Not long remains before the World Cup this summer, and it’s the time of year when office sweepstakes are being made and everyone is naming their pick for World Champions.
FIFA 18 is praised for its realism and with a World Cup update now available, it makes perfect sense to make the EA Sports title predict this year’s winner. We set up a tournament and simmed every single match, creating some brilliant stories and a shock winner. Here’s our story of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Don’t expect too many upsets in the group stage, but with some sides failing to produce their best football in the opening matches, some of the group favourites did miss out on top spot and opened the door for the outsiders to make the knockout stages.
Russia 2-1 Saudi Arabia
Egypt 1-0 Uruguay
Russia 3-1 Egypt
Uruguay 2-1 Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia 2-1 Egypt
Uruguay 4-1 Russia
The World Cup gets off to a flier with Egypt picking up a shock 1-0 win over Group A favourites Uruguay, although the rest of the group played out as expected. A 4-1 win for the South Americans over hosts Russia, thanks to an Edinson Cavani hat trick, meant they topped the table.
Morocco 2-1 Iran
Portugal 1-2 Spain
Portugal 3-0 Morocco
Iran 1-0 Spain
Spain 3-0 Morocco
Iran 0-2 Portugal
Group B’s big tie was always going to be Portugal vs Spain, and it was the Spaniards who came out on top in the Iberian derby courtesy of goals from Diego Costa and Isco. Iran bounced back from an opening round defeat to Morocco by shocking Spain in a 1-0 win. That loss allowed Portugal to top the table by winning their remaining two games comfortably.
France 2-0 Australia
Peru 1-1 Denmark
Denmark 2-0 Australia
France 1-0 Peru
Australia 0-1 Peru
Denmark 0-1 France
Group C is likely to be straightforward for France, and it was a walk in the park in our sim, as they won all three games without conceding a goal. The battle for second was between Denmark and Peru, and after drawing against each other, it was Denmark’s 2-0 win over Australia that edged it on goal difference.
Argentina 3-1 Iceland
Croatia 3-0 Nigeria
Argentina 1-1 Croatia
Nigeria 0-2 Iceland
Iceland 0-2 Croatia
Nigeria 1-1 Argentina
Argentina stumbled at the World Cup once again in Group D as draws to Croatia and Nigeria cost them top spot. Croatia’s big 3-0 win over the Super Eagles and another victory against debutants Iceland helped Modric & co. finish top of the group. Iceland did pick up their first ever World Cup win with a 2-0 success over a disappointing Nigeria.
Costa Rica 2-2 Serbia
Brazil 2-0 Switzerland
Brazil 3-0 Costa Rica
Serbia 0-2 Switzerland
Serbia 1-0 Brazil
Switzerland 4-1 Costa Rica
Fortunately, Brazil had already secured qualification to the knockout stages before their final group game against Serbia. A 1-0 win for the Serbs gave them hope of progressing, but Switzerland’s 4-1 thumping of Costa Rica meant they took second place in Group B.
Germany 4-0 Mexico
Sweden 4-1 South Korea
South Korea 1-2 Mexico
Germany 5-0 Sweden
South Korea 2-2 Germany
Mexico 1-1 Sweden
Hot favourites Germany have been handed a kind group, and as expected they ripped through their opening games with 4-0 and 5-0 successes over Mexico and Sweden, respectively. Qualification to the knockouts had already been secured before their 2-2 draw with South Korea. Julian Draxler was the star, netting a hat trick against Sweden and then adding a double against the Koreans. Sweden and Mexico battled for second, but the draw in the final group game allowed the Swedes to progress on goal difference.
Belgium 5-1 Panama
Tunisia 2-2 England
Belgium 3-1 Tunisia
England 3-1 Panama
England 1-1 Belgium
Panama 1-1 Tunisia
Right, time for England. The pressure was on the Three Lions following Belgium’s 5-1 thrashing of Panama, and Gareth Southgate’s men limped to a 2-2 draw with minnows Tunisia thanks to a late equaliser from Jordan Henderson. England and Belgium both then won 3-1 in the second round of games and would produce a 1-1 stalemate in their final game with Romelu Lukaku scoring late on for the Red Devils. A big Panama win would have made things interesting, but a 1-1 draw meant second spot was secured for England.
Colombia 1-0 Japan
Poland 3-0 Senegal
Japan 2-1 Senegal
Poland 3-1 Colombia
Japan 0-0 Poland
Senegal 2-1 Colombia
Group H favourites Colombia were the biggest name to crash out in the group stage after losing their final two pool games. Poland’s 3-0 over Senegal coupled with an Arkadiusz Milik inspired 3-1 win over the Colombians meant the pressure was on going into the final group game. Senegal produced a shock 2-1 victory, dumping James Rodriguez’s men out of the competition.
Round of 16
Uruguay 2-1 Spain
France 3-1 Argentina
On to the knockout stages, and with some of the big sides failing to top their groups, there were some heavyweight clashes in the Round of 16. Uruguay dumped Spain out of the competition with a superb 2-1 win, and that was without the injured Luis Suarez. France got the better of Lionel Messi’s Argentina with Antoine Griezmann scoring twice in a 3-1 victory.
