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FANTASY WORLD CUP

2018

RUSSIA

JUNE 14 - JULY 15

EVALUATING THE PREMIUM STRIKERS

Comprehensive Group By Group Analysis The men behind the machine: analysing the top managers Learn the essential rules & strategy

The Ultimate Guide to

World Cup Fantasy PLAYER & TEAM STATISTICS

DEFENSIVE TACTICS

EXPLOSIVE DIFFERENTIALS

PREDICTED LINEUPS

EXCLUSIVE CONTESTS


What would your team look like if there was £25,000 up for grabs? Pick your fantasy team for Round 1 today. The bigger your score, the bigger your payout.

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£25,000 opening round contest

June 14th - June 19th


Contents 4-7

The Rules of World Cup

Fantasy 10-15 T  he Science of a Tight Defence 18-19 F  antasyBet’s Game-Changing New Platform 26-29 E  xamining the World’s Premium Strikers  utting Edge: Differentiating 32-35 C

the Differentials 38-39 T  he Betting Site That Gives Back 42-45 A  Study of the Men Managing the Favourites

8-9 Group A 16-17 Group B 20-21 Group C 24-25 Group D 30-31 Group E 36-37 Group F 40-41 Group G 46-47 Group H

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FUNDAMENTALS

THE FANTASY

Rulebook THE WORLD CUP FANTASY RULES THAT WILL MAKE OR BREAK YOUR TOURNAMENT

Every fantasy game has its own set of rules and quirks, with the World Cup Fantasy game being no exception. This comprehensive guide to the similarities and (more importantly) the differences that make the World Cup Fantasy Game so unique should help you to avoid the pitfalls that will inevitably distinguish the casual fantasy managers from the mini-league winners.

M

cDonald’s have returned with the latest instalment of their World Cup Fantasy Football game ahead of Russia 2018. Hosted on the FIFA website, the game attracts millions of players worldwide and is the main place to play full competition fantasy this summer. Whilst the game shares a similar interface, scoring system and features to the popular Fantasy Premier League (FPL) game, there are some key differences in rules that are typically introduced during competition fantasy to capitalise on the high frequency of games and lack of time between gameweeks. A firm understanding of the rules and how they differ from FPL will give you an upper hand on your mini-league rivals. So read carefully and get yourself an early head start.

Picking Your Squad Your squad will consist of 15 players, two goalkeepers, five defenders, five

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midfielders and three attackers. The initial budget is set at €100m, but will increase to €105m ahead of the knockout stages. This helps ensure that it’s still possible to select a team when the majority of the bargains have been eliminated and only the premium players remain. Unlike Fantasy Premier League, price changes do not fluctuate in accordance with the market. Instead, players will rise and fall in accordance with their opening performances during the group stages. The price changes are also less frequent, with the first set of price changes scheduled for the end of the

UNLIKE FANTASY PREMIER LEAGUE, PRICE CHANGES DO NOT FLUCTUATE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE MARKET.

group stages. Those who played World Cup Fantasy 2014, or even Euro 2016, will remember that the price changes had little impact on squad selection, with a handful of players rising or decreasing by 0.1m or 0.2m every couple of weeks. Therefore, catching price rises pales into insignificance when compared to its season-long counterpart. You can select up to three players from a single team during the group stage. This will then increase to four players during the Round of 16, followed by five for the quarter-finals, six for the semifinals and then eight for the final. When it comes to selecting your starting line-up, there are no differences to report. In typical fashion you will select 11 players in a valid formation, captains, vice captains and an ordered bench.

Automatic vs Manual We’re now moving into a section of the rules that is very dissimilar to the season-long format, and can often scare away the casual or plummet them to the bottom of their mini-leagues with little understanding of why. The average fantasy football player will be very familiar with automatic substitutions. If your goalkeeper doesn’t play, then your sub-goalkeeper is automatically substituted in. Don’t panic, this is still the default way that

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World Cup Fantasy operates. However, for most cup competitions (Champions League, Euros, World Cup, etc) most fantasy football websites allow manager substitutions, which for the sake of linguistics we shall refer to as ‘manual substitutions’. In a nutshell, this means that after ALL matches on a single day have finished (and before the next day’s matches start) you can replace any player with one from your bench whose team is yet to play. It’s important to note that this is NOT possible if said player has been sent off. This means that if Mohamed Salah was to score two points in Matchday 1 on Friday 15th, you would have the option to switch him for ANY player on your bench playing in Matchday 1 between Saturday 16th & Tuesday 19th. If, for example, you had Cesar Azpilicueta on your bench who scored 10 points in Matchday 1 on Friday 15th, it would not be possible to substitute him in for Salah, as he would have already played. Alternatively, if you had Salah who scored six points in Matchday 1 on Friday 15th, but opted to substitute him out for Paul Pogba who plays on Saturday 16th, then Salah’s six points will be removed from your total

AFTER ALL MATCHES ON A SINGLE DAY HAVE FINISHED YOU CAN REPLACE ANY PLAYER WITH ONE FROM YOUR BENCH WHOSE TEAM IS YET TO PLAY.

score and he will be unable to substitute back in as he’s already played. There is no such thing as a hybrid of automatic and manual substitutions within a single gameweek. Therefore, if you make a manual transfer and one of your starting XI doesn’t play the following day, you will be responsible for transferring him out. It will NOT be done automatically.

Rotating Captains The exact same choice of manual or automatic substitutions also applies to captains. This means that, assuming your captain didn’t get sent off, you can switch the armband to somebody in your team who’s yet to play. In this case the players’ captain multiplier will be deducted from your total score once confirmed. Substitutions and captain changes can’t be cancelled once confirmed.

Making Transfers Ahead of each round in the group stages you are given one free transfer, any additional transfers will result in a -4 deduction. Unlike FPL, there is no option to carry transfers. You either use it or you lose it. When the group stages are concluded, managers will be given a chance to completely rebuild their squad with unlimited free transfers. This is because half of the teams will have been eliminated from the tournament. Ahead of Round of 16 it would be advisable to use your transfers selecting a squad of players from teams you expect to progress. If more than 3 of your players fail to progress to the quarterfinals, then you’ll be forced to take a hit to field a starting XI. The same applies ahead of the semifinals, where you will be given five free transfers. Opting for the teams you expect to progress to the final will again minimise the amount of hits necessary to field an XI in the finals. All managers will also be given one Wildcard to use before any round in the competition. Like in season-long fantasy, this will enable managers to make unlimited transfers without a cost.

Boosters Making their debut within World Cup Fantasy Football are boosters. Comparable to ‘chips’ in FPL, boosters will give managers the chance to increase their score in a given round. Bench Boost operates exactly

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FUNDAMENTALS the same as its namesake in FPL, allowing you to field all 15 players for a given round. If you are opting for manual substitutions throughout the tournament, then this booster will give you a week off to enjoy the football. However, it comes with little more than that. It’s very improbable you’ll have 15 players who all deliver, particularly because there are no double gameweeks. This booster is the ugly sister of the FPL bench boost chip, and it doesn’t even have a personality to compensate for it. Use it in the week you’re most confident your whole squad will play. Maximum Captain, meanwhile, is a completely unique concept that has been introduced by World Cup Fantasy. This booster automatically selects the highest scoring player from

points. Conceding a penalty, meanwhile, will deduct -1. If a player receives a red card, they will continue to be penalised for goals conceded by their team. For example, if a defender is sent off on 61 minutes at 0-0 and their team then goes on to lose 2-0, the player will lose their clean sheet points and receive a -1 for two goals conceded. Events occurring within extra time are counted, but penalty shoot-outs are not. This applies to all players, goalkeepers and penalty takers.

Achievements McDonald’s have also introduced achievements to this year’s fantasy game. It would seem that these have been introduced to make things a little more interesting, though from the

TO REALLY BENEFIT FROM THE MAXIMUM CAPTAIN BOOSTER YOU WILL NEED TO LAND A HIGH SCORING DIFFERENTIAL IN A LOW-SCORING GAMEWEEK. PLAY IT WHENEVER YOU FEEL LUCKY. your final playing 11 as the captain. A lesser risk, lesser reward version of the Triple Captain chip in FPL, with your armband effortlessly floating to your highest scorer. With the ability to rotate your captain, the average points from captains from active players will be higher. To really benefit from the Maximum Captain booster you will need to land a high scoring differential in a low-scoring gameweek. Play it whenever you feel lucky.

Scoring System The point scoring in World Cup Fantasy directly reflects FPL but with a few small additions that the majority would doubtless welcome to the season-long game. Earning a penalty, regardless of whether it’s converted, is worth +2

12 listed within the rules, few seem particularly hard to achieve. The majority of the achievements will be earned through just playing the game, rather than requiring any skill. These include actions such as creating a league, using your Wildcard, sharing your team on social media and playing Bench Boost. Achievements have no impact on the fantasy game, they are purely additional. You cannot use achievements to gain extra points or an advantage in any way.

