Let’s face it, among the dozens of World Cup previews, even the smartest soccer experts and the brightest soccer prognosticators won’t come close to predicting all 64 games. So instead of me acting like I know what I’m talking about, I’m letting FIFA 18 do my predictions for me. That way, if it winds up being right, I’ll take credit and if it’s wrong, well I didn’t pick it.

All kidding aside, there is something to be said about letting a video game decide what is going to happen. Anything can and does happen in a World Cup. There are upsets, there are injuries, there are those inexplicable moments that nobody in their right mind would ever think would happen. Though a video game couldn’t predict Spain firing their coach the day before the tournament starts. Anyway, FIFA 18 is there to separate all that and decide a winner without all the inherent and unintentional biases that every person tends to have.

Now the ground rules for this World Cup preview. Each game was played computer vs. computer under legendary difficulty and had six minute halves. Because there was no way to create a tournament and have it be computer vs. computer, each game was separate so injuries didn’t carry over from game to game. Also, the rosters are what FIFA provides and the actual 23 man rosters might be different. Now let’s see who will win this year’s World Cup.

 

Group A

Perhaps the biggest surprise in Group A was Egypt. Not only did they win the group, but Mohamed Salah failed to score in all three group stage games. Egypt may be forced to play without Salah for some of the group stage so this could be a nice omen for them.

The rest of the group was less surprising. Uruguay advanced while the hosts tried to hold on but fell short while Saudi Arabia got a draw in the opener but not much else.

Russia 0-0 Saudi Arabia
Egypt 1-1 Uruguay (Trezeguet 34’/Luis Suarez 68’)

Russia 2-3 Egypt (Aleksandr Golovin 20’, Aleksandr Samedov 42’ OG and 63’/Ahmed Hassan 16’ and 30’
Uruguay 4-0 Saudi Arabia (Edinson Cavani 13’ and 89’, Matias Vecino 28’, Luis Suarez 53’)

Uruguay 0-2 Russia (Aleksey Miranchuk 43’, Fyodor Smolov 87’)
Saudi Arabia 0-1 Egypt (Ahmed Hassan 34’)

Egypt – 7 PTS (5 GF, 3 GA, +2 GD)
Uruguay – 4 PTS (5 GF, 3 GA, +2 GD)
Russia – 4 PTS (4 GF, 3 GA, +1 GD)
Saudi Arabia – 1 PT (0 GF, 5 GA, -5 GD)

 

Group B

This was a rather straightforward group. Portugal and Spain were fighting to see who finished top of the group while the other one finished just behind while Iran and Morocco were hoping for a miracle and likely trying to get a win when they faced each other.

Morocco 3-1 Iran (Younes Belhanda 11’ and 20’, Nordin Amrabat 38’/Ali Gholizadeh 89’)
Portugal 2-1 Spain (Joao Moutinho 6’, Cristiano Ronaldo 25’/Saul 74’)

Portugal 5-0 Morocco (Cristiano Ronaldo 10’, Joao Moutinho 24’, Bernardo Silva 54’, Gelson Martins 77’ and 87’)
Iran 0-1 Spain (Marco Asensio 90’)

Iran 0-1 Portugal (Cristiano Ronaldo 9’)
Spain 1-0 Morocco (David Silva 7’)

Portugal – 9 PTS, 8 GF, 1 GA, +7 GD
Spain – 6 PTS, 3 GF, 2 GA, +1 GD
Morocco – 3 PTS, 3 GF, 6 GA, -3 GD
Iran – 0 PTS, 1 GF, 5 GA, -5 GD

 

Group C

There was no doubt France was going to win the group but the intriguing story would be who would grab second. Australia were likely going to be bottom of the group so things fell to Denmark and Peru. And when Denmark put a hurt on Peru in their opener, that was essentially decided.

