We’ve got World Cup fever and it seems the only cure is playing copious amounts of Football Manager until June.
With a month to go until we don our England shirt and get all patriotic, we’ve decided to have a look at what will happen in Russia using our favourite football management game.
That’s right, we’ve simulated the entire tournament and we’ve got the results right here.
But before all of that, here’s who Gareth Southgate picked for his England squad.
While we all know by now that the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are on the plane, in our simulation we see Michael Keane, Nathaniel Clyne, Danny Ings, Daniel Sturridge and Tom Heaton all getting the nod – probably because their real-life problems with form and fitness didn’t occur in the game.
However, we’re pleased to see there’s no place for the once immovable Joe Hart, which proves he’s just as authentically terrible on the game as he is in real life.
Russia are the big surprises here, topping their group by winning all three of their group games.
That’s what home advantage is for, eh?
Putin’s boys thrashed Saudi Arabia 5-1 in the opener and followed that with a 3-0 win over Egypt, with West Ham target Fyodor Smolov scoring all three goals.
As we expected, Mohamed Salah is the big hero for the Egyptians, helping them draw with Uruguay before inspiring them to a big win over the Saudi’s.
That means Luis Suarez, Edison Cavani and the other Uruguay boys are out at the first hurdle.
We’d be willing to put quite a large sum of money on Group B going to Spain and Portugal, and not even Football Manager could deny us that.
Spain thrashed their neighbours 3-0 in the opener and went onto win the two group games as well, while Cristiano Ronaldo was on target in Portugal’s remaining games as they finished runners-up.
We were hardly surprised by the team’s that made it out of Group C, but France missing out on the top spot was a bit of surprise.
Denmark – who’ll be relying heavily on Spurs midfield Christian Eriksen this summer – won all of their games, while France finished strongly by beating Australia 4-0 after their opening game defeat to the Danes.
Every tournament has a so-called ‘Group of Death’ and it appears this is the one in Russia.
Argentina – on paper at least – look to be the strongest of the four, but we’re also very excited by this Croatia side, and they’re the two to make it through.
Another interesting group, with the runners-up spot very much up for grabs between Serbia, Costa Rica and Switzerland – while Brazil look nailed-on as group winners.
Not here though, it seems.
Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic helped Serbia finish as table-toppers, with Brazil’s defeat to Costa Rica denying them the top spot.
We reckon tournament dark-horses Sweden and Mexico will be fighting it out for the runners-up spot in Group F, while we’re secretly hoping Spurs’ Son Heung-min can inspire a group surprise for South Korea.
But we can’t look beyond Germany to top this one and they duly deliver.
We’re very happy to see England top their group, getting the better of Belgium’s so-called ‘Golden Generation’.
Goals from Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford make the difference in the clash between the two, while Roberto Martinez’s side secure the runner’s up spot with an 8-0 hammering of Panama.
We loved Colombia at the last World Cup, thanks largely to the brilliance of James Rodriguez.
And they progress from Group H with relative ease, with Robert Lewandowski’s Poland finishing behind them.
First knockout round
Russia v Portugal
Egypt v Spain
Denmark v Argentina
Croatia v France
Sweden v Serbia
Germany v Brazil
Poland v England
Belgium v Colombia
There’s some standout games here, with Germany v Brazil – a repeat of the infamous 2014 semi-final – the pick of the bunch.
Once again, using that home advantage, Russia got the better of Euro 2016 winners Portugal, denying Cristiano Ronaldo in what’s surely his final World Cup appearance.
Costa and Juan Mata were on target for Spain in their win over Egypt, while Lionel Messi got his first goal of the tournament as Argentina beat Denmark 4-2.
France collapsed against Croatia in a 1-0 defeat, thanks to a goal from Juve’s Mario Mandzukic.
Former Man City man Matija Nastasic was one of the guys on target for Serbia in their win over Sweden, while Germany were a little easier on Brazil this time around, winning just 2-0.
Belgium’s underwhelming campaign finished at the hands of Colombia, with Radamel Falcao on target.
As for England?
They went out via a penalty shootout, of course.
Having put their fans through 120 minutes of goalless misery against Poland, Rashford and Danny Rose both missed their respective spot-kicks to send us crashing out.
Southgate then announces his immediate resignation from the national team and we all go back to living our lives.
Russia v Croatia
Spain v Argentina
Serbia v Colombia
Germany v Poland
Russia’s excellent tournament finally ended at the hands of Croatia, with Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren the surprise match winner.
Argentina got the better of Spain – completely going back on their real-life 6-1 friendly defeat recently – with a 4-2 win, as Juve duo Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala both scored twice.
The biggest rivalry of the final eight was Germany v Poland, which ended in a stunning 4-4 draw that Germany won on penalties, while Serbia reached the semi-final for the first since 1962 – back when they were known as Yugoslavia.
Croatia v Germany
Argentina v Serbia
It was all set up for a Germany against Argentina in the final, but that’s not what we got with Croatia beating the champions 1-0 – this time thanks to a certain Luka Modric.
Serbia’s Milinkovic-Savic was on target against Argentina, but his tournament-long brilliance wasn’t enough to get the better of Messi and Dybala – who both netted in their 2-1 win.
Argentina’s first World Cup win since 1986 is on.
Croatia v Argentina
Well, well, well.
Argentina made easy-work of Croatia, smashing them in a 5-1 win.
That’s right, 5-1.
And while we all expect Messi to be Argentina’s hero this summer, it was Dybala who was the man of the match in the final by scoring four goals – which was enough for that all-important Golden Boot award.
So there we have it and we can only really use our imagination from this point.
Dybala will likely move to Real Madrid, Messi will announce his retirement and England will hire Sean Dyche as their new manager.
It all makes perfect sense.
Dream Team World Cup has landed
The greatest show on Earth just got that bit more exciting.
That’s because the Dream Team World Cup game is coming ahead of this summer’s tournament.
Dream Team World Cup
- Completely free to enter
- £50m budget and 20 transfers throughout the tournament
- £175k total prizepot (for UK players only)
- PRE-REGISTER FOR DREAM TEAM WORLD CUP NOW
The game officially launches on June 1 – but you can pre-register for the game now.
If you’re an existing Dream Team customer the World Cup game now appears in the app or you can enter here, but if you’re not follow these simple steps:
- Download the Dream Team app
- Create an account
- Click on the World Cup banner below in the app and follow the pre-registration instructions
From Russia with a whole lot of love.