Brazil 4-0 Sweden
Belgium 4-0 Japan
Brazil returned to their goal scoring form by hitting four past Sweden, with two goals from Renato Augusto, but they were aided by a red card from Victor Lindelof. Belgium matched that result by walking over Japan, Dries Mertens scoring twice.
Portugal 2-1 Russia
Croatia 2-1 Denmark
Cristiano Ronaldo and Ricardo Quaresma helped Portugal to a 2-1 win over hosts Russia, with Aleksandr Samedov’s missed penalty proving costly. Croatia made the quarterfinals for just the second time with a 2-1 victory over Denmark.
Germany 4-0 Switzerland
Poland 3-3 England (England win 4-3 on penalties)
Germany maintained their form with four more goals against Switzerland, with Julian Draxler bagging another two goals to take his tally to eight for the tournament. Perhaps the biggest story of our World Cup sim is England ending their 22-year penalty heartbreak with a victory over Poland. Kane scored twice, with the second coming in the 118th minute to take it penalties, and a 4-3 victory from the spot took the Three Lions to the last eight.
Uruguay 1-2 France
Brazil 1-0 Belgium
Uruguay met the in-form France in the opening quarter-final and although they pushed Les Bleus close, goals from Paul Pogba and Thomas Lemar pushed the French onto the semis. Brazil edged past Belgium’s golden generation after Philippe Coutinho scored from the penalty spot.
Portugal 3-1 Croatia
Germany 2-2 England (Germany win 5-4 penalties)
Portugal were given a relatively kind draw to face Croatia, and two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and a strike from Andre Silva secured a 3- 1 win for the European champions. More drama for England, as they were held 2-2 by Germany to take the tie to penalties. Marcus Rashford scored twice, but another goal from Julian Draxler, in the 120th minute, meant the game went to spot kicks, with Germany claiming a 5-4 victory.
France 1-1 Brazil (France win 5-4 on penalties)
France vs Brazil was a repeat of the 1998 World Cup final, and France once again came out on top. Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Jesus strikes cancelled each other out, and Brazil managed to hold out until penalties after Renato Augusto’s red card. Les Bleus were triumphant 5-4 from the spot to reach a second successive tournament final.
Portugal 2-1 Germany
The free-scoring Germany had their tails up against Portugal, but perhaps going to penalties in the previous round cost the defending champions this time. Danilo Pereira and Adrien Silva efforts gave Portugal the victory, with Germany only scoring through Draxler – his tenth out in Russia.
Third-place play off
Brazil 1-2 Germany
A second third-place play off in a row for Brazil, and they failed to take any sort of revenge for their defeat to Germany four years ago. Neymar notched for the Selecao, but Emre Can and Mesut Ozil made sure Die Mannschaft finished in the top three for the fifth World Cup in a row.
France 4-1 Portugal
In a repeat of the Euro 2016 final, France had the chance to make amends, and boy, didn’t they just. N’Golo Kante was the unlikely hero, netting two in the first half, but Portugal struck back through Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo had the chance to restore parity on the stroke of half time following a Raphael Varane handball, but his chipped effort went straight into the thankful arms of Hugo Lloris.
The introduction of Dimitri Payet made a difference in the second period, with the Marseille star putting Les Bleus 3-1 up before, Kante completed the unlikeliest of hat-tricks with a rifled effort into the roof of the Portugal net.
France win a first World Cup for 20 years, and just their second overall on our FIFA 18 sim, but will this happen for real in Russia?
Golden Ball: Julian Draxler
Golden Boot: Julian Draxler (10 goals)
Best Goalkeeper: Alisson (4 clean sheets)
Team of the Tournament: Hugo Lloris; Djibril Sidibe, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Raphael Guerreiro; Bernardo Silva, Mesut Ozil, N’Golo Kante, Julian Draxler; Gabriel Jesus, Cristiano Ronaldo
Julian Draxler’s 10 goals is the highest since Gerd Muller in 1970, and of course that incredible haul gave the Paris Saint-Germain man the Golden Ball award for the best player of the tournament.
France’s success rewards them with five players in the team of the tournament, with final and hat-trick hero N’Golo Kante earning a spot in central midfield.
Mesut Ozil’s four assists meant he topped the playmaking charts, with Portugal’s Cedric the only man to pick up three yellow cards in the tournament.
So, is it France’s year?
It possibly could be, yes. Everyone’s is doubting France due to their lack of experience, but on paper their side is frightening. Pace is provided through Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud is a proven goal scorer at international level, and they have a solid midfield pairing in N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is supported by a very strong defensive partnership of Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti.
Of course, experience doesn’t come into account on FIFA 18. France will be there or thereabouts, but just like they did at Euro 2016, you can see them falling short late on.
England fans, perhaps this is the year that the penalty voodoo comes to an end. With a Round of 16 clash likely to be against Poland or Colombia, you can picture a draw after 120 minutes, but whether Gareth Southgate’s young Lions can deliver from the spot is the big question.