With soccer’s biggest tournament fast approaching, the world will soon be watching, but what happens if you want to follow the action and know nothing about the “beautiful game” because you spend all your time playing video games? Worry not, because Goomba Stomp’s resident footy-mad, cynical England supporter is here to give you some key info on this year’s contesting teams and how they theoretically related to the gaming world. We’ll be doing one group every few days, so keep it here and you’ll be come a World Cup expert in no time!
Previous World Cup Appearances: 2
Best World Cup Performance: Group Stages (1990)
Star Player: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Biggest Contribution to Video Games: Ark: Survival Evolved (PS4, XB1, PC, Switch, Mobile) – Instinct Games
In 1934 Egypt became the first African team to play in the World Cup finals, but if you’ve watched any World Cups since then, you won’t have seen a lot of Egypt. Despite being the most successful national team in Africa – they’ve won the Africa Cup of Nations a record seven times – they have only ever qualified for two World Cups, and have never won a game in the tournament.
They will most certainly be hoping that changes this year, especially with recent signs pointing to star player – and scorer of 43 Liverpool goals this season – Mohamed Salah being fit for the tournament after being put in an armbar by Real Madrid scumbag Sergio Ramos in the 2018 Champions League final. Their chances of success are massively reliant on him, and most people without a bin for a heart will want to see him grace the tournament with his very impressive talents.
If it were a video game, Egypt would be:
Much like Egypt, Monster Hunter has historically been a massive success on its own continent, but has struggled to transfer that success to an international market. February’s Monster Hunter World changed all that, with the game receiving rave reviews and selling over 8 million copies worldwide to become the best-selling game in Capcom’s history. Egypt forward Mohamed Salah is a record breaker himself, and if he can have the kind of impact on the World Cup that MHW had on the games industry this year, they’ll probably make him a pharaoh or something.
Previous World Cup Appearances: 10 (7 as Soviet Union)
Best World Cup Performance: 4th Place (1966, as Soviet Union)
Star Player: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow)
Biggest Contribution to Video Games: Tetris (everything?) – Alexey Pajitnov
Russia will be riding that decidedly choppy wave of being World Cup hosts into this year’s tournament. Alongside the added potential pressure of playing in front of your own nation’s fans, the lack of qualification required for World Cup hosts means that the Russians haven’t played a competitive game of football in the two years since they lost 3-0 to Wales at Euro 2016 (unless you count the FIFA Confederations Cup, but nobody does).
Most likely because of this, Russia sit a dismal 66th in the FIFA rankings – the lowest in their history – and will be considered successful if they qualify from Group A. A lack of strikers that are any good certainly won’t help them, and former USSR defender Alexander Bubnov told magazine World Soccer that “it is our weakest national team in history.” Ouch. Good luck with those home crowds, lads.
If it were a video game, Russia would be:
It had to be, didn’t it? Much like the infamous “No Russian” level in the 2009 game – where players control an undercover CIA agent who helps gun down an airport of innocent civilians to gain favour with a Russian terrorist group – Russia’s World Cup bid carries with it a massive element of controversy.
Former UK Prime Minister, and alleged pig fucker, David Cameron recently asked the following hypothetical, and extremely snarky, question when discussing Russia’s World Cup bid victory over, amongst others, England: “We wanted to lead the world in great sporting events that bring people together. Yet how did Russia end up winning the bid for the 2018 World Cup? I will let you fill in the blanks on that one.”
Previous World Cup Appearances: 4
Best World Cup Performance: Round of 16 (1994)
Star Player: Fahad Al Muwallad (Al Ittihad)
Biggest Contribution to Video Games: Badiya (PS4, XB1, PC) – Semaphore
Since qualifying from their World Cup 1994 group (and losing in the round of 16 to Sweden), Saudi Arabia have failed to win a single World Cup match, and haven’t even qualified for the tournament since 2006. The “Green Falcons” are also notably lacking up front, with a bunch of old strikers who don’t score a lot of goals to pick from. It’s widely expected that their coach Antonio Pizzi – who won the Copa America with Chile in 2016, and then jumped to Saudi Arabia after Chile failed to qualify for the World Cup – will set up defensively and look to catch teams on the counter attack to stand any chance.
If it were a video game, Saudi Arabia would be:
Saudi Arabia has the largest economy in the Arab world and has third highest total estimated value of natural resources, valued at US$34.4 trillion in 2016. With all that money, you’d think they could invest in a decent national team, but no. Much like John Romero’s (the Doom dude) troubled, over-budget 2000 shooter, they have a whole heap of money, but they pretty much suck (it down).
Previous World Cup Appearances: 12
Best World Cup Performance: Winners (1930, 1950)
Star Player: Luis Suárez (Barcelona)
Biggest Contribution to Video Games: Kingdom Rush Saga (mobile) – Ironhide Game Studios
Uruguay are basically a football miracle. When they won the first ever World Cup in 1930, the country had a population of 1.75 million, making them far and away the smallest nation to ever win the tournament. For comparison, the second smallest country to lift the trophy is Argentina with a population of nearly 28 million people in 1978. In fact, little Uruguay has won 20 official titles, which is a world record for the most international titles held by any country.
Despite this, Uruguay have failed to continue punching above their weight in recent years, with a 4th place finish as their best result in the tournament since 1970. It doesn’t really look like 2018 will be their year to put a stop to that, as they have steadily dropped 15 world ranking places since their historical high of 2nd in 2011. Still, with a forward line of Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani, plenty is possible.
If it were a video game, Uruguay would be:
Final Fantasy VII is widely regarded as having the greatest ever video game villain in Sephiroth, and his essence of pure evil is mirrored quite expertly by Uruguay’s King of the Shits, Luis Suarez. Famous enough outside of football for his racism and numerous instances of literally biting opposition players in the middle of matches, Suarez also became an official enemy of football by purposely handling the ball to stop a quarter-final-winning goal for tournament sweethearts Ghana back in 2010.
A villain isn’t great if he isn’t powerful, though. Sephiroth is an absolute behemoth of chaos in FFVII, bringing fear and destruction wherever he goes, and it’s with a great amount of sourness that football fans must admit that Suárez is an incredible footballer. His 110 goals in 130 Barcelona games alone is mightily impressive, and he’s also Uruguay’s all-time leading goalscorer. I can’t remember how many goals Sephiroth scored, but it’s probably loads as well.