France 4-0 Australia (Kylian Mbappe 6’, Olivier Giroud 33’, Antoine Griezmann 58’ and 90’)
Peru 0-4 Denmark (Christian Eriksen 22’, Nicolai Jorgensen 48’ and 90’, Mike Jensen 77’)

Denmark 0-0 Australia
France 1-0 Peru (Olivier Giroud 27’)

Denmark 1-2 France (Thomas Lemar 12’, Lucas Hernandez 52’ OG, Antoine Griezmann 90’)
Australia 0-1 Peru (Christian Cueva 68’)

France – 9 PTS (7 GF, 1 GA, +6 GD)
Denmark – 4 PTS (5 GF, 2 GA, +3 GD)
Peru – 3 PTS (1 GF, 5 GA, -4 GD)
Australia – 1 PT (0 GF, 5 GA. -5 GD)

 

Group D

Similar to Group C, the expectation was that Argentina would win the group while the other three teams fought for second. After a big upset in the opener against Argentina, Iceland looked well on their way to that spot. But losses to Nigeria and Croatia after sealed their fate in fourth. Nigeria just got through on goal difference.

Argentina 0-1 Iceland (Jon Daoi Boovarsson 14’)
Croatia 1-1 Nigeria (Luka Modric 14’/Victor Moses 34’ PK)

Argentina 2-0 Croatia (Lucas Biglia 54’, Gonzalo Higuain 63’)
Nigeria 2-1 Iceland (Odion Ighalo 60’, Onyinye Ndidi 90’/Johann Berg Guomundsson ’45)

Nigeria 0-1 Argentina (Angel Di Maria 89’)
Iceland 0-1 Croatia (Mario Mandzukic 61’)

Argentina – 6 PTS (3 GF, 1 GA, +2 GD)
Nigeria – 4 PTS (3 GF, 3 GA, +0 GD)
Croatia – 4 PTS (2 GF, 3 GA, -1 GD)
Iceland – 3 PTS (2 GF, 3 GA -1 GD)

 

Group E

Brazil uncharacteristically struggled in the group stage after suffering two draws against the bottom two teams. Because of that, the group was tight entering the final game. Brazil still won the group but this was close.

Costa Rica 1-1 Serbia (Marco Urena 45’/Aleksandar Mitrovic 35’)
Brazil 2-0 Switzerland (Paulinho 3’, Neymar 62’)

Brazil 0-0 Costa Rica
Serbia 1-1 Switzerland (Sergej Milinkovic-Savic 90’/Blerim Dzemaili 54’)

Serbia 0-0 Brazil
Switzerland 1-0 Costa Rica (Haris Seferovic 16’)

Brazil – 5 PTS (2 GF, 0 GA, +2 GD)
Switzerland – 4 PTS (2 GF, 3 GA, -1 GD)
Serbia – 3 PTS (2 GF, 2 GA, +0 GD)
Costa Rica – 2 PTS (1 GF, 2 GA, -1 GD)

 

Group F

Here is the big shock of the group stage. Germany, the defending World Cup champion, finished last in their group in a rather disappointing effort. A thrillig 2-2 draw to Mexico was a slight scare but it was expected that Germany would pull it out. Then came a 2-0 loss to Sweden from two late goals and then a late loss to South Korea sealed their fate.

It should be noted that in the last two World Cups, the defending champion was knocked out in the group stage.

Germany 2-2 Mexico (Timo Werner 6’, Toni Kroos 45’/Javier Hernandez 29’, Marco Fabian 42’
Sweden 0-0 South Korea

South Korea 0-1 Mexico (Andres Guardado 83’)
Germany 0-2 Sweden (John Guidetti 84’, Emil Forsberg 90’)

South Korea 1-0 Germany (Kim Shin Wook 83’)
Mexico 2-1 Sweden (Javier Hernandez 2’, Marco Fabian 8’/Victor Lindelof 90’)

Mexico – 7 PTS (5 GF, 3 GA, +2 GD)
Sweden – 4 PTS (3 GF, 2 GA, +1 GD)
South Korea – 4 PTS (1 GF, 1 GA, +0 GD)
Germany – 1 PT (2 GF, 4 GA, -3 GD)

 

Group G

This was a group between European powers Belgium and England. The two would easily take Tunisia and Panama and then the only mystery would be seeing who would win the group. That would be Belgium though as you’ll see later, England kind of got the better end of the bracket.

