The World Cup is fast approaching, with the tournament set to kick off in Qatar in just over a week’s time. Brazil are the current tournament favourites, priced as short as 3-1, while England, Argentina and France are also all among the favourites to lift the trophy in six weeks time.
But, with the latest edition of Football Manager now out, we were curious to see how the tournament would pan out on the software that predicted the superstar futures of the likes of Martin Odegaard, Vinicius Junior and Marco Verratti.
Here’s what it came up with.
An awful tournament for the hosts as records matched
Hosts nation Qatar are widely expected to be heading out in the Group Stages, having been drawn in a group with a resurgent Netherlands and African Champions Senegal along with Ecuador, but they became the second host nation in FIFA history to not make it out of their group (after South Africa in 2010) and, according to FM, they are set to do so in some style.
FIFA’s 50th-ranked side finished bottom with zero points, and a goal difference of -13 after a 7-0 defeat to Ecuador on the opening day of the tournament, which they followed up with a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Senegal.
Astonishingly, the Netherlands were the other side from Group A heading home early, with The Oranje finishing with just four points, and seeing Ecuador and Senegal both advance to the knockout rounds of the tournament in their place.
One saving grace for Qatar, however, was that they were spared the title of the worst-ever World Cup competitors. That title was instead taken on by Saudi Arabia, who conceded 14 times without scoring to draw level with the Zaire team of 1974.
Messi and Ronaldo bow out with a whimper
One of the most anticipated storylines at the tournament is the fact that it could be the final edition of the World Cup for both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo netted three times in the group stages to help his side top their group, but after just squeezing past Serbia in the round of 16 thanks to an extra-time winner from Joao Felix, Fernando Santos’ side came unstuck against Germany in the quarter-finals.
Ronaldo converted his penalty, only for misses from his teammates to rob him of a place in the World Cup semi-finals.
Messi suffered the same fate. After topping their group and comprehensively beating Australia 3-0, his side came unstuck in shock fashion as the USA booked a place in the semi-finals courtesy of goals from former teammate Sergino Dest and an effort from Weston McKennie.
It was an ignominious exit from the international stage for both players, with neither making it to another major tournament.
England fall at the quarter-finals
After their appearance in the final of Euro2020, this seemed England’s best chance to win the competition since 1966 when they lifted it as tournament hosts. And Gareth Southgate’s began well, topping their group and conceding just a single goal as they and the USA advanced ahead of Iran and bottom side Wales.
A 4-0 thrashing of Senegal continued the dream, but it was unceremoniously ended just one game later, as tournament top scorer Kylian Mbappe led France to a comfortable 2-0 win over the Three Lions, grabbing both goals for his side.
Brazil lift the trophy after nervy extra-time win
After a run that included knocking out Spain and Uruguay, Brazil underlined their position as tournament favourites in the showpiece’s final as they emerged 2-1 victors over France at a tense Lusail stadium.
The Selecao, who had also put the USA to the sword with a 4-1 thrashing in the semi-finals, fell behind to Les Blues, only for Juventus defender Danilo to equalise just after half-time in a close affair.
And, five minutes into extra time, Gabriel Jesus popped up with a winner for the South Americans, denying France the honours of being just the third side to successfully defend their World Cup crown.
That heartbreak did not stop Kylian Mbappe from finishing top goalscorer however, with an astonishing 11 goals in 7 games for Les Blues despite not scoring in the final.