I simulated the Euro 2024 tournament 50 times in Football Manager 2024 - here's who the game thinks will win

Artwork for Football Manager 2024 with the UEFA Euro 2024 logo on the front
(Image credit: Sports Interactive/UEFA)

Football / soccer simulation game Football Manager is renowned for its ability to identify the stars of the future, with many of today's greats being beloved by virtual coaches long before they reached the big time in real life. But how good is it at predicting entire tournaments?

Major tournament Euro 2024 is here, so I took to Football Manager 2024 to simulate the entire tournament 50 times and learn which team it reckons will win the whole thing, who the dark horses and underdogs are, and which players are likely to shine for their country.

A few bits of housekeeping first though. Using the real-time editing tool, FMRTE, I was able to ensure every team has the exact squad they're bringing to the tournament in real life. However, due to limitations with database size and a few select players playing their club football outside of Europe, some players low on the pecking order for a couple of lower-ranked countries weren't included, so they were replaced by youth players for their team.

Football Manager also doesn't have the licensing to use the German national team, sadly, so while the players are mostly copies of their real-life counterparts with different names, they won't feature in any of the player awards. I also made sure no players were banned or injured at the start and that everyone had excellent morale, so all teams started on the same level. This excludes Germany due to their fake players, so they performed a little worse than expected throughout. 

It's worth keeping in mind that when Football Manager 2024 is simulating these tournaments, miniature storylines are happening everywhere. Players are getting injured and banned, morale can dip, and the managers may not set the teams up identically to how they would in real life despite having the same squads available.

One prime example is how in-game England manager Gareth Southgate seems to always favor Aaron Ramsdale in goal, whereas in real life Jordan Pickford is the first choice for England. All of this is to say the simulations are realistic and the data models are accurate, but they can't cater for specific events, such as the one simulation that saw Harry Kane get a straight red card eight minutes into England's first match against Serbia…

The simulated German team national in Football Manager 2024 for UEFA Euro 2024

(Image credit: Sports Interactive)

The disappointments

Across 50 simulations, every team made it out of the group plenty of times, but let's start with the worst-performing teams - the teams that made it out of the group stages less than half of the time.

At the very bottom is Albania, who only escaped the group stages 11 times, and in eight of those, they were eliminated in the second round. On three occasions, they made it to the quarter-final however, and one of those simulations was very special indeed, as they somehow got out of the group without winning a single game, yet still went on to beat Belgium 2-1 in the second round.  Not that this is foreshadowing for Belgium's overall performance or anything…

Romania and Denmark are the next two under-performers, making it to the second round 17 and 21 times respectively, though Romania did reach the semi-final twice, and Denmark made it four times, along with a solitary final appearance where they… lost 4-0, though I won't spoil who to. Three teams were level for 22 second-round or better appearances; Scotland, Poland, and Georgia, of whom Poland performed the best, with a solitary final appearance where they lost 1-0. Georgia reached the semi-final twice, once beating the Netherlands on the way, only to lose 4-3 in extra time to Croatia. Oof.

The other teams to not make it to the second round at least half of the time were Hungary and Austria, as they both made it 23 times. Austria were far more successful overall though, as they also made it to one final only to lose 2-0, along with two semi-finals, while Hungary never made it beyond the quarter-final. 

An in-game image of a France vs Switzerland in Football Manager 2024

(Image credit: Sports Interactive)

The dark horses

Football Manager had Slovakia as the only team to make it to the second round exactly 50% of the time, while Slovenia managed it 27, though were much more successful than their similarly-named eastern counterparts, as they made four semi-finals to Slovakia's zero. Albania, Scotland, Hungary, and Slovakia are the only four to never make it to the semi-finals, though Hungary did get to the quarter-finals four times, whereas the others only managed it on three occasions. Disappointing for Scotland after their impressive qualifying, as it seems Scott McTominay didn't turn into prime Ronaldo in-game quite like he does in real life when representing his country. 

Turkey escaped the group stage 28 times with three semi-final appearances, then it's a colossal jump to the next group of teams: Czech Republic, Croatia, and Serbia.

The three have a combined 15 semi-final appearances between them, but only two final appearances, going to the Czech Republic and Croatia. Neither of them managed to win it though, losing 2-0 and 2-1 respectively. With 10 teams left, we haven't encountered any winners of the tournament yet, but there's one up next: they made it out of their group 40 times, but the Netherlands only managed to win the tournament once, despite a total of four appearances in the final. Slightly underwhelming from a team stacked with players such as Memphis Depay, Frenkie de Jong, Xavi Simons, and Virgil van Dijk.

