are the kinds
of games that make me love ht and not a computer game(even a
weak team can take advantage of your overconfidence,
carelessness and create big surprises). I can certainly say that it
was my game to lose, I gave Lebanon a chance of winning which
they happily took:). Then there came the game against
Liechtenstein where Romania was quite unlucky, but also I didn't
play as well as I should have. The game against Austria had a
different story to it, I knew that if I lose I have to win all the 9
remaining games to just stand a chance. Therefore, I decided to
pic, in order to at least have good chances of winning everything
there after. I still believe we deserved at least a draw, but the red
card we received at the beginning of the match was probably more
important than I would have liked it to be. I pic'ed, I lost and now I
had 9 extremely difficult games to win and I knew any more lost
points would mean elimination.

I really think the most important game of that season was the one
against Macedonia(away), where we won 3-2. We couldn't affort to
mots, we were playing away, Macedonia was eliminated at that
point but decided to mots us. The score was 2-2 in the 68'th minute
and Romania was 22 minutes from elimination...I think that game
was the one that I lived to the maximum, at 0-1 and 2-2 I was really
seing my dream destroyed by another bad luck game...

Then the “final” of that first season was the game against Austria,
that needed just a draw to qualify. We had to win but we had home
field advantage, ts advantage and an amazing confidence. I'm not
doing math for nothing, so I just decided to maximize my chances
of scoring in the best way possible and that was attacking on all 3
sides, having better specialities, a sp taker and a midfield decent
enough. And luckily, I did enough to get the win and basically
assure qualification. Anyway, I feel the need to repeat myself, this
match against Austria was made easier by two other factors: the
pic in the first away game to Austria(which made us competitive for
the rest of the competition and also helped me build ts and
confidence), and the win against a home motsing Macedonia.
Somehow, after the loss against Austria(away), I felt and I knew
that if I get the chance to play the qualification against them at my
home, I will be in a better position than them(even though they
needed just a draw from that game). Of course, I was extremely
nervous when the score was 1-1, but the idea is that the
preparation of the game itself was easier, as I knew what I want to
play and how I want to try and win this game. Of course, at 20:00
ht time, the coach's job is done, and all we can do is watch the
game and hope the game engine is nice to us:).

9) After the previous difficulties you had a more relaxed qualification on

Round II but on Round III you faced Spain and Hungary. These were two
very exciting matches only decided at the very end. Versus Spain,
Romania suffered the 1-2 at the 78th minute and scored immediately
upon (79th minute). Against Hungary, and although you won 2-1, the
match was draw 10 minutes before ending, and you knew that a goal
from your opponent would give them the qualification. What was the
match in which you suffered the most?

The game against Hungary(and the final of course) was really the
most difficult game to watch. But first, let's see what happened
against Spain. Indeed, they scored in the 78th minute, but we had
the experience event working for us, so it was really a surprise we
didn't end up winning the game(the event came at 1-1). But I must
admit, overall 2-2 was the fair result, I didn't play the best tactic
possible, as I admit being a little bit afraid of the biggest country in
ht and of the fact that we always lost to Spain in offical games:). I
should have been more aggressive, but it doesn't matter now.
Anyway, this is the only game which I didn't watch live(all of it) as
in the second half I attended a talk:P.

Then the game against Hungary was an amazing game, I knew they
would mots(wow, we really had a lot of mots'es against us).
However I knew their confidence was really poor, so I played
accordingly: good defence and midfield and one side attack which I
hoped would guarantee us at least the draw we needed. We won,
but indeed at 1-1 I was imagining again they would score and my
dream would be over(even though I knew we played well tactically
and deserve the win/draw)...Anyway, this game was really the most
painful to follow, somehow it was the match where I felt most
nervous during it.

10)On round 4, with 2 easy victories and a draw, your matches were more
relaxed. Did you took that chance to definitely improve your TS, with PIC
all the way or you played normal against Deutschland to in order to avoid
Spain on the semi-final?