Stick or Twist? Those who have played cup fantasy before will be well aware of how manual substitutions can impact the way you select your squad. The ability to switch captains and players between each day

Transfer Calendar Competition Stage

Free Transfers

Budget

Players per Country

Before group stage

Unlimited

100m

3

Group stage

1 Per Round

100m

3

Between group stage and Round of 16

Unlimited

105m

4

Before quarter-finals

3

105m

5

Before semi-finals

5

105m

6

Before final

5

105m

8

6

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Matchday 1 Rotation Planner Thu 14

Fri 15

Sat 16

Sun 17

Mon 18

Tue 19

Russia

Egypt

France

Costa Rica

Sweden

Colombia

Saudi Arabia

Uruguay

Australia

Serbia

South Korea

Japan

Morocco

Argentina

Germany

Belgium

Poland

Iran

Iceland

Mexico

Panama

Senegal

Portugal

Peru

Brazil

Tunisia

Spain

Denmark

Switzerland

England

Croatia Nigeria

presents a new level of rotation and thus introduces a new element to fantasy football: the stick or twist. Needless to say, if you are opting for manual substitutions, your starting XI should include the players that play earliest in the week. If this means starting a 4.0m Saudi Arabia defender over Cristiano Ronaldo, then so be it, manual substitutions allow for this kind of decision. It’s important to remember that manual substitutions aren’t some kind of fantasy utopia; you still need to navigate the vast unpredictability of opportunity cost. If half of your squad scores well, including your 4.0m Saudi Arabia defender, with the rest still to play

your captain six times in the opening gameweek, should you have players spread across the days. In hindsight, this level of captaincy rotation would only be necessary if your captain blanked for the opening five days, by which time you’d have probably quit. If you are going to opt for manual substitutions and captains then there are certain considerations to be made: You should ensure that you have your main captain options spread across the days. If you opt for Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku & Eden Hazard in your lineup, you will be unable to rotate the captain’s armband between them as they all play on Monday. Instead, if you opt for Antoine Griezmann, Neymar & Eden

WHILST MANUAL SUBSTITUTIONS PROVIDE AN ADVANTAGE TO THOSE WHO APPROACH THEM CORRECTLY, PLAYERS THAT OPT FOR THEM WITHOUT A STRATEGY OF ROTATION WILL MORE OFTEN SEE THE DISADVANTAGES. - who do you remove to facilitate your premium bench players? In addition to this, if your captain scores eight points (16 when multiplied) in the first day of a gameweek, do you keep the armband on him or gamble that one of your players over the next six days will outscore him? So whilst manual substitutions provide an advantage to those who approach them correctly, players that opt for them without a strategy of rotation will more often see the disadvantages.

Rotation Strategy The Matchday 1 Rotation Planner displays Matchday 1 broken up into days to show the opportunity for rotation. As you can see, it is possible to rotate

Hazard, it would be possible for you to rotate the armband until one of them picks up a score that you’re happy to stick with. The same strategy applies to setting your defence. A common strategy is to have two premium defenders, accompanied by three budget defenders that all play on different days. In theory, your two premium defenders would deliver and you’d be able to rotate the cheap defenders in search of a clean sheet. To conclude, try not to get so caught up in rotation that you purposely ignore proven fantasy assets because they play on the same day. Keep a close eye on captaincy rotation when making transfers and if you want to free up some budget, look at cheap rotational strategy too.

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GROUP A Russia

14TH JUNE, 16:00 Luzhniki, Moscow

15TH JUNE, 13:00 Central, Yekaterinburg

Russia Saudi Arabia

Egypt Uruguay

Saudi Arabia

FIFA RANK: 66 ODDS TO WIN: 40/1 HEAD COACH: Stanislav Cherchesov

FIFA RANK: 67 ODDS TO WIN: 750/1 HEAD COACH: Juan Antonio Pizzi

Akinfeev

Kutepov

Samedov

Granat

Zobnin

Al Mayouf

Kudryashov

Golovin

El Shahrani

Zhirkov

Om.Hawsawi

Os.Hawsawi

Al Faraj

Abdullah

Al-Jassim

Dzagoev

Al Shehri

Miranchuk

KEY

PENALTY TAKER

El Dawsari

Smolov

CORNER/IN-DIRECT FREE KICK TAKER

Al Sahlawi

DIRECT FREE KICK TAKER

Hosts with the most? Egypt, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia will seek to spoil the host’s party in a fiercely competitive opening group

W

ith Uruguay the standout favourites to top Group A, many expect the battle for second place to be the most compelling battle of the opening group. Russia, hosting the World Cup for the first time, kick off proceedings against Saudi Arabia in a game that might well prove pivotal as the group develops. Can the hosts punch above their FIFA ranking and secure a place in the knockouts? Or will Mohamed Salah’s Egypt or a spirited Saudi Arabian side spoil the homecoming party?

8

Al Harbi

Group A presents a serious opportunity for fantasy managers, largely in the form of Uruguay’s top-heavy strikeforce. PSG’s robustly consistent Edinson Cavani and the ever-superb Luis Suarez were born just three weeks apart in the very same town, and have grown to become two of the most feared strikers on the planet. The pair will doubtless see their group as an opportunity to establish an early lead in the race for the golden boot, but they’ll be met with stiff resistance. Spare a thought for stalwart defender Diego Godin. The imposing Atletico man could

STAR PLAYER

be a hidden gem in a group full of goalstarved opposition. Russia were exempt from the rigorous World Cup qualifying process, but recent friendly losses against Spain and France don’t bode well for the hosts. Nonetheless, only one host nation (South Africa in 2010) has ever failed to progress from the group stages; a fact which should buoy the Russians as they prepare for opening night. Fantasy managers should expect impassioned, gritty performances fuelled by an enthusiastic home crowd. Egypt boast arguably the best player in the world at the moment in the form of Salah. Fantasy managers will doubtless be looking closely at the Egyptian, but they must ask themselves whether the

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19TH JUNE, 19:00 Krestovsky, Saint Petersburg

20TH JUNE, 16:00 Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don

25TH JUNE, 15:00 Volgograd Arena, Volgograd

25TH JUNE, 15:00 Samara Arena, Samara

Russia Egypt

Uruguay Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia Egypt

Uruguay Russia

Egypt

Uruguay

FIFA RANK: 46 ODDS TO WIN: 150/1 HEAD COACH: Héctor Cúper

FIFA RANK: 7 ODDS TO WIN: 33/1 HEAD COACH: Óscar Tabárez

M. El Shenawy

Fathy

Muslera

Hegazy

Gabr

Elneny

Hamed

Abdel-Shafi

Varela

Said

Salah

Godin

Vecino

Bentacur

Nandez

Caceres

Arrascaeta

Trezeguet

Hassan

DIFFERENTIAL

Gimenez

Name

Cavani

Suarez

LIKELY TO START

diminutive 25-year-old is capable of carrying a much weaker team than his domestic Liverpool. Though questions will linger, the winger’s influential performances in the qualifiers seem to suggest he enjoys his talismanic role within the national team, and it’s easy to see him profit from this against the likes of Saudi Arabia and Russia. Experienced players such as Mohamed Elneny and Ahmed Hegazy certainly help to give Egypt a defensive rigidity too, as illustrated by their impressive record during qualifying. Group A’s lowest-ranked team, Saudi Arabia, complete the four places. Whilst there are few conspicuous fantasy assets as far as the Saudi Arabians are concerned, their manager, Juan Antonio Pizzi, has the managerial pedigree to get

QUALIFICATION STATISTICS AVG. GOALS SCORED

AVG. GOALS CONCEDED

TOP GOALSCORER

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 2.50

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.67

AL SAHLAWI

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.78

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.78

CAVANI

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.33

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.11

SALAH

SAUDI ARABIA

URUGUAY

EGYPT

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII RUSSIA

n/a

URUGUAY

SAUDI ARABIA

EGYPT

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII RUSSIA

the most out of these underdogs. After winning the Copa America with Chile in 2016, the Spaniard guided the Saudis through a competitive qualification campaign that included a victory over

n/a

SAUDI ARABIA

URUGUAY

EGYPT

N/A

RUSSIA

16 10 5 n/a

eventual group winners, Japan. Whilst progression beyond this group still looks unlikely, don’t be surprised if they manage to frustrate Group A’s more tempting fantasy prospects. n

