FM Experiment | Football Manager 2023 Predicts World Cup 2022

Excitement is slowly beginning to build as, strange as it seems, we’re under a month away from the start of the first-ever World Cup to take place in the middle of the European football season.

Normally this close to the world’s biggest footballing event, we’d be pinning up our wallcharts and filling up our Panini sticker books in anticipation. But this year – partly because of the outrageous price of a Panini sticker book in the current economic climate and, more so, there’s actual football still happening – it doesn’t seem real that the World Cup is about to happen.

So what better way to convince ourselves that the World Cup is actually happening than to put the brand new Football Manager game to action and predict who will go and win it?A bit of housekeeping: In an attempt to make things fair, I only loaded up leagues from a country that didn’t make it to the World Cup and boosted the database size by selecting all current internationals from every continent.

And with that done and dusted, let’s go and see who Football Manager 2023 thinks will win World Cup 2022.

World Cup 2022 Group Stages

Group A: World Cup 2022 kicked off with a cracker as Qatar battered Senegal with 15 shots to 1. And neither team scored. It got a little more interesting as Holland thumped Ecuador 3-0. But Ecuador recovered to beat Qatar 3-0 then Sadio Mané’s goal helped Senegal beat Holland 1-0. Qatar got the home nation excited by beating Holland 1-0 while Ecuador beat Senegal 2-1.

That meant Ecuador won the group and Senegal qualified ahead of Qatar on goal difference with Holland going home early and bottom of the group.

Group B: Two tasty opening clashes saw USA triumph over Iran 2-1 then a Harry Kane penalty nick England a 1-0 win over Wales. Wales and USA drew 0-0 and England qualified with Kane bagging a hat-trick in a 3-0 win over Iran. England won 1-0 again, with Kane remaining their only scorer, as Wales and Iran drew 1-1.

Harry Kane and England won the group without conceding and USA joined them. But, had Wales beaten Iran, they would have qualified.

Group C: The biggest ‘shock’ so far saw Argentina held 1-1 by Poland before Mexico beat Saudi Arabia 3-0. Argentina scored in the 1st minute against Mexico and won 1-0 then a Robert Lewandowski brace helped Poland beat the Saudis 2-0. Lewandowski’s hat-trick led Poland to a 4-1 win over Mexico and Argentina beat Saudi Arabia 2-1.

Poland topped the group ahead of Argentina on goal difference.

Group D: The goals flowed in gameday one as Denmark hammered Tunisia 5-0 and France beat Australia 4-0. And the group was all over as France beat Tunisia 3-1 and Denmark beat Australia 1-0. Australia finally scored and won 2-1 against Tunisia while France won the group thanks to Raphael Varane’s 90th-minute goal defeating Denmark 2-1.

Group E: Japan opened up with a 1-0 win against Costa Rica before the biggest game so far saw Spain thrash unlicensed Germany 5-2. The fake Germans beat the Japanese 3-1 and Spain qualified by beating Costa Rica 2-0. The fake Germans qualified by beating Costa Rica 3-0 and Japan held group winners Spain 0-0.

Group F: A big game saw two 2018 semi-finalists Belgium beat runner-up Croatia 3-2 before Morocco saw off Canada 1-0. Belgium became the top scorers by thumping Morocco 5-2 before Croatia beat 10-man Canada 2-0. Canada earned their first-ever World Cup point with a 2-2 draw against group winners Belgium and Croatia qualified by beating 9-man Morocco 2-0.

Group G: Brazil opened up with a 2-0 win over Serbia then Switzerland beat Cameroon 1-0. Gameday two saw two 1-1 draws as Cameroon held Serbia and Switzerland got a good point against Brazil. And Brazil were again held 1-1 by Cameroon while Switzerland beat Serbia 2-1.

That meant Switzerland topped the group and Brazil squeezed through but, had Cameroon pulled off an upset, they could have knocked Brazil out.

Group H: Portugal and Uruguay played out a 0-0 before South Korea defeated 10-man Ghana 2-0. Portugal drew 0-0 again with Ghana while Uruguay defeated South Korea 3-1. Portugal managed to score through Diogo Jota but could only draw 1-1 with South Korea and Ghana beat Uruguay 2-0.