Belgium 1-0 Panama (Romelu Lukaku 21’)
Tunisia 1-2 England (Naim Sliti 61’/Harry Kane 30’, Marcus Rashford 75’)

Belgium 3-0 Tunisia (Thomas Meunier 38’, Nacer Chadli 82’, Marouane Fellaini 90’)
England 3-0 Panama (Harry Kane 21’, Dele Alli 75’ and 90’)

England 1-3 Belgium (Jordan Henderson 28’/Eden Hazard 24’, Yannick Carrasco 45’, Moussa Dembele 86’)
Panama 1-1 Tunisia (Luis Carlos Ovalle 90’/Wahbi Khazri 82’)

Belgium – 9 PTS (7 GF, 1 GA, +6 GD)
England – 6 PTS (6 GF, 4 GA, +2 GD)
Tunisia – 1 PT (2 GF, 6 GA, -4 GD)
Panama – 1 PT (1 GF, 5 GA, -4 GD)

 

Group H

Of all the teams to go through the group stage with three wins and not allowing a single goal, I wouldn’t have said Poland. Only Brazil had the distinction of not being scored on in the group stage but they also had two draws. With eight goals and nine points, Poland was virtually perfect.

Colombia 1-1 Japan (James Rodriguez 37’/Yuya Osaka 32’)
Poland 1-0 Senegal (Arkadiusz Milik 3’)

Japan 0-1 Senegal (Keita Balde 66’)
Poland 3-0 Colombia (Karol Linetty 15’, Arkadiusz Milik 41’, Piotr Zielinski 69’)

Japan 0-4 Poland (Arkadiusz Milik 19’, Robert Lewandowski 23’, Kamil Grosicki 42’, Piotr Zielinski 45’)
Senegal 1-2 Colombia (Kara Mbodji 30’/Juan Cuadrado 23’, Abel Aguilar 63’

Poland – 9 PTS (8 GF, 0 GA, +8 GD)
Colombia – 4 PTS (3 GF, 5 GA, -2 GD)
Senegal – 3 PTS (2 GF, 3 GA, -1 GD)
Japan – 1 PT (1 GF, 6 GA, -5 GD)

 

Round of 16

Now we enter the knockout stage and things get serious. We honestly saw just about everything this round. Massive upsets, late winning goals, penalty shootouts that went down to the wire and even our first and only hat trick of this World Cup, the round of 16 certainly lived up to its expectation.

Notable distinctions go out to Sweden, Argentina, Mexico and England’s Harry Kane. Sweden went on their giant killer tear after beating Germany by taking out another former World Cup winner in Brazil. Denmark needed a Christian Eriksen stoppage time equalizer to send things to extra time where they ended Argentina’s dream and left Lionel Messi scoreless throughout the tournament. It took penalties after a 0-0 “thriller” but Mexico finally got into the quarterfinal and Harry Kane got a hat trick, the only hat trick this World Cup.

