Everyone is Playing FIFA 19 Wrong
It’s time for EA to admit defeat. Since its debut in 1993, FIFA has tried and tried again to port the beautiful game from pitch to pixel. In FIFA 19, that dream of a perfect simulation is closer than ever before. The ball physics; the balance of pace and power; Cristiano Ronaldo’s equine prance; Eden Hazard’s improbably strong backside, it’s got it all. But FIFA still isn’t football. It’s anything but.
You know the drill: sit on sofa, play FIFA, find yourself pitted against an endless wave of opponents who sprint at you from every conceivable direction. Repeat. You, an intellectual, would like to recreate the elegant flow of real football. Everyone else just wants to run at you. Lots. Even offline – with a good friend sat beside you on the sofa – an ordinary, reasonable human being is transformed into a rapacious aggressor, knuckles whitening around the sprint trigger as they send Romelu Lukaku hurtling towards your centre back in an improbable display of the high press. You look down at your own thumbs and discover, to your horror, that you too are pushing your players into a constant, lung-exploding barrage of sprints.
How has this happened? How has FIFA, that shining beacon of sporting simulation, become so strangely divorced from actual football? Look no further than Jürgen Klopp. Or David Platt.
In 2011, Klopp led Borussia Dortmund to the Bundesliga title. It was, in some respects, the birth of the beautiful, breathless, high press – or, as it’s come to be known, gegenpressing. It’s the frantic art of counter-pressing, Klopp’s heavy metal answer to Pep Guardiola’s glorious concerto. To the untrained eye, it looks like a frenzied assault on the ball. Of course, it is anything but. Unless you’re playing FIFA.
Since a marauding David Platt adorned its first cover a quarter of a century ago, FIFA has always been a game built for gegenpressing. The belligerent anti-football of Joe Kinnear was too boring and bruising to put into code; the technical genius of Alex Ferguson’s Man United was too hard to replicate in pixels. But breathless, frantic pressing was the perfect tactical fit for a video game. And so it has remained. Klopp popularised the high press, but FIFA invented it.