That resulted in a bizarre group in which every team had 0 goal difference and just 1 point separated all 4 of them! South Korea topped it because they scored the most goals and were joined by Uruguay. But possibly the biggest shock so far saw Portugal bottom of the group and going home.

World Cup 2022 Second Round

The second round kicked off with USA defeating Ecuador 2-0 led by a Christian Pulisic brace. Poland joined them thanks to a late goal downing Denmark 2-1.

The next day a huge game saw France take on Argentina and race into a 2-0 lead inside five minutes through Kylian Mbappé and Karim Benzema, and eventually won 3-0. Later that day, England beat Senegal 2-0 but Kane didn’t score, leaving it to Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden.

Switzerland’s snoozefest continued to bore teams to death as Xherdan Shaqiri’s goal downed Uruguay 1-0. Then a tasty tie saw Croatia knock out Spain with Nikola Vlasic scoring the only goal.

The final round of games saw Brazil finally kick into life as a Gabriel Jesus brace helped them South Korea 4-1. While German’s fakes were demolished by Belgium, who won 5-0 led by a Romelu Lukaku double.

World Cup 2022 Quarter-Finals

FIFA kindly served up the worst first as boring, boring Switzerland somehow found themselves in the semi-finals by beating Croatia 1-0 thanks to a late Ruben Vargas goal.

Football fans around the world were woken up by a thriller as USA took on Poland. The Americans raced into a 2-0 lead inside 14 minutes through Gyasi Zardes and Walker Zimmerman. Poland got a goal back through Lewandowski but immediately had a player sent off and Giovanni Reyna restored the two-goal lead. Poland got a goal back just after the break but the Americans held on for a huge victory.

The next day saw two massive games. Jesus was at it again with two more goals as Brazil saw off Belgium 3-1. And a few hours later, an Mbappé brace led France to a 2-0 win over England.

World Cup 2022 Semi-Finals

USA v Switzerland doesn’t sound like the kind of football match I want to watch, let alone should be taking in the World Cup semi-finals. Yet here we were. And I bet you can guess what the score was? Yep… 1-0. But who to? Ah no, this time Switzerland’s luck ran out. Reyna was the American hero once more, scoring after 68 minutes and USA survived despite having a man sent off late on. So USA were in the World Cup Final!

The next day saw a match much more deserving of this stage of the World Cup. Reigning champions France v all-time record winners Brazil. France gained the early advantage as Varane scored again inside two minutes. But Brazil came firing back after half-time with goals from Vinícius Júnior and Neymar to book their place in the Final.

World Cup 2022 Final

Brazil v USA in the World Cup Final. What is this madness? But hold on, as there was the small matter of France v Switzerland in the third-place playoff. No prizes for guessing the score… 1-0! But France only won through Olivier Giroud’s 101st-minute strike, but no-one realised as everyone hadn’t turned their TV off was already asleep.

And if they were hoping for better entertainment in the Final, then they were very wrong. Brazil battered USA with 19 shots to six and made one count as that man Jesus won Brazil their sixth World Cup.

World Cup 2022 Honours

The World Cup Best Player award went to the man who won Best Young Player in 2018. Mbappé won the big prize, followed by Jesus and Viní Jr. Best Young Player went to Polish winger Jakub Kaminski, who got 2 goals and 2 assists in 3 games, and Ederson was named Best Goalkeeper.

Three players shared the World Cup Golden Boot as Jesus, Lewandowski and Mbappé all finished the tournament with six goals. Kane followed with five, all in the group, and Andrej Kramaric and Leandro Trossard both got four. The Goal of the Tournament top three all came from unlikely sources, led by Pierre Emile Hojbjerg’s screamer against Tunisia, followed by an N’Golo Kanté strike against Australia and an André-Frank Zambo Anguissa goal for Cameroon against Serbia.

While the World Cup 2022 Dream Team was dominated by Brazil and is below:

Looking for more World Cup-related content? Keep an eye out for who Football Manager thinks will make the England squad and potentially some FM wonderkids to look out for at this year’s tournament. We’ll also run a wider experiment to see who Football Manager thinks is most likely to win World Cup 2022.

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