Catch-Up: F Is For… FA Cup, FIFA, and Fulham

I see you driving around town with the girl I love, and I’m like F-you, ooh ooh ooh! Part six. We’re up to F. Time to take a look at three seasons of the FA Cup, the latest wacky world of the FIFA World Rankings, and whatever every neutral’s favourite football club – Fulham – are up to.

Man City won the 2015 FA Cup last time we reported on the competition, but only made it as far as the Quarter-Finals the following season. 2016’s final four were Tottenham, Arsenal, Wolves and Championship side Reading who’d beaten Southampton, Liverpool and Man City to reach the Semis.

Spurs beat Arsenal 2-0 in the North London derby, while Wolves needed extra-time to see-off Reading, who were cruelly outdone by a last-gasp own goal despite being two-up inside 20 minutes. Wolves then beat Tottenham at Wembley, 56 years after their last FA Cup Final appearance, thanks to  first-half goals from Admir Mehmedi and Artur Sobiech after David Alaba was dismissed for Spurs.

Three Championship sides made the Quarters in 2017, but Hull, Bolton and Leicester all fell to top-flight opposition as Norwich, Liverpool, Southampton and Man City made the final four. Marouane Fellaini and Jérémy Ménez scored as City downed the Saints, to set-up a Final against Norwich City who beat 10-man Liverpool.

Goalless after 90 minutes, Fellaini gave City the lead before Ricky van Wolfswinkel equalised for Norwich shortly before the break in extra-time. With just four minutes top go until the dreaded shootout, Ángel got his head to a cross to nod home the winner as Norwich lifted the trophy in their first-ever FA Cup Final appearance.

Once again, 2018 saw the final four as an all-Premier League affair. Swansea, Sunderland, Arsenal and Manchester United would head to Wembley looking to book their place in the Final. Sunderland saw off Swansea to make their first appearance in the Final since 1992, and a brace from Wayne Rooney saw Man United through at Arsenal’s expense.

The 2018 Final was an enthralling watch; a seven-goal thriller with a dismissal inside the first ten minutes. David Domej picked up a booking after just 90 seconds before he clattered through the back of Nick Powell and saw red with just six minutes on the clock.

Pedro put United in front, before a Fernando Matos equaliser midway through the first-half. Andriy Yarmolenko and Moritz Leitner scored within two minutes of each other to put United 3-1 up at the half-hour mark, but Steven Fletcher pulled Sunderland back into it right before the break.

United weren’t done in the first-half though, as Siyanda Xulu crashed a volley in off the bar in stoppage time to restore the two-goal advantage. Rodrigo added a fifth ten minutes after the interval, and United went on to collect their 13th FA Cup.

We’re eagerly awaiting the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with 32 nations heading to Russia for the biggest sporting event on the planet. 2014 champions Brazil are currently ranked #3 in the world, with Argentina in the number one spot ahead of Italy. Cameroon were the highest-ranked side to miss out, with Senegal, Nigeria, Portugal, the Netherlands, Grecee, Mali and Sweden the other sides in the top 32 not heading to the tournament. Chile at #81 are the lowest ranked side going to Russia.

FIFA World Rankings, May 2018:
    1. Argentina     16. Nigeria         31. Egypt
    2. Italy         17. Ivory Coast     32. Serbia
    3. Brazil        18. Portugal        33. Benin
    4. Cameroon      19. Colombia        34. Slovakia
    5. Germany       20. Wales           35. South Korea
    6. Croatia       21. Bosnia          36. Zambia
    7. Spain         22. Netherlands     37. Scotland
    8. Chile         23. Tunisia         38. Belgium
    9. England       24. Morocco         39. Iran
   10. Ghana         25. Mexico          40. Czech Republic
   11. USA           26. Greece          41. Australia
   12. Senegal       27. Australia       42. Cape Verde
   13. Uruguay       28. Mali            43. Slovenia
   14. France        29. Sweden          44. Peru
   15. Ireland       30. Japan           45. Poland

11th in 2015, Fulham finished 13th the following season before tumbling out of the top-flight in 2017 by a single point despite a final day win at Sunderland under the management of Neil Lennon. The Irishman remained in charge, and Fulham surged to the Championship title in 2018 after just a season out of the Premier League.

Fulham made the Quarters in both domestic cup competitions last season, losing 1-2 at Stoke in the Carabao Cup before going out at Swansea in a 3-2 extra-time FA Cup thriller in Wales.

Ivan Perisic joined for £12m from Dortmund, with Ryan Bertrand (Stoke) also signing in a £8m move as the club improve their squad ahead of the 2018-19 season.

RTFM is returning after a hiatus since we resigned as manager of Borussia Dortmund at the end of June 2015. The three seasons since then have been fully simulated in the original FM13 save, right up to the eve of the FIFA World Cup in Russia. Our daily news will return on 15 June 2018, with regular blog posts between now and then to highlight what’s happened in our absence.
NB: The entirety of RTFM is being played on Football Manager 2013. Regen players will have ® after their names to indicate this. Be aware that changes to competition rules since the summer of 2012 will not have been implemented in our save (e.g. UEL winners do not automatically qualify for the UCL), and this includes any new clubs or franchises, though we will endeavour to report on correct/current competition titles.
We will return to club management after our save generates the domestic leagues we’ve selected for the 2018-19 season on, or shortly after, 20th June. Feel free to ask questions in the comments or @realtimefm.