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What I learned playing FIFA.

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In a time of every self styled guru on every conceivable topic, I am trying to come up with a title for my FIFA analysis that is accurate.

  • “A definitive guide to fifa?”
  • “How to win at FIFA?”

That’s not what it’s about. For me it is about getting better.

It’s an analogy that applies to many areas in life.

So I settled on the title “What I learned playing FIFA.” It promises nothing more than that and hopefully gives something to take away.


Beginner’s Guide to FIFA.

I started playing FIFA in 1994 and played on and off until about 10 years ago.

Then I played it regularly. Once a month to several times a week.

When I started, I would play with the Classic XI, a team of all stars vs. my friends on Millwall a second division English Premiere League Team. Link.

I would foul out with red cards, expend all my turbo in the first half and generally play terribly.

I did not like to lose, but I kept losing. I didn’t want to lose anymore. So I tried to get better. I started to analyze more, think more, strategize more and I started to play better.

I took the game a little more seriously and I started to immediately play better.

Now, I can play on the same level with my original FIFA friends and sometimes beat them.

If I lose, I know why I lose.

I know how to win and what it takes.

Some days you have it, others you do not.

That’s the truth. FIFA, like life, requires constant attention.

You win moment by moment, play by play.

This is why I fell in love with FIFA.

It was an activity that forced me to be fully present, fully aware and thinking on practical moment to moment as well as greater context (game.)

Activating so many different parts of the brain.

I have the ball with a mid (Jack Wilshire maybe?) at center half, no one is closing, do I run forward, safe lateral pass, ambitious through ball?

It’s the 34th minute. I opened with high pressure and balanced. 4-2-3-1 formation.

He’s an 80s mid fielder and I can run because I know that someone will come forward to support and my worst case is I pass it back to a trailing defender.

That’s maybe 2-10 seconds of play.

There is a lot to compute. FIFA is a game of strategy.

Is there gaming, scripting, etc?

Yes. It’s VERY apparent, too apparent.

However, the scripting follows an algorithm, so depending on the circumstances of the game you know how the script will play out.

How to setup a team.

This is how you are going to line up.

This is your overall strategy.

It requires you to know your team and ideally your opponent.


So many ways to go. Here are my standards and how I approach.

Find the team you love to play with.

Style. Individual style is important in life and in FIFA. What approach do you take to life? What approach to do you take to FIFA?

Playing with teams you love has a distinct advantage. 

Figuring out the strengths and weaknesses of a team. Knowing them intimately helps. 

Who can you rely on? Who does well in what position?

How do you line up?

Who are you facing? How do they play?

Start here. If you don’t know, it doesn’t matter because you have to at least start with the question.

Let’s say you are playing a highly attacking Real Madrid. They dominate the mid and break fast with a solid defense and counter attack. FML right?


Defensive and central.

Control the center. They will try to bring balls in the middle. Control this area, focus on this one part of the game and build out from there.

You have two wingers. Pick a team with strong wingers. They will run the play up and in to the striker. Your defensive line will press up on high pressure and attacking. You’ll move the play forward without compromising yourself to an overt counter attack.

You have a defensive formation but you play aggressive, get it?

I play this with Bayern Munich, they are well setup for it.


Open, I love this formation on Napoli.

Quick passes, fast breaks and intricate dribbling.

It’s fun.

The tempo is faster.


Screenshots of formations. 

You’re here to do a job

Play the right player for the play. Playing defense? Pick a defender! FIFA plays the numbers in situations, play the right player for the right position and you’ll have an advantage.

R1 Defending

We ALL use R1, it’s strategic but relying on this as your primary defensive strategy is awful.

Remember odds and gaming? Well FIFA likes seeing you go one vs. one and winning.

Pick your moments to go one vs. one.

Jump in when you see an advantage or can double team outside.

Be a good defender. Go one on one. It’s a skill that will always help you.

Pick the closest player and play them.

You fail and your R1 back up is there to jump to.

I generally play R1 on forward defense while picking a mid to sniff out bad passes. My forwards push up and I follow up behind them.

When the opponent had the mid-wings I use R1 and monitor for central passes with a CM.

If the opponent is bad at ball handling, well I am jumping from closest player to closest player to put as much pressure as I can on him.

Respect the skill level of your opponent, know when you are a better defender. Put pressure on when you can, but do it smartly.

