I love football—not that kind, US folks. I play it two, sometimes three times a week. I find cause to watch matches most days on my TV, phone, and computer. Sometimes I have two on at once (also known as: the dream). I listen to my team up to twice a week on the radio. And in the rest of my spare time when there's somehow no real-life football on, I log onto FIFA.
But I still wouldn't call myself an expert. I closely follow the Premier League and League One, the English third tier in which my team, Portsmouth, currently languish. I somewhat keep tabs on the top Spanish, German, and Italian divisions, too, which is certainly enough to ensure that I perpetually dominate all the screens in my flat with my obsession. That may sound a lot, but I still know next to nothing about the South American side of the game.
Before today I could hardly name five players plying their trade in Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina, and just as many team names. So, naturally, I was looking forward to addressing that when it came to Fifa 20's latest update, which includes a recreation of South America's biggest club competition and answer to the European Champions League, the Copa Libertadores.
Now teams like River Plate, Flamengo, and Independiente are available in Kick Off and in the new Libertadores tournament mode. There's the new Riquelme ICON card for Fifa Ultimate Team (opens in new tab), too, but the new FUT additions aren't heading to the game until Friday. Either way, I was excited to launch myself into a tournament and teach myself about how the beautiful game is played on the other side of the world, in the best possible way.
Except, everything just felt flat. In my first game as River Plate against L.D.U. Quito, there's a taste of the wall of noise and passionate atmosphere that, from what little I know, characterises South American matches, but that wears off fast as there are only two new stadiums included in the update. Many players have generic faces, and the majority tend to be slow and suffer from poor stamina. I frequently found that early substitutions were essential as members of my River Plate squad would have almost no puff left two-thirds of the way through a game.
Even worse, few players boast overall stats in the early eighties. Even though I'm not an expert, the gap in stats between the likes of Flamengo and Liverpool— for many the best team in the world right now with a squad dominated by player overalls in the late 80s and 90s—seem wide given that these are the two sides that contested the pretty evenly-matched Fifa Club World Cup final. Plenty of players, some of whom are supporters of the clubs included with inconsistent licensing, are expressing their disappointment on Reddit (opens in new tab).
This latest Fifa 20 update comes during a particularly tough time for EA; while it continues to be a lovely earner for the company, all hasn't been well (opens in new tab) under the surface of late. Server issues meant that two professional Fifa players were forced to settle a match with a game of rock, paper, scissors (opens in new tab)at the weekend and another—a five-time Fifa world finalist, no less—lost a penalty shootout when the game failed to count a perfectly valid goal (opens in new tab).
But, to me, it's sad that Fifa's Copa Libertadores update just isn't fun so far. It means, whether you live and breathe South American leagues or a newbie like me, it's all too easy to just switch to the game's wealth of other modes. And that, despite my curiosity to experience a new brand of football, was exactly what I did.