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CLEAN SHEETS

Tactical An

A STUDY OF THE BEST DEFENCES IN THE TOURNAMENT 10

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nalysis Defence can often be the trickiest position to fill for fantasy managers, yet it remains one of the most important. With so many players, systems and styles to choose from in Russia, our tactical analysis of the best defensive units seeks to shed some light on both premium and budget options. “Offence wins games, but defence wins Championships.” You have probably heard this saying before across most sports that involve direct opposition. Looking at the World Cup winners over the last few tournaments, it’s hard not to agree too. 2014 and current holders Germany only conceded four goals on their way to lifting the trophy in the Maracanã. Likewise, 2002 champions Brazil conceded the same lowly number enroute to adding a fifth star to their badge in the South Korea and Japan hosted competition. Remarkably, 2010 champions Spain only conceded twice, managing to keep a clean sheet

throughout the entirety of the knockout stages. Italy, the 2006 winners, only conceded two throughout the tournament too. Intriguingly, the manner in which these teams approached their defensive duties varied wildly. Let’s take a look at Brazil in 2002 as a prime illustration. Coming into the tournament on the back of a mediocre qualifying campaign, head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari lined up his team in a 3-4-1-2 that had a healthy balance of defensive prowess and attacking flair. Scolari used these privileges to great effect by creating a team that was rigid off the ball and ruthless on it. The back three was comprised of Roque Junior and Lucio as the outside centre backs alongside Edmilson, who functioned as a sweeper to bring the ball out from the

FIGURE 1 RIVALDO RONALDINHO GILBERTO ON ERS

B KLE

EDMILSON

CARLOS

R.JUNIOR

LUCIO

CAFU

Brazil (Yellow) defending against Germany in the 2002 World Cup final. Edmilson has stepped out of the backline to be tight to his marker. Mid-block press executed by Brazil in the first half

back and into the middle third. This is demonstrated in FIGURE 1. Roberto Carlos and Cafu operated as wing-backs on the flanks, with both having the licence to make darting vertical runs to support attacks in a style very similar to the one we’ve seen popularised in the Premier League in recent seasons. The midfield pivot featured Gilberto Silva with one of Juninho Paulista or Kleberson depending on Scolari’s intuition to be more attack minded or defensively stable. Finally, Brazil had the three artists of the team in Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Rivaldo, making up an excellent attacking trident that was near impossible to stop. Ronaldinho acted as the playmaker of the team, dropping deeper between the lines to receive and run or pass through the opposition. This system allowed a few key things when Scolari’s men were without the ball: 1 A very flexible backline who were capable of defending as three, four or five men depending on the situation 2 The midfield pairing acting as a shield for the back three 3 The front three being positioned higher up the field, meaning teams would be less willing to commit bigger numbers to attack in the fear of being caught on the break 4 A sweeper that would step out of the defensive line to intercept and break play, sometimes even creating a makeshift midfield three 5 Wing-backs that were of the highest quality and executed their tasks very well

Fast-forward to today, and you will see that part of the blueprint for success within international tournament football has been a resilient defensive system able to withstand phases of pressure. The problem, of course, is that national team coaches have less time with their squads to establish a robust, organised system. Over the recent years, national teams have opted to use man-orientated zonal marking systems over more complicated and elaborate defensive systems such as rigid manmarking, which require more day-today practice on the training field. Nonetheless, there are many teams who arrive in Russia with eye-catchingly good defensive records based on their qualifying campaigns. Here we’ll provide some analysis of these teams in order to aide fantasy managers with their defensive selections.

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CLEAN SHEETS

GERMANY Die Mannschaft conceded just four goals on their way to convincingly winning their qualifying group, scoring 43 goals in 10 games too. Blessed with an abundance of playing quality and the consistency of Joachim Löw having been at the helm for over ten years now, Germany are able to dictate games in a way that few teams can match. They dominate possession almost effortlessly and create scoring chances routinely. However, when they do not have the ball, Germany are able to

THE INTENSITY OF GERMANY’S MAN-ORIENTED PRESS IS PARTICULARLY EYECATCHING, SHOWING WONDERFUL TIMING AND COHESION WHEN HUNTING FOR THE BALL. gegenpress and deal with transitions with great efficiency. Crucially, they’re also able to defend as a unit against long spells of possession. The intensity of Germany’s manoriented press is particularly eyecatching, showing wonderful timing and cohesion when hunting for the ball. In fact, they rarely give their opposition a chance to catch their breath in their build-up phase. You can see this in action in FIGURE 2. Germany have a flexible system that reflects the nature of the opposing team, with 4-2-3-1, 5-3-2, 5-2-3 and 3-2-3-2 all being used in recent Germany games. Due to Germany enjoying the lion’s share of possession in pretty much every game they play, they do show occasional problems with protecting half-spaces due to the ball-focused nature of their gegenpress. But the individual quality of their defenders means that they are usually able to compensate for any structural frailties.

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FIGURE 2

A compact system: Germany’s (Turquoise) man-oriented press early on against Spain in early 2018

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ENGLAND Conceding the joint least goals of every European side during the qualifiers, The Three Lions could end up defying the usual status quo in terms of quality defending at the World Cup. Gareth Southgate has provided a breath of fresh air by employing a flexible 3-4-3/3-5-2 formation that moves into a 5-3-2 or 5-2-3 out of possession. England’s past games under this system have revealed a reluctance to press high. Instead, they have preferred to remain more passive, with a solid compactness in the middle that shifts as a unit and looks to force play into the wider areas as seen in FIGURE 3. Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane do a commendable job of acting as the first line of defence by blocking routes into the middle of the pitch. The backline will, on occasion, shuffle into a makeshift back four (whenever the ballnear wing-back looks to press higher), but England’s defence usually prefer to make use of a flatter back five, with the

SPAIN La Roja are slowly finding the mojo that saw them dominate international football for a good five years from 2008-2013. Conceding just three goals (the least in European qualifying along with England), Spain come into the tournament with a healthy balance of youth and experience along with world class technical ability in all positions. Julen Lopetegui has stayed faithful to his trusty 4-3-3 formation

FIGURE 3

England’s (White) front five are able to maintain compactness in the middle of the pitch with the Pentagon structure showing good distances between teammates

midfield triangle covering more ground when pressing wider. This can lead to problems with horizontal compactness if players do not time their movements accurately. Players like John Stones and Harry

Maguire show great skill when stepping out of their backline to pressure the ball in front of their unit. From that point, their ball-playing qualities should enable counter-attacks to be launched with ease.

used with previous stints at Porto and Spain U21s. Spain employ a high pressing system with an intense desire for the ball when out of possession, and a nearsacred protection of the ball once they have it. More often than not, this approach results in near total control for the Spaniards. Worryingly for their opponents, Lopetegui’s men seem to have improved massively in the defensive phase - an Achilles heel for them in recent tournaments. Spain have added more pragmatism to their style of defending. On the one hand, they

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still show an ability to press aggressively à la their golden generation of 2008-2013, but on the other, they are more willing to defend passively in order to control key spaces on the pitch when needed. Spain prefer to invite teams to try play around their block and press from there, using the touchline as a defender to force errors. The defensive block play with a lot of horizontal compactness to make the pitch smaller within their 4-3-3 and are able to shuffle to the ball as 10 outfielders to press accordingly.

13


CLEAN SHEETS

BRAZIL Coming off the infamous 7-1 loss to Germany back in the 2014 World Cup, Tite has put Brazil back in the spotlight. Being the first nation in the world to qualify for the 2018 edition, the former Corinthians manager favours experienced veterans in his back four. Subsequently, the tournament favourites conceded only 11 goals in 18 qualifying games. This is all the more impressive when you consider that everyone plays everyone twice in CONMEBOL qualifying.

14

Similar to Spain, Brazil play a 4-3-3 that looks to press high when the ball is lost. Brazil do not do anything too elaborate or remarkable when defending, but they’ve mastered the basics. They like to control the game off the ball by committing numbers higher up the field to press. The aim is to disrupt the opposition’s attempts to circulate the ball, and it works incredibly effectively. The physical presence of midfielders such as Paulinho and Casemiro means that Brazil are able to make regular turnovers in the middle of the pitch. Occasionally, they’ll even invite opposition into those areas in order to win the ball back from them. Brazil do not press with as much

intensity as Germany, but show admirable control of their defensive block both higher and deeper on the pitch. The backline show good understanding of their roles too, with the full-backs - the likes of Marcelo in particular - not afraid to show their fearlessness when pressing on the flanks.

THE AIM IS TO DISRUPT THE OPPOSITION’S ATTEMPTS TO CIRCULATE THE BALL, AND IT WORKS INCREDIBLY EFFECTIVELY.

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IRAN One of the lesser known teams among casual fans, Iran’s defensive prowess has been quietly documented for some time now. Former Portugal and Real Madrid boss Carlos Queiroz has been able to nurture a resilient, hardworking and flexible system (4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 have been used recently).

MOROCCO Based on the qualifying games alone, Morocco come into the World Cup with the best defence of every single team. The fact they didn’t concede a single goal throughout CAF qualifying is impressive, but it’s even more worthy of praise when you consider that they came up against the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Gabon, a very talented Ivory Coast and Mali which features the free-scoring Moussa Marega. This is all thanks to Herve Renard, who, in Morocco, has managed to wake up a sleeping giant in African Football that has underachieved for far too long. Developing an exciting 4-2-3-1 [SEE FIGURE 4] blessed with flair, skill, pace and discipline, it has been the defence that plays the pivotal role in getting the best out of this progressive system. Renard is almost undisputedly the best coach on the African continent, illustrated not least by his two AFCON titles. It’s his defensive savviness that has brought him such notable success. The work-rate and energy of The Atlas Lions when they’re out of possession is a joy to watch; in fact, Morocco have been compared to the likes of Tottenham

attack, adorned with talents such as Sardar Azmoun, will always look to press the opposition backline before retreating to a more passive style of defending when the ball goes beyond the halfway line. Iran have shown that they’re able to deal with threats between the lines and prefer the ball to be played into those areas in the hope of a turnover. This is typical of Queiroz’s obsession with denying his opponents chances and defending important territories.

