Our previous Football Manager Experiment using FM23 to predict World Cup 2022 saw England perform pretty well, so we thought it would be fun to take on the challenge ourselves. Can we lead England to success at Qatar 2022?
We holidayed along to mid-October with the initial 55-man squad announcement due on 21 October and named a massive 54-player strong squad. Then, on 7 November, I was asked to whittle it down to the final 26-man squad for the World Cup – which, in FM, was really difficult trying to select from the initial 54-man squad.
We based the decision on personal preference, form in the game and how often players had been picked by their clubs – for example, Luke Shaw hadn’t played a single match for Man UFC this season. I actually ended up with a squad that isn’t too different from the 26-man squad I would personally pick in real life, which you can see here.
Of, if you prefer to read a proper alphabetical list:
Goalkeeper: Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope, Aaron Ramsdale
Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Reece James, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker
Centre-back: Eric Dier, John Stones, Fikayo Tomori, Ben White
Left-back: Ben Chilwell
Midfield: Jude Bellingham, Jordan Henderson, James Maddison, Mason Mount, Declan Rice, James Ward-Prowse
Wingers: Jarrod Bowen, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling
Strikers: Tammy Abraham, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Harry Kane
We warmed up with a 2-0 win over Israel and this is the 4-3-3 approach I’ve decided to go with:
World Cup 2022 Group Stage
We began the World Cup against British rivals Wales, who started the game on top. But we grew into it and took advantage as Phil Foden teed up Raheem Sterling for a tap-in. We dominated from then on and took control as Harry Kane passed for Jude Bellingham to fire home his first goal for England from 25 yards just after the break. We missed a host of chances, finishing the game with 30 shots but only 8 on target, and won 2-0.
Next up was Iranand we battered them with 16 shots to 0 in the first half but somehow didn’t score. But Bellingham found the breakthrough then Foden and Kane quickly added to it. I made 5 subs and one of them had an impact as Jarrod Bowen created a goal for Sterling before Iran scored their only shot on target. But we’ll take a 4-1 win that confirmed qualification.
So I fully rotated for the final group game against USA. The backup 11 started well with James Maddison opening the scoring with his first goal for England. USA levelled with their first shot on target as Kyle Walker gifted them a goal, but two Tammy Abraham strikes had us 3-2 up before USA went down to 10 men and Bukayo Saka killed the game off.
That helped us win the group by five points, with USA joining us in the second round. Elsewhere in the groups, the biggest surprise was probably 2018 finalists Croatia going out without getting a point.
World Cup 2022 Second Round
The second round saw us take on Group A runners-up Ecuador. Both teams rattled the woodwork early on but brilliant play by Bellingham teed up Kane to volley home superbly after 25 minutes. Kane was the hero again as his powerful header from Ben Chilwell’s cross doubled the lead. Bellingham made sure of the win before Bowen came off the bench to create Kane’s hat-trick goal and Jack Grealish added a late fifth. That saw Kane become England’s record goalscorer, taking him to 56 goals in 79 caps.
Elsewhere in round 2, France won a thriller 5-3 against Argentina, Brazil edged past Portugal 2-1 And Spain came from behind to beat Belgium 3-1. Fake players Germany beat Poland 1-0, Switzerland thumped South Korea 4-0 and Holland beat USA 1-0.
World Cup 2022 Quarter Finals
Our ball-winner Declan Rice was ruled out for the quarter final with Denmark through suspension, so we replaced him with vice-captain Jordan Henderson. I also dropped Sterling for Grealish. We started pretty poorly and lost Reece James to injury in the first half.
But that man Bellingham fired us ahead on 48 minutes then a sensational Kane run set up an attack that led to Mason Mount scoring a beautiful curled effort. Henderson got sent off for a clean tackle but we went defensive and won 2-0. James will miss the remainder of the tournament with sprained ankle ligaments ruling him out for 3 months.
Elsewhere in the quarters, France and Holland played out a 0-0 stalemate and France won on penalties, Spain won a 3-2 thriller against Brazil and Switzerland beat Germany 2-1 after extra-time.
World Cup Semi Finals
Rice returned from suspension, Trent Alexander-Arnold replaced James for the World Cup semi final against Spain. I brought Sterling back in, while Mount was knackered so I dropped Foden into midfield and gave Bowen a start. We started well as a great Foden run led to Kane tucking home then the striker teed up Sterling to slam home a second. Spain got one back with their first shot on target through Rodri but Kane quickly grabbed his second.
I thought the game was over and made a load of subs, but Spain came from nowhere to grab two late goals and we looked destined for extra-time. But a late corner saw Grealish work the ball to Abraham to nick a dramatic injury-time winner!
England were going to the World Cup Final!
In the other semi, reigning champions France hammered Switzerland 4-1 led by a Kylian Mbappé brace to set up a mouthwatering World Cup Final.
World Cup 2022 Final
The team was looking pretty exhausted but I decided to stick with my first choice 11. So for the World Cup Final we lined up:
Ramsdale; Alexander-Arnold, Stones, Tomori, Chilwell; Bellingham, Rice, Mount; Foden, Sterling; Kane
While France lined up in a ridiculously defensive formation that I knew we could exploit:
Maignon; Upamecano, L Hernandez, Kimpembe; Pavard, Tchouameni, Rabiot, T Hernandez; Griezmann; Benzema, Mbappé
My instincts proved correct as we got a great start. On 12 minutes, Bellingham picked out Mount in the box, he danced past two defenders and nestled the ball into the bottom corner. Five minutes later, good play by Kane attracted two defenders and the loose ball sent Foden clean through on goal and he coolly passed the ball home. We were in dreamland after 21 minutes as Sterling’s shot hit Kimpembe, looped miles up in the air and somehow ended up in the net! We were absolutely flying as Kane hit the bar two minutes later then Sterling forced a great save out of Mike Maignon.
France got a goal back through Kylian Mbappé but a superb strike from the impressive Kane killed the game off on 88 minutes, even though Mbappé added another late consolation.
England won World Cup 2022!
Kane finished as second-top scorer with 7 goals, only bettered by Mbappé’s 10, but he had the highest average rating (8.13) and the most player of the match awards (3). While Foden topped the assists chart with 4, Ramsdale’s 3 clean sheets was the joint-best and Bellingham had the second-best average rating of 8.00.
As a result, Kane won Best Player with Bellingham third. Bellingham also won Best Young Player and the Goal of the Tournament for his strike against Ecuador. While Aaron Ramsdale, Trent, John Stones, Fikayo Tomori, Chilwell, Foden, Bellingham and Kane made the World Cup Dream Team.
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