Egypt 0
Spain 1 (David Silva 62’)

France 1 (Paul Pogba 6’)
Nigeria 0

Brazil 0
Sweden 2 (Sebastian Larsson 63’ John Guidetti 89’)

Belgium 0 (4) PK Hazard (O), Lukaku (O), Mertens (O), Chadli (X-Miss), Vertonghen (O)
Colombia 0 (2) Moreno (X-Save), Muriel (O), Cuadrado (O), Cardona (X-Miss)

Portugal 1 AET (Concalo Guedes 120’)
Uruguay 0

Argentina 1 (Angel Di Maria 45’)
Denmark 3 AET (Christian Eriksen 90’, Nicolai Jorgensen 114’, Pione Sisto 120’)

Mexico 0 (3) PK Guardado (O), Layun (O), Hernandez (O), Dos Santos (O)
Switzerland 0 (1) Rodriguez (X-Save), Schar (X-Save), Behrami (O)

Poland 0
England 3 (Harry Kane 3’, 13’ and 67’)

 

Quarterfinals

As the top contenders fade away, this really starts to show that just about anyone can win this tournament. Sweden and Denmark got past better opposition and with Mexico’s loss to England, the semifinal became an all-UEFA affair.

Spain 0
France 1 (Thomas Lemar 45’)

Sweden 2 AET (Marcus Berg 112’, John Guidetti 117’)
Belgium 1 (Moussa Dembele 101’)

Portugal 1 (1) (Cristiano Ronaldo 45’) Ronaldo (X-Save), 23 Silva (O), 9 Silva (X-Save), Quaresma (X-Post), Martins (X-Save)
Denmark 1 (2) PK (Thomas Delaney 7’) Schone (O), Jorgensen (X-Save), Eriksen (O), Jensen (X-Post),

Mexico 1 (Javier Hernandez 60’)
England 4 (Marcus Rashford 8’, Dele Alli 35’ and 72’, Eric Dier 90’)

 

Semifinals

While Sweden’s magical run ended, Denmark’s continued. Denmark took out England and are off to their first World Cup final. France vs. Sweden had what was arguably the game of the tournament. France pulled ahead but Sweden not only equalized but took the lead. Then France equalized to go to extra time where France scored and Sweden put in a stunning last minute goal. In the end, it would be France and their perfect penalty taking who moved on to the final.

France 3 (5) PK (Antoine Griezmann 21’, 80’ PK Ousmane Dembele 101’) Giroud (O), O. Dembele (O), Griezmann (O), Mbappe (O), Umtiti (O)
Sweden 3 (3) (Ola Toivonen 23’, Sebastian Larsson 59’ VIktor Claesson 118’) Guidetti (O), Granqvist (O), Durmaz (O), Berg (X-Save)

Denmark 3 (Thomas Delaney 7’ Nicolai Jorgensen 64’, Yussef Poulsen 69’)
England 1 (Marcus Rashford 75’)

 

Third Place Game and Final

England took the honors of finishing third in a game that was largely meaningless. If anything, it put Dele Alli into a tie with Antoine Griezmann and Harry Kane for the Golden Boot.

Third Place Game

Sweden 0
England 2 (Jordan Henderson 29’, Dele Alli 60’)

 

Final

While this may be a simulation from a video game and it’s unlikely these two teams will be in the actual final, FIFA 18 did get one thing right that the final will likely be a goalless snoozefest. It’s nothing against the teams in the tournament but with so much on the line, both teams are overly careful to not screw up that it’s more important to not lose than try to win. And that leads to rather boring action.

After 120 minutes, the FIFA 18 gods gave us a powerful upset. In a rematch of Group C teams, Denmark held on to win in penalties and is our pick to win their first World Cup. While that may be far fetched, remember that Denmark pulled off a similar upset when they won Euro 1992.

France 0 (0) O. Dembele (X-Save), Fekir (X-Save), Griezmann (X-Miss), Mbappe (X-Miss), Umtiti
Denmark 0 (2) PK Schone (O), Jorgensen (X-Save), Eriksen (O)

There’s a good chance that Denmark will not get anywhere close to winning the World Cup and the smart money would still be on either Brazil, France, Germany or Spain. But predicting a Denmark upset is something that no expert would dare do and stranger things have certainly happened in soccer. So why can’t Denmark win the World Cup? In a tournament that is as wide open as ever, they have a chance.

 

About Phillip Bupp

News and soccer editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. I also do video highlight game coverage for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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