The full-backs play a more traditional role, being afforded less attacking freedom and therefore being in a position to deal with the opposition’s wing attacks. Iran have become renowned for their block, in which they’ll sit off their opponents and exert minimal pressure. It’s a style that makes them incredibly difficult to penetrate. There is a less tangible but equally obvious “togetherness” about the Iranian team. The

FIGURE 4

Zonal pressing trap from a 4-2-3-1 base executed by Morocco (Red) against Uzbekistan (Blue) in their last friendly

in terms of their defensive playing style. Renard has built a team who are willing and capable of a fearsome press, but who possess the awareness to take

their foot off the gas when needed. Their controlled aggression is a force to be reckoned with, and could well cause an upset at this year’s World Cup.

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y

15


GROUP B Iran

15TH JUNE, 16:00 Krestovsky, Saint Petersburg

15TH JUNE, 19:00 Fisht Olympic, Sochi

Morocco Iran

Portugal Spain

Morocco

FIFA RANK: 36 ODDS TO WIN: 500/1 HEAD COACH: Carlos Queiroz

FIFA RANK: 42 ODDS TO WIN: 400/1 HEAD COACH: Hervé Renard

Munir

Beiranvand

Rezaeian

Pouraliganji

Khanzadeh

Hajsafi

Shojaei

Mohammadi

Dirar

Saiss

Belhanda

Jahanbakhsh

N. Amrabat

CORNER/IN-DIRECT FREE KICK TAKER

Boutaib

DIRECT FREE KICK TAKER

Battle of the Euro Giants Group B should be dominated by Spain and Portugal, but Morocco and Iran are capable of causing an upset

G

roup B sees two European heavyweights and geographical neighbours in Portugal and Spain go head to head in what many expect will be one of the most fiercely contested rivalries in the group phase of the competition. Morocco and Iran will be looking to cause an upset akin to Spain’s last World Cup campaign, which saw the once infallible side fail to make it out of their group. Even so, progression for Morocco or Iran at the expense of one of Spain or Portugal would be a feat of historic significance.

16

Boussoufa

Taremi

Azmoun

PENALTY TAKER

Hakimi

El Ahmad

Dejagah

KEY

Benatia

With tournament odds of 6/1, Spain sit just behind Brazil and Germany as joint third favourites to win the 2018 World Cup. It’s a national team which has grown accustomed to winning in recent decades, but a failure to reach the knock-outs in Brazil followed by a disappointing exit at the hands of Italy in the last 16 of Euro 2016 means that Spain aren’t necessarily the fearsome outfit they once were. Despite recent disappointments, the Spaniards look revitalised under new coach Julen Lopetegui, and an unbeaten qualifying

Ziyech

STAR PLAYER

campaign (conceding just three goals in the process) means excluding their assets from your fantasy team could well prove disastrous. Spain’s most prominent threat in Group B are current Euro 2016 champions Portugal. Though Cristiano Ronaldo will rightly be the biggest target for fantasy managers, the Portuguese squad boasts a wealth of under-theradar talent, not least in form of Man City starlet Bernardo Silva, experienced ex-Real Madrid centre-back Pepe and the ever-threatening Cedric Soares. Portugal might not even be favourites to top their group, but they’ll surely see Group B as a fantastic opportunity to progress to the unpredictable knockout rounds. Once there, they’re furnished with enough individual brilliance to beat

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y


20TH JUNE, 13:00 Luzhniki, Moscow

20TH JUNE,19:00 Kazan Arena, Kazan

25TH JUNE, 19:00 Mordovia Arena, Saransk

25TH JUNE, 19:00 Kaliningrad, Kaliningrad

Portugal Morocco

Iran Spain

Iran Portugal

Spain Morocco

Portugal

Spain

FIFA RANK: 4 ODDS TO WIN: 25/1 HEAD COACH: Fernando Santos

FIFA RANK: 8 ODDS TO WIN: 6/1 HEAD COACH: Julen Lopetegui

De Gea

Patricio

Cedric

Fonte

Pepe

W. Carvalho

Moutinho

Guerreiro

Carvajal

Iniesta

Joao Mario

DIFFERENTIAL

D. Silva

Ronaldo

Name

Pique

Alba

Busquets

B. Silva

Andre Silva

Ramos

Thiago

Diego Costa

Isco

LIKELY TO START

any team on their day. Over four attempts, Iran have never managed to emerge from the group phase of a World Cup. Nonetheless, if Spain or Portugal do trip up, it is likely to be at the hands of this Iranian side. As with Spain, Iran went unbeaten during their qualifying campaign, emerging top of a group that included South Korea and China. Russia will be Iran’s first-ever consecutive World Cup after qualifying for Brazil in 2014, and they are looking more and more like a team that deserves, perhaps even expect, to be competing with the world’s top national teams. This tournament is perhaps the most important in Morocco’s patchy footballing history. Not only is this the

QUALIFICATION STATISTICS AVG. GOALS SCORED

AVG. GOALS CONCEDED

TOP GOALSCORER

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 3.60

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.00

RONALDO

PORTUGAL

PORTUGAL

IRAN

IRAN

IRAN

SPAIN

MOROCCO

SPAIN

MOROCCO

15 IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 3.20 IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.04 AZMOUN 11 IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 2.00 IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.28 ISCO/SILVA/COSTA 5 IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.83 IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.30 BOUTAIB 4 SPAIN

MOROCCO

North African side’s first World Cup in 20 years, but they’ll also fly the flag for Morocco’s 2026 World Cup bid. At 400/1 to win the tournament, the Moroccans are expected to finish

PORTUGAL

bottom of their highly competitive group. With that said, every group fixture is an unrivalled opportunity to put themselves on the map and swing the World Cup bid in their favour. n

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y

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DAILY FANTASY

FantasyBet THE DAILY FANTASY GAME BUILT FOR THE WORLD CUP

Go to fantasybet.com and you’ll be greeted by five, capitalised words in a vivid red and white font. “THE FUTURE OF FANTASY FOOTBALL”. Rarely do such bold claims prove to be true. Remember when Theo Walcott was touted to be the future of English football? In the case of FantasyBet, however, there’s an unignorable sense of foreboding about this statement. That’s because FantasyBet are already paving the way for a new and improved fantasy football experience. Their prizes are bigger, their interface is smoother and their scoring system is somewhat of a revelation. Now they’re turning their attention to the World Cup. We caught up with them to learn more.

18

F

IFA’s official fantasy offering is a strange beast. With 32 teams competing and a choice of virtually every household name in world football (sorry, Gareth Bale), it’s incredibly difficult to single out 15 players worthy of comprising your fantasy squad. When you factor in budgets, the knockout stages and team selection limits, it can all become a bit stressful. But there’s another issue. With a team of 15 players stretched across 32 teams, there will always be games that have no bearing on your fantasy football fortunes. For example, it’s unlikely you’re going to be glued to your TV screen closely tracking the progress of your fantasy players in the Panama vs Tunisia game.

or create your own private league with your friends. Some tournaments are free to enter, and others require a buy in. This is a mouth-watering prospect for fantasy managers. Those familiar with the season-long fantasy format will be equally familiar with the long, dull waits between gameweeks. Similarly, with only 11 players spread across a 32-team tournament, there will inevitably be days during the World Cup where none of your starting 11 are in action. FantasyBet is the respite. Conveniently, Viktor and his team

FantasyBet have the solution to both of these predicaments. Their new 6-a-side daily fantasy format gives you the opportunity to create a 6-man fantasy squad ahead of every single World Cup game. That Panama vs Tunisia game suddenly looks a lot more intriguing. “6-a-side allows for a huge variety in the teams competing against one another,” explains Viktor Enoksen, the General Manager at FantasyBet. “Choosing 11 players from a single match usually results in a huge amount of overlap with other fantasy managers, but having to choose 6 players means there’s always going to be great players you have to exclude.” Speaking of teams competing against one another, FantasyBet gives you the option to pit your wits in a public league,