Next up is arguably the biggest surprise across all 50 simulations: Switzerland. Xhaka, Embolo, Akanji, and the rest of the Swiss army made it to five finals, winning three of them, including a 2-1 win over France with an 88th-minute winner and a 1-0 win against England. They also made it to six semi-finals, so all eyes should be on Switzerland in real life.

Ukraine are the last remaining surprise left to mention and they're up next, but despite making it out of the group 44 times, they were eliminated in the second round on 35 occasions. They did make it one final though before losing 2-0, but not before disposing of the Netherlands, Croatia, and Turkey along the way, against whom they dished out a 5-1 beating.

An image of the simulated England squad from Football Manager 2024

(Image credit: Sports Interactive)

The big dogs

Two of the remaining teams didn't manage to win a single tournament: Germany and Belgium. The reason for Germany's arguable under-performance is explained above, though they did only fail to make it to at least the second round twice, but a total of 41 simulations saw them lose in the second round or the quarter-final, with five semi-appearances and two finals. Belgium, on the other hand, didn't make it to a single final, losing in the semis nine times and the quarters 21 times. Perhaps they're still haunted by Welsh ghosts. This is despite Romelu Lukaku winning one Best Player award and four Golden Boots, and Charles De Ketelaere winning two of the latter also.

In terms of lifting the trophy, England are up next after the Netherlands and Switzerland. The three lions escaped the group stages the most, with 49 out of 50 tournaments seeing them reach at least the second round, but they only managed to turn that into five trophies. They made it to the final 11 times though, meaning they fell at the last hurdle six times, and they lost in the semi-final 16 times. Maybe football isn't coming home after all, but remember that moment I mentioned Harry Kane got sent off within eight minutes of their first game? England went on to win the entire tournament thanks to West Ham's Jarrod Bowen coming in as Kane's replacement and scoring a hat trick in their second match. 

Fun simulation fact: 120 different players featured in total across all the Team of the Tournaments Football Manager spat out at the end of each sim

Spain are up next with six tournament wins, though they only made it to the final 11 times in total. Portugal are one step above this with seven wins out of 14 final appearances, followed by Italy with eight wins out of 13 finals. England's five wins out of 16 in the final isn't looking too great, by comparison, but funnily enough, one of their final losses came after they made it to that point without conceding a single goal. They won their group games one, two, and three goals to nil, followed by disposing of Ukraine 3-0, Croatia 4-0, and Czech Republic 2-0. Then they faced Portugal, where they were humbled by a hat trick from Cristiano Ronaldo of all players, and lost 4-0 overall. Just England things.

That only leaves one team, and it looks like Football Manager 2024 agrees with the bookies in real life: France are going to win Euro 2024. They made it to the final a whopping 29 times, winning 20 of them, although they were knocked out in the group stage twice, whereas England only suffered that fate once. Of course, Denmark's aforementioned 4-0 final loss was to France, as was Poland's and Austria's.

An image of France and Kylian Mbappe simulated in Football Manager 2024

(Image credit: Sports Interactive)

Stars of the show

Who were the players that made it all happen? There are three individual awards up for grabs, along with the overall team of the tournament, which we've noted down the data for how many times each player appeared and in which position. First though, the golden boot. As you'd expect with 20 tournament wins, Kylian Mbappe won the most Golden Boot awards, taking home 13 in total across the 50 tournaments, while Giacomo Raspadori for Italy, Harry Kane for England, and Romelu Lukaku for Belgium were all tied in second with four golden boots apiece. 

Dusan Vlahovic for Serbia and Jude Bellingham for England were next, with three trophies each. A special shout-out goes to Ianis Hagi who won the Golden Boot on one single occasion, despite Romania losing to England in the second round, because no player managed to score more than three goals throughout the entire tournament and Hagi managed it in just four games.

An image of football player's Ianis Hagi's stats simulated in Football Manager 2024

(Image credit: Sports Interactive)

However, the Golden Boot winner with the most goals in a single tournament was Harry Kane, when he scored eight in seven matches, plus one assist, including a hat trick to beat Portugal 3-1 in the final. He doesn't take the overall Golden Boot though, because Robert Lewandowski for Poland managed eight goals and an assist in six matches, as Poland were eliminated by Italy in the semi-final. Lewandowski scored eight of their 11 total goals at the tournament.

Over to the Best Young Player award now and thankfully Mbappe is too old to be considered for this, so topping the charts is everyone's favorite up-and-coming Birmingham City youth product, Jude Bellingham. He won the best young player award a staggering 26 times, one of which came in the single tournament England were eliminated in the group stage, while Bukayo Saka won it 16. That means an England youngster won 42 of the 50 best young player awards, despite England themselves only winning five tournaments. The future's bright, at least!