When you don’t know your opponent’s style, wait. Play possession and mirror.

Meaning, wait for him to make his moves and exploit his mistakes. 

Watch for breaking plays and control the interception by watching how the play is building. Track runners with your mid-field player and R1 the wings to force the cross/pass in.

Still, if I find myself one on one in the wings, I will follow that play up since I am already there. Maintain position always, even over 50/50s. Rather he have the ball and you position, chances are he was going to get the ball anyway.

Hold up and R2 to contain, wait for support R1 to arrive. You’ve successfully broken up an attack. Slow your opponent down.

Play smart. You will lose.

Vary the tempo

Don’t be predictable. Allow yourself to have different styles of play, you will need to change things up when the situation calls for it.

I like to start a match, balanced and high pressure but play a possession game.

I keep the ball but my team wants to attack. I do safe attacks to probe their defense and take a couple more ambitious shots.

I feel out my opponent and once I get a sense of his skill level and style, I adjust appropriately.

Essentially you will play one of two types of players.

Ones that are better than you and ones that are worse.

That’s way too simple, what if he plays counter attack with Barca and I play blah blah blah.

The best FIFA player in the world can beat anyone with any team.

At the highest levels of competition then maybe not, but face it you’re probably not at the highest levels of competition.

Do you make a full time living off of playing FIFA?

No? Then you are not at the highest levels of competition.

Do you play FIFA for 12 hours a day?

No? Then you aren’t at the highest level of competition. Either am I.

Figure out where the skill level is, how much of that is scripting or “Singh” as I call it. Singh being the Indian programmer automating the scripting.

You’ll know when the juice is against you. When you can’t win a  50/50 players make mistakes, passes go afoul and runs are ill timed.


You’re getting shit luck? Then play conservative and smarter. Don’t play risky.

Build attacks.

Every touch is golden? High pressure and attack.

Always be losing

If I am always winning then I need to play with better players.

I play FIFA Seasons. I won’t pay for FUT and yes I know 90% of FIFA players play FUT and I am missing out on a huge demographic. I don’t play it, so I can’t give you any advice here. Can you believe some people have spent thousands on FUT? Yea, no.

Seasons is great because you always know where you are. How you are doing.

If I am not in Division 1 quickly, then I am pissed.

It’s been years of a FIFA journey. I struggled to get out of Div 9 and now I happily maintain Div 1. I learned a lot.

Again, there are way better players out there but I am happy with where I rank. I can consistently play well against myself. 

You Will Never Win.

There will always be someone better than you, so pick the competitions you want to play in. Competitions where even showing up means a win. 

Pick areas of life where you have a high degree of passion and competency. 

The combination will allow you to unlock skills through love. It’s a bizarre idea but one worth considering. 

What is the idea of love? 

Something ultimately transcendent.

A feeling that sparks something primal.  

Winning does that. Winning is an obvious success. Picking a competition you can succeed in and then winning it – well that’s not very successful. 

You should be accustomed to losing. To setting your sights on targets out of reach to what you know you can achieve. 

When I started playing FIFA Seasons in 20… I always lost. I spend a minimum once a month playing FIFA with friends and maximum alone one hour or two hours a month.

It’s not much time to get good at something. It took years and frankly I’m still terrible at this. 

Yet, it sucks to lose. So when you lose at least play well. Play to the best of your ability and know when and where you lost the game. At least you will know how you lost and then at least you know where you need to improve.

Do you see how FIFA relates to life?

Rewards and FIFA

Earn your time playing. Take it seriously. 

If you are going to do something – do it well. 

You will lose, you will make mistakes but at least try. 

How much you commit to the present moment is a determiner for future success. 

Winning at FIFA happens moment by moment, play by play. 

So too does life. Success happens moment by moment, play by play. 

This requires you to put in a commitment to everything you do. Giving yourself fully to the moment. 

A monumental challenge. One that is rife with cognitive dissonance. 

It’s easy to operate off instinct, habit or routine. 

Thank God for those!

Without the elements of ourselves that got us this far who knows where we would be?

If you’re reasonably happy with who you are and where you are then you’re amongst XAY who consider themselves “happy”.

If you’re not then you at least owe it to yourself to try to find meaning. A moment of significance or higher purpose. 

Or not… 

Still, I believe there is great reward in the attempt. The attempt to comprehend the greater scheme of things. 


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