Without wishing to spoil the tournament before the first ball is kicked in Qatar, it looks like Argentina can go ahead and celebrate winning the 2022 World Cup. That's if EA Sports' predictions are anything to go by after the company used FIFA 23 to simulate the Nov. 20-Dec. 18 tournament and preemptively crown the champions.
Using FIFA 23 and the in-depth player ratings used for the game's various FIFA World Cup play modes, EA Sports played out all 64 matches from the group stage to the final and determined that Lionel Messi & Co. are bound for glory. What's more, according to EA Sports, Messi will win the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball for being the top goal scorer and the best player, respectively, at the tournament.
Messi also played his way into the predicted Team of the Tournament where he was joined by four of his Albiceleste teammates in Emiliano Martinez, Marcos Acuna, Leandro Paredes and Rodrigo De Paul. The remaining spots were filled out by Marquinhos, Vinicius Junior and Richarlison of Brazil; Raphael Varane and Kylian Mbappe of France, and Joao Cancelo of Portugal.
Now, before you go ahead and dismiss EA Sports' prediction as just another common-or-garden PR stunt, you should know that they boast an impressive track record when it comes to successfully forecasting the winners of World Cups. They ran similar simulations before the 2010, 2014 and 2018 World Cups, and each time they picked the correct winner of the tournament: Spain, Germany and France respectively.
🇪🇸✅ 2010— EA SPORTS FIFA (@EASPORTSFIFA) November 8, 2022
EA SPORTS has got it right since 2010 👀 See how the FIFA World Cup played out in the #FIFA23 simulation and have your say 🏆 https://t.co/rQ24tEwrTg pic.twitter.com/EuiyhQnPQI
However, beyond picking the outright winners, things quickly begin to fall apart with EA Sports also offering up a fair amount of World Cup prophesies that did not come to pass and have not aged well.
For example, it was divined that Brazil would power all the way through to the final of their home World Cup in 2014. Scholars may recall that the Selecao actually got utterly humiliated 7-1 by eventual winners Germany in the semifinals -- a result that shocked the world and left the host nation traumatised.
Also in 2014, EA Sports predicted that defending champions Spain would beat neighbours Portugal 3-1 in a third-place playoff, only for neither team to make it out of their group.
Spain international Isco was backed to win the Golden Boot with five goals at the 2018 World Cup. In reality, the midfielder managed to find the net just once (against Morocco in the group stage) as La Roja went tumbling out to hosts Russia in the round of 16 after a penalty shootout. However, the EA Sports simulation for 2018 did predict that Antoine Griezmann would also score five goals, and in reality he netted four times to finish second in the scoring charts as France won their second world title.
Also in 2018, David de Gea was predicted to be crowned best goalkeeper, with Gabriel Jesus taking the plaudits for best young player. The former was widely pilloried for a dreadful handling error against Portugal in the group stage while the latter made five appearances before getting knocked out in the quarters having failed to score a single goal for Brazil.
Still, you can't win them all. And, after correctly predicting the last three World Cup winners, backing the team that is on a 35-game unbeaten streak -- two behind Italy's record of 37 matches without a loss -- seems like a pretty sound call.