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y


have made a concerted effort to make FantasyBet’s rules as inclusive, accessible and exciting for fantasy managers as possible. “We’ve created a scoring system that includes the fundamental elements of the Premier League’s official fantasy game, but with some additional extras to keep managers engaged throughout the match,” says Viktor. “You definitely don’t need to learn a completely new set of rules to be successful with us.” It means your players will score points for goals, assists and clean sheets and lose points for bookings, own goals and goals conceded. Like the official games, you’ll also have to operate within a strict budget. All fairly standard so far. So, what are these extras? Well, in FantasyBet, winning a penalty will earn your player 3 points, regardless of whether it’s converted. Conceding one will lose a player 3 points too. Defensive midfielders earn 4 points for a clean sheet, the same as all-out defenders. Creating big chances, winning aerial duels, clearing a shot off the line and last-ditch challenges will also bump up a player’s score. It’s a common-sense approach to point-scoring that Viktor believes will keep fantasy managers engaged from start to finish. “In our system, players can start scoring points immediately

after kick-off. A defender who puts in a man-of-the-match performance will now almost certainly score more points than his teammate who conceded a penalty. If a defensive midfielder runs the game, he’ll be adequately rewarded too. We wanted to create a simple format that recognises a player’s contribution, regardless of whether he scores, assists or keeps a clean sheet.” In creating these rules, FantasyBet have produced a scoring system that many fantasy managers would love to see rolled out on the official games too. Viktor isn’t so sure though. “The traditional scoring works for a seasonlong format because fantasy managers don’t have to watch every game in order to know how well their players are doing: they can gauge how well they’re doing simply by checking the scores,” he explains. “But in a daily fantasy format across the World Cup, it’s very likely they’re going to be watching the games anyway. We want them to be cheering every key pass their players make and wincing every time their forwards miss a golden opportunity.” Scores and leagues update live, giving competitors a clear idea of what needs to happen in order to win. FantasyBet make use of a refreshingly simple, clean interface that mirrors the simplicity of the game and its rules. “There’s enough complexity in fantasy already” remarked

Viktor. “We’re all about making it easy and keeping it fun.” The World Cup is a fast-paced, everchanging tournament. Stunning goals will be scored, shocking mistakes will be made, and there will definitely be a few upsets along the way. Whilst the official fantasy game goes someway to scratching the fantasy itch that all managers must endure over the summer, it isn’t able to inject that raw excitement into every fixture. FantasyBet have solved that problem.

So when you’re bored at work, pretending to fill out a spreadsheet but actually streaming the Costa Rica vs Serbia match in the background, remember that there are thousands of fantasy managers who are happily tracking Luka Milivojevic’s every move on FantasyBet. You’d be a fool not to join them. To take part in the future of fantasy football, visit fantasybet.com. Use the code “WCMAG” to get 100% return on your first deposit up to £10.00.

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y

19


GROUP C France

16TH JUNE, 11:00 Kazan Arena, Kazan

16TH JUNE, 17:00 Mordovia Arena, Saransk

France Australia

Peru Denmark

Australia

FIFA RANK: 7 ODDS TO WIN: 6/1 HEAD COACH: Didier Deschamps

FIFA RANK: 40 ODDS TO WIN: 300/1 HEAD COACH: Bert van Marwijk

Ryan

Lloris

Sidibe

Varane

Pogba

Umtiti

Kante

Mendy

Risdon

Matuidi

Milligan

Sainsbury

Jedinak

Mooy

Leckie

Griezmann

Rogic

PENALTY TAKER

Juric

CORNER/IN-DIRECT FREE KICK TAKER

DIRECT FREE KICK TAKER

2018 and the French Revolution? A strong France side must first stave off threats from Denmark, Peru and Australia in an intriguing Group C

I

f FIFA rank is taken as gospel, Group C could be considered one of the highest quality groups in the tournament. Peru, who qualified at the expense of Chile, and Denmark, who creative combine flair with a resolute defence, will both be working to make life difficult for a rejuvenated France. Meanwhile, Australia - who qualified after a tetchy play-off against Syria - will doubtless be buoyed by reaching their fourth consecutive World Cup.

20

Kruse

Mbappe

Giroud

KEY

Behich

It’s hard to ignore the raw strength of the France squad this year. Les Bleus reached the final of the Euros in 2016, and have consolidated that showing with a group-topping World Cup qualifying effort. Didier Deschamps’ side didn’t have it all their own way though. Defeat to Sweden and disappointing draws against Belarus and Luxembourg revealed a vulnerability that their group opponents will be all too mindful of. Even so, it’s clear France are the strong favourites to

STAR PLAYER

top Group C, and at 6/1 to win the whole tournament, it’d be careless to overlook their potent attacking threat. Peru emerged through a nailbiting qualification phase after a play-off victory against New Zealand. Remarkably, the South Americans finished on joint points with Chile, but progressed with a meagre goal difference of +1. Needless to say, the Peruvians are among the more fortuitous sides to reach the World Cup this year, but it would be foolish to write them off. Ricardo Gareca’s side secured vital points against Uruguay and Argentina on their way to Group C, and with a FIFA ranking of 11, they will surely see their first World Cup in 36 years as a golden opportunity to re-establish themselves on the global stage.

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y


21TH JUNE, 13:00 Samara Arena, Samara

21TH JUNE, 16:00 Central, Yekaterinburg

26TH JUNE, 15:00 Fisht Olympic, Sochi

26TH JUNE, 15:00 Luzhniki Moscow

Denmark Australia

France Peru

Australia Peru

Denmark France

Peru

Denmark

FIFA RANK: 11 ODDS TO WIN: 200/1 HEAD COACH: Ricardo Gareca

FIFA RANK: 12 ODDS TO WIN: 100/1 HEAD COACH: Åge Hareide

Schmeichel

Gallese

Advincula

Ramos

Rodriguez

Yotun

Tapia

Trauco

Dalsgaard

Kjaer

Christensen

Kvist

Delaney

Eriksen

Cueva

Farfan

Flores

Poulsen

Name

Sisto

N. Jorgensen

Guerrero

DIFFERENTIAL

Stryger Larsen

LIKELY TO START

Peru’s biggest obstacle for progression is Denmark, who swung between the sublime and the woeful during a mixed qualification run that saw them beat eventual group winners Poland 4-0 and lose at home to Montenegro over the course of a few fixtures. The talismanic Christian Eriksen is the most attractive option for fantasy managers, but the Danes also conceded less goals than any other team in their qualifying group too, making their budget defence a strong consideration. This tournament is Denmark’s first World Cup since a disappointing group exit in 2010, but Group C gives them an unrivalled chance to go one step further this time around. Ranking 28 places lower than the next lowest team in Group C, Australia are the clear underdogs. The Socceroos might be weaker than their opponents

QUALIFICATION STATISTICS AVG. GOALS SCORED

AVG. GOALS CONCEDED

XOP GOALSCORER

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 2.40

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.60 FRANCE

DENMARK

DENMARK

DENMARK

PERU

AUSTRALIA

PERU

FRANCE

PERU

FRANCE

11 IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 2.08 IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.75 ERIKSEN 11 IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.45 IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.85 FLORES 5 IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.80 IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.30 GRIEZMANN/GIROUD 4 AUSTRALIA

on paper, but they are arguably the most cohesive unit in the whole tournament. That’s because of a gruelling qualifying campaign which saw them play 22 games - the most of any team in the history of

CAHILL

AUSTRALIA

the World Cup. Bert van Marwijk’s men have truly earned their place in Russia, but despite their heroics, it’s difficult to see another chapter in their World Cup saga beyond the group phase. n

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y

21


PROVEN ASSETS

TOP THE TOP SCORERS AND ASSISTERS IN WORLD FOOTBALL THIS SEASON #

NATIONAL TEAM

PLAYER

ASSISTS

TEAM

1

Belgium

De Bruyne

16

Man City

2

Morocco

Ziyech

15

Ajax

2

Germany

Müller

14

Bayern Munich

4

Brazil

Neymar

13

PSG

5

Iran

Jahanbakhsh

12

Alkmaar

6

Brazil

Douglas Costa

12

Juventus

6

Argentina

Messi

12

Barcelona

6

Spain

D. Silva

11

Man City

9

France

Thauvin

11

Marseille

9

Colombia

Rodriguez

11

Bayern Munich

9

Uruguay

Suarez

11

Barcelona

9

England

Sterling

11

Man City

9

Argentina

Pavón

11

Boca Juniors

14

Serbia

Ljajic

10

Torino

14

England

Alli

10

Tottenham

14

Denmark

Eriksen

10

Tottenham

14

Germany

Kimmich

10

Bayern Munich

14

Egypt

Salah

10

Liverpool

14

France

Pogba

10

Man United

14

France

Griezmann

10

Atletico Madrid

AS

22

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y


FORM They say form should always trump fixtures. If that's the case, these tables might be the most important resource available for fantasy managers. You'll find an interesting mix of the usual suspects combined with some lesser known and surprising names. Which ones will make your squad?