As Mbappe isn't considered for the Young Player award, of course, this means he runs away with the Best Player trophy, taking home 22 in total. Bernardo Silva won the second most with seven, while Bellingham and Rafael Leao tied for the third spot with four apiece. Impressively, David Raya also won one Best Player award, despite being a goalkeeper.

An image of Jude Bellingham and England in a game against The Netherlands simulated in Football Manager 2024

(Image credit: Sports Interactive)

Team of the Tournament

Now we move on to the best 11 players across all 50 simulations. But just before we get into the team itself, some fun facts:

  • 14 different goalkeepers featured in the team of the tournament in total
  • Left wing was the position with the fewest unique players with just six
  • Every team except Albania had at least one player feature
  • England and France were the only two teams to have at least one player feature in every position
  • 120 different players featured in total

In goal, Mike Maignan (France) is the winner, with 16 appearances in the team of the tournament. In second place came Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy) with seven showings.

Right back was closely fought, but Trent Alexander-Arnold (England) just took it with 14, compared to Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Italy) with 12. Benjamin Pavard (France) wasn't too far behind with eight.

For the two center backs, it's a French sweep as Dayot Upamecano and William Saliba featured 10 times apiece. They just pipped Alessandro Bastoni (Italy) who had nine, followed by John Stones (England) and Rodri (Spain) who both had eight.

Left back goes to Theo Hernandez (France) with a staggering 20 appearances, miles ahead of Federico Dimarco (Italy) on eight.

An image of the simulated, overall Team of the Tournament after 50 simulations of Euro 2024 in Football Manager 2024

(Image credit: lineup-builder.co.uk)

At right wing, it's Bernardo Silva (Portugal) with 19 appearances in the team of the tournament, followed by Ousmane Dembele (France) and Xavi Simons (Netherlands) with just five each.

The first of two central midfield spots goes, unsurprisingly, to Jude Bellingham (England) with 26 appearances, although some of those include times he was featured on the right-hand side of the pitch too. Eduardo Camavinga (France) (with Davide Frattesi (Italy) hot on his heels) got the other central role with 12 showings. They're followed by Charles De Ketelaere (Belgium), Frenkie de Jong (Netherlands), and Vitinha (Portugal) with eight.

At left wing, was it going to be anyone else? Kylian Mbappe (France) featured in the team of the tournament in 36 out of 50 simulations and left Bukayo Saka (England) for dust with just seven.

Finally, leading the line as the goalscorers were Randal Kolo Muani (France) with 17 team of the tournament appearances, and Harry Kane (England) with 14. Rafael Leao (Portugal) managed six, as did Romelu Lukaku (Belgium), Antoine Griezmann (France), and Giacomo Raspadori (Italy).

So aside from Frattesi sneaking in, and Bernardo Silva taking the spot on the right, it's a France and England sweep, even though the latter only managed a quarter of the trophies. Football's a funny old game, eh?

Notable simulation highlights

Finally, some other fun highlights I've cherry-picked from the hours upon hours of simulating:

  • In simulation six, Scotland beat Spain on penalties in the second round
  • In the same simulation, they then came up against England in the quarter-final and lost 4-2
  • Simulation 27 saw a repeat, with England winning 3-0, immediately after Scotland beat Italy 1-0 to get there
  • Immediately afterward, in simulation 28, some entertaining football happened as the Czech Republic beat the Netherlands 3-2, Italy beat Serbia 5-2, Poland then beat the Czech Republic 4-1 after extra time, while Poland took down Italy 1-0
  • The biggest win came as Italy beat Serbia 5-0, while the most goals took place in Germany 4-3 Italy and Croatia 4-3 Georgia
  • England hammered France 3-0 in the semi-final in simulation 40, then lost to Switzerland in the final
  • Simulation 45 saw Slovenia cause two huge upsets as they beat both Portugal and Belgium, while England demolished Spain 4-1

What does this mean Football Manager 2024 thinks? Well, other than the obvious that France will win and barring an injury, Kylian Mbappe will walk the individual awards, it's safe to say you should back Switzerland and Ukraine to be the dark horses.

The Euros is known for being a tournament where underdogs can go on impressive runs (see the likes of Czech Republic 2000, Greece 2004, and Wales 2016), so while Football Manager 2024 doesn't think anything too crazy will happen, the potential is there. And you never know, there's a 2% chance France will completely fail and not even get out of the group stage… 

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Ford James
Freelance writer

Ford is a freelance gaming journalist with a deep interest in a variety of genres and games. He has bylines at some of the biggest publications in the business including Polygon, GamesRadar+, PC Gamer, GameSpot, and Eurogamer. Prior to going freelance, he held editor positions at VideoGamer, PCGamesN, and GGRecon.