Although I worked at Electronic Arts for a few years and have played FIFA video games for over 20, I have never been much of an online player. There are too many variables that can get in the way of really enjoying a game online. FIFA 21 was the first game in a long time that I actually bothered to play online against random people. Let’s just say, it’s been quite the ride.

Gameplay from my FUT Champions play

In FUT Rivals, I usually hover around Div 7 and 6. So, after playing for a few months, I finally got the necessary qualification points to play FUT’s weekend competitive mode, FUT Champions. I actually reached the 2000 point requirement a few weeks ago but the weekend of May 21-23 was the first one where I felt like I had enough free time to play.

Entering the FUT Champions “Coliseum”

For the unfamiliar, FUT Champions is EA SPORTS’ FIFA competitive mode. Over the course of the weekend, you need to play up to 30 games in the hopes of maybe being the best FUT player in the world. Don’t quote me on this, but determining who qualifies for any FIFA-related eSports event requires its players to do really well here.

I think that probably only applies to about 1% of the total FIFA player base across all consoles. About 60-75% who think they can maybe disrupt the 1% and maybe become a part of it. While the last group are people like me. They just are playing for ‘fun’ and are hoping to get some cool rewards at the end of it.

The FUT Champions Explainer screen from FIFA 21

As this was my first-weekend playing, I wanted to track my progress. So, for the next couple of blogs, I am going to do a summary diary of the games I play. The plan isn’t to summarize each game but to compile my thoughts in sections. I don’t plan on recording footage, nor am I going to fill these blogs with too many gameplay pictures. Most pictures will probably be the post-match screen with details on how well/poorly I performed.

In all fairness, I don’t think I’ll be able to play all 30 games. My hope is to get at least 20 completed games. If I can play more, then that’s a bonus. I’m expecting to lose a lot of games because from the FUT Champions content I’ve watched on YouTube, there are clearly ‘ways people play’ that I’m going to struggle with.

This blog focuses on the first day (Friday) with the subsequent ones covering the other days. Be sure to come back in the following days where I’ll share my frustration and maybe even a few positives.

Friday night (Midnight Pacific Time)

I had some time before going to bed on Thursday night (I typically go to bed around 1:30 am), so I took the chance to play a few games. A rumor I heard is that it’s not smart to play right away because you’re more likely to face off against those looking to get as many of their 30 games done as quickly as possible.

Match facts from my 11-1 loss on Day 1 of FUT Champions Weekend League

Let me preface this by saying, my first four games were a roller coaster of emotions that did not go in my favor.

Getting it out of the way, I lost all four of the games I played. The first two were absolute trashings. I lost the first game 8-0 and it was never even close. The second game shockingly started with me taking a 0-1 lead, which lasted only a minute before my opponent went on to score 11 against me. Yup, I lost 11-1!

The next two games went much better but I still ended up losing. Game #3 was close until about the 70th minute when my ineptitude in passing and defense gave my opponent an easy goal. They proceeded to score another “BS” goal and I lost 2-0.

Game #4 was crazy. My opponent and I had pretty balanced teams. I was playing a Premier League squad and so did they. They took a 2-0 lead, but miraculously, I came back to tie then had the lead going into the final 10 minutes (in-game time) of the game. Unfortunately, my passing in my final third was poor, I gave the ball away and they scored an easy tying goal. We went into extra time and my team just fell apart. They’d go on to win it 7-4 (yup, they scored four goals in extra time).

Things I learned from those four games

The postgame match facts screen of my 4-7 loss in extra time

My passing is awful. In all four games, I finished the games never getting better than 81% in my accuracy. This wouldn’t be that frustrating except for the fact that my opponents were completing 90%+ of theirs. I’ve always been frustrated by the passing in the game. After those four games, it’s definitely something I’m missing. 

The opponents I faced thus far have had pretty good squads. Because we’re so late into the FIFA 21 cycle, most people have really high-rated teams. No one I faced was under 88-rated and the highest was 92-rated. 

I also don’t have a go-to squad that I can feel comfortable with. I played with a different line-up in all four games. My first game incorporated a 3 in the back but with so many fast players, this isn’t smart. I reverted to four in the back but I was still getting scored on. A lot of people play with five defenders but I don’t have the players available to do that.

Friday daytime

So, I had some free time on Friday morning and wanted to get a few more games in. This time though, I was struggling to find matches. I’m assuming because of my low rating (and the previous losses), the game was trying to find me a match against someone similar.

the postmatch screen showing the match facts of a 2-4 loss in FUT Champions

I ended up playing two games and they both went in similar fashions. Both were losses and both were close until the final 30 in-game minutes. I lost Game #5 4-2, then losing Game #6 2-1. Once again, my passing in my defensive zone led to turnovers that resulted in goals. I spent time trying to adjust my tactics to counter my opposition’s reliance on playing straight down the middle. But, even with that, I was giving the ball away far too often and I paid the price. 

Friday midday

I finally won a match. It took three games but I finally secured my first win. I started the afternoon with a 6-1 loss in a match where I tried adjusting the controller settings on passing. It didn’t work. It actually made my passing worse. I should have played against the computer first to get a handle of manual passing but I paid the price.

I followed that up with a 2-0 loss. I fielded my defensive-minded La Liga squad. It was impossible for me to get many chances on goal and by the time my opponent scored his first goal in the second half, I didn’t have enough time to mount any sort of reasonable comeback.

I went back to my Bundesliga squad, which is my balanced squad, with the exception of Left Back (which I’d address after the match) and finally got my first win. It wasn’t easy, with my opponent getting an early goal. I countered with a 3-1 lead at the break but I knew I’d need at least one more to feel comfortable. They get one back but I’d regain my two goal lead. 

the halftime screen in a match I was leading 3-1

They would score one more in the 86th minute and definitely had a chance to tie it in injury time but I held strong on defense and took my first ever win in FUT Champions.

I tried to get another game in but I was unable to find any matches. So I took a break but would play one more match before evening hit.

My First Dominating Win

I stuck with my Bundesliga squad, with the inclusion of TOTS Angelino in the left back position. I would once again give up the first goal but I managed to tie the game. He would get a red card on a clear last man foul. I would score on the proceeding free kick and the rest was history. 

a goal highlight from my 9-1 win in FUT Champs

I felt bad for my opponent, especially considering my early run of form. They had a good squad but that red card hurt them. I don’t understand why they didn’t adjust their formation to cover the whole in the middle of the back. 

So, after 10 games, my record in FUT Champions was 2-10 with an embarrassing Goals For/Against ratio. I knew I’d have it tough as this was my first time going through the mode but I think I may have found the squad I want to continue with (Bundesliga). I might try to add some more depth to my squad, especially in my defenders. 

I did try to get another game in on Friday night but couldn’t get matched to anyone at the time. I wasn’t going to try non-stop to find a match, so I decided to stop for Day One. Hopefully, I can get a few games played on Saturday morning but I’m not sure I’ll have too much free time to play 10 games like I could on Friday.

That’s all for Day One

Luka Jovic walking after earning man of the match honors

With 10 games played in the first 24 hours, I was actually making much better progress than I had expected. At this rate, it’s becoming possible that I could get past my original 20 game projection. Be sure to check out the follow-up blogs which will cover my performance on Saturday and Sunday’s FUT Champions.