LEAGUE

#

NATIONAL TEAM

PLAYER

GOALS

TEAM

LEAGUE

Premier League

1

Argentina

Messi

34

Barcelona

La Liga

Eredivisie

2

Egypt

Salah

32

Liverpool

Premier League

Bundesliga

3

England

Kane

30

Tottenham

Premier League

Ligue 1

4

Poland

Lewandowski

29

Bayern Munich

Bundesliga

Eredivisie

5

Uruguay

Cavani

28

PSG

Ligue 1

Serie A

6

Portugal

Ronaldo

25

Real Madrid

La Liga

La Liga

6

Uruguay

Suarez

25

Barcelona

La Liga

Premier League

8

France

Thauvin

22

Marseille

Ligue 1

Ligue 1

8

Argentina

Dybala

22

Juventus

Serie A

Bundesliga

10

Argentina

Aguero

21

Man City

Premier League

La Liga

10

Iran

Jahanbakhsh

21

Alkmaar

Eredivisie

Premier League

12

Spain

Aspas

20

Celta Vigo

La Liga

Primera Division

12

England

Vardy

20

Leicester

Premier League

Serie A

14

France

Griezmann

19

Atletico Madrid

La Liga

Premier League

14

Brazil

Neymar

19

PSG

Ligue 1

Premier League

16

Belgium

Mertens

18

Napoli

Serie A

Bundesliga

16

Colombia

Falcao

18

AS Monaco

Ligue 1

Premier League

16

England

Sterling

18

Man City

Premier League

Premier League

19

Mexico

Lozano

17

PSV Eindhoven

Eredivisie

La Liga

20 Belgium

Lukaku

16

Man United

Premier League

SISTS

GOALS T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y

23


GROUP D Argentina

16TH JUNE, 14:00 Otkrytie Arena, Moscow

16TH JUNE, 20:00 Kaliningrad, Kaliningrad

Argentina Iceland

Croatia Nigeria

Croatia

FIFA RANK: 5 ODDS TO WIN: 9/1 HEAD COACH: Jorge Sampaoli

FIFA RANK: 18 ODDS TO WIN: 33/1 HEAD COACH: Zlatko Dalic

Subasic

Caballero

Mercado

Fazio

Lo Celso

Otamendi

Mascherano

Tagliafico

Vrsaljko

Lovren

Vida

Badelj

Banega

Modric

Messi

PENALTY TAKER

Kramaric

CORNER/IN-DIRECT FREE KICK TAKER

Can Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria do enough to ruin Messi’s last chance to win a World Cup with Argentina? t would be more than feasible to construct a solid fantasy football team from the wealth of individual talent found in Group D alone. Of course, Lionel Messi will be the obvious choice for many a fantasy manager, but the five-time Ballon D’or winner has endured a notably underwhelming international career. Meanwhile, Croatia’s experienced midfield, Nigeria’s attacking threat and Iceland’s penchant for giant-slaying makes Group D one of the most watchable groups in the competition.

24

Mandzukic

DIRECT FREE KICK TAKER

A Compelling 4-Horse Race

I

Rakitic

Di Maria

Aguero

KEY

Strinic

The favourites to win Group D, Argentina struggled in a fiercely competitive qualifying group that saw them finish third, below both Brazil and Uruguay. Despite some disappointing results, the South Americans will arrive in Russia ranked fifth in the world. Many see this as 30-year-old Messi’s last World Cup, which might place additional pressure on the Barcelona forward’s weight-bearing shoulders. Fortunately for Argentina, household names like Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria and Paulo Dybala are more

Perisic

STAR PLAYER

than capable of picking up any slack in Messi’s absence. It’s unlikely to be a walk in the park for Argentina. Croatia, seeded 18th, carry their own threats. The midfield duo of Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric are among the world’s best playmakers, and should pull the strings for Zlatko Dalic’s side. Combine these with a sturdy defense that includes Dejan Lovren and Danijel Subasic, as well as the experienced Mario Mandzukic up front, and it’s hard to imagine Croatia failing to progress through Group D. But Croatia didn’t win their qualifying group. Iceland did. Iceland are the smallest nation (population-wise) to qualify for the World Cup in history, having never been to a World Cup before. In fact, their first

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y


21TH JUNE, 19:00 Nizhny, Nizhny Novgorod

22TH JUNE, 16:00 Volgograd Arena, Volgograd

26TH JUNE, 19:00 Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don

26TH JUNE, 19:00 Krestovsky, Saint Petersburg

Argentina Croatia

Nigeria Iceland

Iceland Croatia

Nigeria Argentina

Iceland

Nigeria

FIFA RANK: 22 ODDS TO WIN: 200/1 HEAD COACH: Heimir Hallgrímsson

FIFA RANK: 47 ODDS TO WIN: 200/1 HEAD COACH: Salisu Yusuf

Uzoho

Halldorsson

Saevarsson

Sigurdsson

Arnason

Magnusson

J. Gudmundsson

Gunnarsson

Hallfredsson

Bjarnason

Abdullahi

Troost-Ekong

Balogun

Ndidi

Onazi

Mikel

G. Sigurdsson

Moses

Iwobi

Ighalo

A. Finnbogason

DIFFERENTIAL

Name

Idowu

LIKELY TO START

appearance at a major international tournament only came in 2016, when a remarkable quarter-final finish at the Euros captivated the footballing world. They’ve since gone on to prove that the Euros was far more than just a one-tournament wonder, topping a competitive group and losing just twice in the process. With Burnley’s Johann Gudmundsson and Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson at their heart, Iceland have already demonstrated that they have more than enough individual talent to cause an upset. In any other group, Nigeria might well be among the favourites to progress. In Group D, however, it would be somewhat of an upset. Their attacking force includes Ahmed Musa, Kelechi Iheanacho, Alex Iwobi and Odion

QUALIFICATION STATISTICS AVG. GOALS SCORED

AVG. GOALS CONCEDED

TOP GOALSCORER

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.83

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.42

MESSI

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.60

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.70

MANDZUKIC

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.58

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.89

SIGURDSSON

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.06

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.00

MOSES

NIGERIA

ICELAND

CROATIA

ARGENTINA

CROATIA

ICELAND

ARGENTINA

NIGERIA

Ighalo, which is further complemented by stars like John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses and Wilfred Ndidi behind them. Nigeria won their qualification group very comfortably, and managed to

7 5 4 3

ARGENTINA

CROATIA

ICELAND

NIGERIA

progress to the knockout stages in 2014 too. They’re used to competing in the world’s biggest tournaments, and will be keen to carry forward the momentum gained in Brazil. n

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y

25


SPOTLIGHT CRISTIANO RONALDO

A GUIDE TO THE WORLD CUP’S PREMIUM STRIKERS

PORTUGAL try to tell Cristiano Ronaldo → Don’t that this will also be his last World

Strike it Lucky With so many Golden Boot Contenders descending upon Russia, we‘ve taken a deep-dive into the pool of premium attacking talent that looks set to light up the World Cup this year.

T

he greatest football tournament on the planet will be keeping fantasy addicts glued to their TVs this summer, as we watch games like Panama vs. Tunisia with illdeserved interest. But before we pick those diamonds in the rough, we need to decide which one of football's equivalent of expensive designer jewellery we’ll be building our team around. For many of these top strikers, this will be the last chance to play a World Cup in their prime - a final tilt at the tournament where legends are made.

26

Cup at the peak of his powers. His recent assertion that he has a “biological age” of 23 may sound ludicrous to some, but it’s a testament to the 33-year-old’s infinite self-belief. He’s been doing his talking on the pitch too, scoring 44 goals in as many games for Madrid. Ronaldo was absolutely relentless in Portugal’s march towards World Cup qualification, registering 15 goals in nine games. Their current status as European champions will see them approach the competition with a new-found confidence, and there’s no player who craves the big stage as much as Ronaldo.

LIONEL MESSI ARGENTINA Lionel Messi’s place in → Although the history books is assured, a

World Cup trophy still eludes him and would provide an unwanted asterisk when the annals of his impressive legacy are written. His goalscoring has been monotonously dazzling for years now, and this season was no exception - his 45 goals in 54 games for Barcelona, including 34 in La Liga, earned him a fifth European Golden Shoe. He struggled with injury during much of Argentina’s World Cup qualification campaign, but still managed to produce seven goals. The considerable weight of his country’s expectations have not always rested comfortably on Messi’s shoulders, and whether that pressure helps or hinders the 30-year-old remains to be seen.

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y


ANTOINE GRIEZMANN FRANCE player who has had his → Another head turned recently is Antoine Griezmann. It’s not the first time a summer move has seemed likely for the France centre-forward, but he’ll be aware that there’s nothing quite like a stellar World Cup performance to bring a new sense of clarity to those wage negotiations.

NEYMAR BRAZIL eyes, as ever, will be on Messi → All and Ronaldo, but this could be a defining World Cup for the player long touted as their natural successor. The pressure will once again be on Brazil’s Neymar to bring the iconic trophy back to Brazil, but after losing his way somewhat in club football, he could actually find international duty to be a welcome distraction. There are some concerns for potential fantasy owners, however. He says he’s “not 100%” after a recent foot injury, and although he scored 30 goals in 28 appearances for PSG this season, he’ll be facing tougher defenders than those generally found in Ligue 1 once Brazil reach the knockout stages. He’s now permanently playing on the left for the national team, although this didn’t stop him weighing in with six strikes in seven games before his goals dried up in Brazil’s final four matches. Neymar is reportedly eyeing a move to join the growing Brazilian contingent at Manchester City, and could be eager to show Pep Guardiola what he can do.