I pic'ed against Argentina as my goal at that point is to go all the

way. Moreover, I knew that if I lose with pic, then I have two more
matches to use the ts and try to qualify to the semifinals.
Fortunately we won quite comfortably against Argentina, and we
also pic'ed:D. Then came the game against Croatia, which again I
expected to mots(and they did mots us). Therefore, I decided to go
for normal here, trying to assure qualification from the second
match. Everything went perfect, so the game against Germany was
just a formality for us, I did try to win it but at the same time the
defensive approach which I had to take didn't help too much. I was
thinking about losing to Germany to avoid Spain, but then the
strongest team in the competition was Italy and I preffered to play
them in the semifinal than in the final:D. Moreover, I cannot play for
a loss, so I just played as well as I could against Germany, not
caring about the other group:).

11)On the semi-final you were again brilliant guessing correctly the right
wings both on defense and attack. On this match you again confirmed
your tendency to play 3-5-2. Do you think 3-5-2 keeps being the better
option in hattrick?

We all know 3-5-2 has the best balance between defence, midfield
and attack and even though sometimes it's useful to play all
offensive or all defensive, generally a balanced lineup gives you
better chances to succeed. Indeed, 352 seems to be a good option
almost always, but for example, even though I mostly played 3-5-2,
I used all 3 of my coaches to the maximum(5games with defensive
coach, 3with neutrual and 3 with offensive). When I prepare a game
I try to choose the lineup which takes advantage best of my players
and of what I think my opponent will play, and then I decide how to
arrange the players..Of course 352 almost always is a formation to
consider, but there is so many ways in which you can play the 3-5-2
that it's not fair to just say 352 rullz:D. For example, during the
world cup only once I played the same type of 3-5-2, all the games
had a different setup and tactical idea behind it.

12)The final was a match to remember. With uncertainty until minute 83,
when Spain equalized 3-3, you had an outstanding final period, scoring 3
goals more. Tell us, as near as possible to reality, how you lived those
intensive moments and celebrated the goals.

First of all, the preparation of this game was unbelievably difficult.

Probabilistically the formation that I had to choose was the all
offensive that I finally used. However, everybody knows that I am a
more defensive minded coach(though my real quality would
probably be neutral), so even though I thought about this tactic
since Friday night, I needed two days to convince myself that I will
play it. My other option was a strategy similar to the one against
Hungary, but that would have been wrong. I had to use my sp taker,
confidence and specialities. Moreover, after losing with defensive
tactics(two seasons ago), I wanted to finish this world cup
campaing on attack, especially as this tactic was the one that
showed our strength to the maximum.

Then the games was quite crazy too. Spain lead by 1-0 and (as I
don't like all offensive) I was really thinking they would trash us:).
Then we scored two and I was starting to hope. However when their
next two goals were scored on special goal events(which we were
dominating) I was thinking the game engine is really bad to
us.......My wife came home at halftimebut she didn't really follow
the game...Well, up to the 83rd minute, when she saw me all red and
very nervous...She joined me, asked what happens and saw these
are the last few minutes of my adventure and everything can
happen. Luckily, the moment she started cheering for me, we
started winning, and then the experience event and the last 2 goals
sealed the win for us.

13)After this achievement with the Finland U-20 World Cup what shall we
expect from you on the times to come?

Well, I hope my PhD is the next big thing coming out for me:). As
far as hattrick is concerned, as I told you earlier, I'm starting to
rebuild my team, even though I have to admit I don't really care
about it too much. I feel the club competitions are more financial
than tactical, and that makes me distance myself to creating big
goals for the club team(I don't like the idea of spending too much
time on economical sides of the game, especially as I have quite a
busy real life:D). And I really play ht just for the tactical side, it's
enough that I have to make money in real life(I'm bad at it too:D) to
not have to do it in ht:).

So the real answer is that the moment I'll have time again to play
ht seriously, I'll run again for a national team, most likely an U20
team as this is the place where I feel the tactical aspect of the
game is the most important.

14)Do you have the intention to try the Romanian A National Team in a near

I'm thinking about it, but at the moment I will not run for anything.
And when I'll get back to playing the game, I will be tempted more
by an U20 team...However, the idea of trying to win a gold medal
for the national team is also a tempting one, so you never know
what will happen:D.

Thank you for your time, mate.