Football Manager predicts 2022 FIFA World Cup winners - how far England will go in Qatar?

The 2022 FIFA World Cup finals kick off in less than two weeks, and the newly released Football Manager 23 has predicts the tournament will unfold

The FIFA World Cup finals kick off later this month and while we might not be in possession of a crystal ball to look into the future and see how the tournament will pan out, we have the next best thing - Football Manager 23.

The ever popular football management simulator has released its most recent issue and the database of players, clubs and international teams is as extensive as ever. The game series counts on an international network of over 1000 scouts to gather data for their releases and many professional coaches and recruitment staff have confessed to using it for real life knowledge in the past. It stands to reason then, that a simulation of the World Cup finals in Qatar this winter would yield a good basis to accurately predict how the tournament could end up unfolding - so let’s take a look!

Group Stages - Shock elimination for Netherlands while Portugal sneak through

The biggest shock of the group stages came in Group A where the Netherlands, heavily favoured to top the group, failed to qualify after a 0-0 draw with Ecuador and 2-1 defeat to Senegal who both made it through to the Last 16. The Dutch did manage a 7-0 hammering of Qatar in their final game but it counted for little. The hosts were far from the only nation who failed to win a single group stage match but were just one of three to lose all of their games alongside Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Portugal nearly joined the Netherlands in dropping out at the group stage but managed to sneak through in second behind Uruguay, who dominated Group H with three wins, after beating South Korea 1-0 to get their first victory in their final group stage game. Elsewhere the only other surprises were the USA finishing above England in Group B and Switzerland going through as Group G winners ahead of Brazil.

The line-up for the Last 16 of our simulation was: England vs Senegal, Argentina vs Denmark, France vs Mexico, Ecuador vs USA, Switzerland vs Portugal, Spain vs Croatia, Brazil vs Uruguay and Belgium vs Germany.

Last 16 - Portugal turn tables on Swiss as Argentina and USA go through after penalties

As mentioned, Switzerland topped their group over Brazil while Portugal sneaked through with victory in their final game, so this was probably a favourable draw for Murat Yakin’s men. The game was finely poised and went to extra time after finishing 1-1 in the 90 minutes, but the Swiss seemed to run out of steam and a Bernardo Silva double plus a goal from Cristiano Ronaldo saw Portugal through to the quarter-finals as 4-1 winners. England, France, Croatia and Belgium all made it through without requiring extra time or penalties while Brazil needed a further 30 minutes to see off Uruguay with goals from Paulinho and Neymar wrapping up a 3-1 win in extra time.

There was penalty shoot-out drama in two of the Last 16 ties as there was nothing to separate Argentina and Denmark or the USA and Ecuador. In the end it was the sides from North and South America who progressed through making the quarter-final line up: Portugal vs Croatia, England vs Argentina, Brazil vs Belgium and USA vs France.

Quarter-Finals - Dominant wins for England and Belgium ensure all European Semi-Finals

Many will favour at least one of Brazil or Argentina to make it at least as far as the semi-finals but the tournament came to an abrupt end for both South American sides in the quarter-finals here. It was in convincing fashion as well, with England able to comfortably see off Argentina 3-0 thanks to a Harry Kane brace plus one from Fikayo Tomori. Brazil were reduced to ten men after just six minutes in their quarter-final against Belgium, Renan Lodi being sent for a very early bubble bath, and Kevin de Bruyne netted a hat-trick before Thorgan Hazard wrapped up the 4-0 win.

The USA had been having a fantastic tournament after topping their group and beating Ecuador in the Last 16 but their competition came to an end at the hands of the reigning champions as Kylian Mbappe scored early on and France ground out a 1-0 win. Similarly, only one goal could separate Portugal and Croatia and it was Josip Brekalo who netted it for Croatia to put them into the semi-finals of the World Cup for the second consecutive time.

Semi-Finals - 2018 replay for England and Croatia while Belgium’s golden generation take on the title holders

The 2018 World Cup semi-final between England and Croatia saw the Three Lions take a fifth minute lead, but in our World Cup it was Croatia who went 1-0 up at the same time courtesy of a Bukayo Saka own goal. However, England managed to turn it around and net twice in the final three minutes of the first half through Kane and Raheem Sterling to take a 2-1 lead into the break. An 81st minute header from John Stones put the game beyond doubt and England made it through to the World Cup final.

If that wasn’t dramatic enough, the other semi-final had to be settled on penalties. Veteran attacker Dries Mertens gave Belgium a first half lead but Nabil Fekir restored parity in the second half for France. The score remained 1-1 right through normal and extra time, before the penalty shoot-out went the way of Les Bleus to send them through to the final once again.

Final - Could England recapture the magic of ‘66?

Before we answer that, you’ll obviously be eager to know the result of the all important third place play-off...right? It was Croatia who took home the bronze medal in our simulation with a 3-1 win over Belgium.

Anyway, back to the big question, did football come home? In short, no. Mbappe gave France a ninth minute lead and England a mountain to climb and things went from bad to worse in first half stoppage time as Maxime Lopez doubled their lead. Gareth Southgate’s side were dominated in possession with France seeing 57% of the ball and could only manage three shots on target from their 19 attempts. In the end, it was a poor showing after such a strong tournament for England, and France became the first nation to win back-to-back world cups since Brazil in 1958 and 1962.

A bitter pill to swallow for England but an incredible achievement from this excellent France side. Belgium’s golden generation fell short again while Croatia continued to punch above their weight. The USA outperformed expectations while the Netherlands faltered despite arguably having the easiest group to contend with. Our FM simulation was certainly a memorable World Cup, now it’s over to the real thing to live up to the hype.