HARRY KANE ENGLAND Kane will also be looking → Harry to change the narrative when it

His record of 19 goals in 32 La Liga matches is decent, if unspectacular, as is his return of four goals and four assists in 10 World Cup qualification matches. The Frenchman’s World Cup record is dismal however - he failed to score in all five games for France last time around, something he’ll be determined to put right in Russia.

comes to tournament football. Although the Spurs striker has another 30-goal Premier League season in the bag, his stop-start form made him a polarising figure for Fantasy Premier League managers this season, and much will depend on his sharpness in England’s friendlies leading up to the tournament. He’s generally performed for the Three Lions when called upon in the qualifiers, netting five goals in six games. Recently handed the poisoned chalice of the captaincy, it’s sink-orswim time as the 24-year-old looks to make his mark on the world stage.

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y

27


SPOTLIGHT ROMELU LUKAKU

ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI

BELGIUM

POLAND

Group G rival, Romelu → Kane’s Lukaku, is another player who

player to tread carefully → Another with is Robert Lewandowski -

is yet to truly make his mark on the world stage, but the Belgian forward carries a slight injury concern. Manager Roberto Martinez says he will give him every chance to prove his fitness, and who could blame him Lukaku has scored in every one of the seven World Cup qualifying matches he played in, netting 11 goals in all. His modest tally of 16 league goals this season is a concern, but some of this could be put down to a Man United attacking approach that could be generously described as “cautious”.

albeit for very different reasons. Goalscoring has never been a concern for the Warsaw warrior, who concluded the last Bundesliga season with 29 goals, including two hat-tricks. His record for Poland in qualification is even better - scoring in all but one game, with three hat-tricks along the way for good measure.

GABRIEL JESUS BRAZIL the other side of Manchester, → On it’s been a so-so season for Brazil forward Gabriel Jesus, starting only 11 times and scoring 13 league goals, although he certainly ended on a high with that late winner to secure a 100-point season for his club. His seven goals in 10 games during qualification is reasonable, and his winner in a March friendly against Germany further advanced his reputation as a player who can score important goals - but you don’t get any extra points for that in fantasy. Brazil national team manager Tite recently stated that “today, he is our No.9”, but if Jesus doesn’t perform in Russia, it could be Firmino's turn tomorrow. An attractive player yet to harness a ruthless streak in front of goal, Jesus is probably one to avoid.

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However, although Poland should navigate their way through Group H without too much trouble, it's difficult to see them progressing past the quarter-final stage, which could pose problems for fantasy managers.

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y


LUIS SUAREZ URUGUAY Luis Suarez will be → Teammate looking at the World Cup as a platform to achieve true recognition, and to erase (or at least clumsily scrawl over) some of the less admirable elements of his career thus far. He’s been scoring his fair share of goals since his move to Barcelona, including 25 in 33 La Liga games this season - as well as registering 12 assists. This has been repeated at international level, with eight assists and five goals in a suspension-hit qualifying campaign. These assists could be a big boost to fantasy owners, who can also depend on Suarez to be the designated penalty taker too. Suarez is a fierce competitor and will be determined to succeed, but you’ll always have that nagging fear that he could short circuit and do something crazy. He surely won’t this time though - will he?

THE WORLD CUP’S ALL-TIME TOP 12 GOAL SCORERS PLAYER NAME

1 MIROSLAV KLOSE 2 RONALDO 3 GERD MÜLLER 4 JUST FONTAINE 5 PELÉ 6 JÜRGEN KLINSMANN 7 SÁNDOR KOCSIS 8 GABRIEL BATISTUTA 9 TEÓFILO CUBILLAS 10 GRZEGORZ LATO 11 GARY LINEKER 12 THOMAS MÜLLER

APPS GOALS 24 16

GERMANY

19 15

BRAZIL

13 14

GERMANY

6 13

FRANCE

14 12

BRAZIL

17 11

GERMANY

5 11

HUNGARY

12 10

ARGENTINA

13 10

PERU

20 10

POLAND

12 10

ENGLAND

13 10

GERMANY

EDINSON CAVANI URUGUAY

Uruguay should breeze through their group, which contains two of the lowest-ranked teams in the tournament - namely Russia (66) and Saudi Arabia (65) - and that could translate into a glut of goals for one or both of their two main men. Edinson Cavani finished the season well for PSG, netting four in his last four games on his way to a 40-goal season in all competitions. His international form was less impressive however, with a solitary goal in Uruguay’s last five games in qualification, after scoring nine in 10 games before that. Goals against Austria, Czech Republic and Wales since then have calmed fears somewhat.

There’s one final factor to bear in mind when picking one of these talismanic strikers. Their countries basically rely on them for any chance of World Cup fate success which means that, unlike their teammates, they’re likely to play through all but the most serious of injuries. We’ve all seen some top names underperform on the big stage, only to hear weeks later that they were never fully fit. As admirable as that may be from a fan perspective, it’s a curse when it comes to your fantasy team. So when you see a manager solemnly deny that his star striker is carrying a knock, it could be your cue to look elsewhere.

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y

29


GROUP E Brazil

17TH JUNE, 13:00 Samara Arena, Samara

17TH JUNE, 19:00 Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don

Costa Rica Serbia

Brazil Switzerland

Switzerland

FIFA RANK: 2 ODDS TO WIN: 4/1 HEAD COACH: Tite

FIFA RANK: 6 ODDS TO WIN: 100/1 HEAD COACH: Vladimir Petkovic

Alisson

Danilo

Thiago Silva

Sommer

Miranda

Marcelo

Lichtsteiner

Casemiro

Paulinho

Coutinho

Akanji

Schar

Xhaka

Behrami

Dzemaili

Shaqiri

Willian

KEY

Jesus

PENALTY TAKER

Zuber

Neymar

CORNER/IN-DIRECT FREE KICK TAKER

Seferovic

DIRECT FREE KICK TAKER

Will the Favourites Dazzle in Russia? Tournament favourites Brazil will be looking to top what should be a relatively uncomplicated Group E

F

ive-time World Cup winners Brazil are widely expected to samba through Group E with their usual panache, but the South American giants were dealt a blow in February when star player – and chief fantasy asset – Neymar, went off injured playing for Paris St Germain, later revealed to be a broken bone in his right foot. Thankfully, the most expensive player in world football was named in manager Tite’s World Cup squad, but will his three-month absence be of detriment to his, and his team’s sharpness?

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Rodriguez

The PSG forward’s influence will be paramount if Brazil are to win a sixth World Cup, although they should at least qualify for the knockout stages with minimal fuss. Their quality in abundance includes assist king Marcelo (generously classed as a defender), set-piece expert Philippe Coutinho and Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus, who top-scored for Brazil in qualifying with seven goals. However, Brazil aren’t likely to

STAR PLAYER

overlook this potential banana skin of a group. Switzerland won nine successive World Cup qualifiers and are expected to claim second place, while Costa Rica achieved their best World Cup finish in 2014, reaching the quarter-finals, and Aleksandar Mitrović scored six qualifying groups as Serbia romped towards their first major tournament in eight years. The importance of Group E’s second match, Brazil vs. Switzerland, therefore cannot be understated. Both teams had barnstorming qualifying campaigns, with Switzerland’s winning streak helping them to climb to sixth in FIFA’s world rankings, while Brazil were the first country to qualify for the tournament (after Russia, who qualified automatically as hosts), following an eight-game winning run.

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y


22TH JUNE, 13:00 Krestovsky, Saint Petersburg

22TH JUNE, 19:00 Kaliningrad, Kaliningrad

27TH JUNE, 19:00 Otkrytie Arena, Moscow

27TH JUNE, 19:00 Nizhny, Nizhny Novgorod

Brazil Costa Rica

Serbia Switzerland

Serbia Brazil

Switzerland Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Serbia

FIFA RANK: 25 ODDS TO WIN: 400/1 HEAD COACH: Óscar Ramírez

FIFA RANK: 35 ODDS TO WIN: 200/1 HEAD COACH: Mladen Krstajic

Stojkovic

Navas

Acosta

Gonzalez

Rukavina

Duarte

Gamboa

Ivanovic

Milenkovic

Matic

Milivojevic

Kolarov

Oviedo

Guzman

Borges

Milinkovic-Savic

Campbell

B. Ruiz

Tadic

Ljajic

Mitrovic

Urena

DIFFERENTIAL

Name

LIKELY TO START

Whilst Brazil have firepower to spare, Switzerland are lacking. Firstchoice centre forward Haris Seferovic has only managed four goals in 22 international appearances since 2016, and the burden will be on Xherdan Shaqiri – who almost kept Stoke City in the Premier League single-handedly - to provide the creative spark for the Swiss. Oh, how Switzerland coach Vladimir Petković must wish he had Mitrović to call on. The in-form striker has a better than one-in-three strike rate for Serbia, and if ably backed up by Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Dusan Tadic can provide an alternative to the premium price fantasy strikers. Costa Rica, meanwhile, should not be forgotten. Having upset Uruguay and Italy in 2014, optimism is high within

QUALIFICATION STATISTICS AVG. GOALS SCORED

AVG. GOALS CONCEDED

TOP GOALSCORER

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 2.28

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.58

JESUS

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 2.00

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.61

MITROVIC

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 2.00

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.00

BOLANOS/URENA

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.56

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.10

SEFEROVIC

BRAZIL

SERBIA

SWITZERLAND

COSTA RICA

SWITZERLAND

BRAZIL

SERBIA

COSTA RICA

their ranks, with former Premier League duo Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell key figures in attack. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas is their most recognisable name, fresh off winning the Champions League

BRAZIL

SERBIA

COSTA RICA

SWITZERLAND

7 6 4 4

with Real Madrid, and will expect to be busy, especially against Brazil. The winner of Costa Rica’s opening game with Serbia could throw the battle for second place wide open. n

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y

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DIFFERENTIALS GROUP A

Yahya Al Shehri (Saudi Arabia)

News of Nawaf Al Abed’s late omission from the final 23-man squad, despite successful surgery paid for by the Saudi Arabian General Sports Authority and an extensive post-rehabilitation programme, leaves Yayha Al Shehri shouldering the creative responsibility in midfield. Al Shehri is a mainstay for his country, scoring five and assisting four on their way to automatic qualification. He broke the transfer record in Saudi’s top tier and we’re sure his trademark leftfooted delivery will be on show in the tournament curtain-raiser. Managed by Juan Antonio Pizzi, famous for orchestrating Chile’s 2016 Copa America victory, he’ll encourage them to go on the front foot, particularly against Egypt and Russia, following an average of 2.5 goals scored per game in qualifying.

Russian Roulette

8 DIFFERENTIALS THAT COULD GIVE YOUR TEAM  THE CUTTING EDGE 32

Since making the Eredivisie switch from FC Twente to Ajax, creative midfielder Hakim Ziyech’s value has shot up, while his contribution has remained constant. Holland won’t feature in the tournament, but their residents will be familiar with Ziyech’s exploits having tallied over 20 goals + assists every season since 2013/14. His numbers are certainly impressive at club level, though the 25-year-old also averages a goal every second game internationally. In the six qualifying fixtures played by countries in the African sector, Ziyech featured in four - notching two goals and two assists. In their first tournament since 1998, and alongside Spain and Portugal in Group B, Morocco face a difficult challenge to reach the knockout stages. Their opening fixture versus Iran is the perfect opportunity to secure points early, and as a result, Ziyech’s best chance for fantasy returns.

GROUP B

Hakim Ziyech (Morocco)

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y


GROUP C

Pione Sisto (Denmark)

There’s no mistaking that Christian Eriksen is the heartbeat of the Danish attacking quartet, but Pione Sisto is an exciting pick for those with restricted funds or devotees amused by his undone laces during his international debut! Playing predominantly for the under-21s, he hardly featured in his country’s first six qualifiers, instead making his mark in the following four, as well as chipping in with a couple of assists in their crucial second-leg play off to knock out the Republic of Ireland. Acknowledged for his work ethic, Sisto doubled the regular 12 hours work week at FC Midtylland to 24 as a teenager. However, attitude doesn't necessarily translate to fantasy points and Sisto has a tendency to be a very streaky player; he gathered 11 assists and two goals during the first 12 gameweeks in La Liga, followed by a poor spell (two goals + an assist) for the remainder of the season.

GROUP D

Johann Gudmundsson (Iceland)

The Burnley grafter is one of the first names on the team sheet for Heimir Hallgrímsson. Unlike a few of our favourite differentials, he’s locked into the starting XI and will likely play every minute in Iceland’s battle. A tough one at that, with Argentina, Croatia and Nigeria forming Group D. As demonstrated in the Premier League this season, Gudmundsson is a reasonably consistent fantasy pick, returning 11 times in the campaign with nine assists and two goals. Admirably, he ranked 2nd for crosses attempted (1.8) and 10th for key passes (1.9) per game, ahead of the likes of Riyad Mahrez (1.6) and Paul Pogba (1.4), despite playing for a conservative team. After scoring back-to-back in Iceland’s final two qualifiers, Gudmundsson shared his thoughts on their dark horse status in their group and how it might play to their advantage: “It brings more freedom, it's nice to be the underdog and people like the underdogs." So maybe a repeat of their Euro 2016 last-16 triumph over England is on the cards. T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y

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DIFFERENTIALS

GROUP F

Jonas Hector (Germany)

There’s an evident pull towards his teammate Joshua Kimmich, and that’s not surprising given his performances this season: 17 assists in all competitions and a goal in each of Bayern Munich’s UCL semi-final legs. He is the second-highest owned defender in the Telegraph’s fantasy game. The pair are priced identically in the official game, and this ownership trend is likely to continue. Jonas Hector could become second fiddle and slip under the radar despite contributing with five assists in his last eight competitive appearances in a Germany shirt. In 2016, even Hector confirmed his differential status: “I like being lowkey.” Included in every Germany matchday squad since 2014, barring his ligament tear last season which forced him out of 14 Bundesliga gameweeks, he’s clearly one of Joachim Löw’s favourites and his go-to left-back. Hector is extremely versatile and Low has “even thought about playing him in central midfield”.

A favourable group comprising Australia, Denmark and Peru offers France great scope for a couple of clean sheets in their opening three fixtures. Alongside Benjamin Mendy, Djibril Sidibe offers the best attacking threat from defence and unlike his colleague, he’s 100% fit. On the back of an excellent league campaign, Sidibe racked up eight assists and two goals, despite missing a large part of the season through injury. The full-back assisted every 270 mins on average - not bad when Lionel Messi averages one every 250 mins. Surrounded by the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Pogba, Sidibe is rarely in the limelight despite playing the second-most minutes in qualifying (845 out of a possible 900) and assisting two of their three goals against Luxembourg. The reverse fixture ended 0-0 for those raising an eyebrow at the opposition in question.

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GROUP E

Djibril Sidibe (France)

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y


GROUP G

Kieran Trippier (England)

Gareth Southgate seems settled with Kieran Trippier at right wing-back and was full of praise for him following England’s friendly win over Nigeria: "His quality on the ball is outstanding. The two set-plays, the free-kick bang on the money, and then the corner, a great delivery." Back in 2013/14, Trippier assisted 14 times as Burnley were promoted. His starting XI status is a weekly discussion amongst Fantasy Premier League managers, our writers included, and is occasionally a marginal factor in whether or not to captain Kane. This is a testament to his end product and the fact that all five of his assists were laid on for his England teammate this season, the third most popular assist/goal combination in the Premier League.

GROUP H

Kamil Grosicki

(Poland)

The speedy winger is an integral part of Adam Nawalka’s plans. Together Kamil Grosicki and Robert Lewandowski have scored over 50% of Poland’s goals since he took charge, which is an impressive feat regardless of time period, but the reality is that this stands from October 2013! Grosicki is known as ‘Turbo’ for his electric acceleration, but mental strength is perhaps his most defining trait. As a youngster he battled through a serious gambling addiction, often in debt to his teammates, before eventually making his international debut. Following another frustrating domestic campaign at Hull City, which has often been the norm for Grosicki having played for a plethora of clubs, he will be desperate to escape as one of those rare players who consistently performs at a higher level for his country, similar to Miroslav Klose at Germany. T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y

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GROUP F Germany

17TH JUNE, 16:00 Luzhniki, Moscow

18TH JUNE, 13:00 Nizhny, Nizhny Novgorod

Germany Mexico

Sweden South Korea

Sweden

FIFA RANK: 1 ODDS TO WIN: 9/2 HEAD COACH: Joachim Löw

FIFA RANK: 23 ODDS TO WIN: 150/1 HEAD COACH: Janne Andersson

Olsen

Neuer

Kimmich

Boateng

Hummels

Khedira

Kroos

Hector

Ozil

Lustig

Granqvist

Larsson

Ekdal

Claesson

Muller

Forsberg

Toivonen

PENALTY TAKER

CORNER/IN-DIRECT FREE KICK TAKER

DIRECT FREE KICK TAKER

Germany Shoot for 2-in-a-row Germany, Mexico, South Korea and Sweden compete in a group where all four teams could progress

W

orld champions Germany begin their title defence in a tricky yet manageable group, and all eyes will be on the Germans as they bid to secure a record ninth World Cup Final appearance and, ultimately, equal Brazil’s record of five World Cup titles. Joachim Löw’s side qualified with startling ease, winning all 10 games and scoring a joint European record of 43 goals, so expectations are of course that Germany

36

Augustinsson

Draxler

Werner

KEY

Lindelof

will topple the group. The champions will be targeting three comfortable group wins, and Germany’s squad boasts an array of global stars tasked with making it happen. Thomas Müller, Mesut Özil and Jerome Boateng were all part of the 2014 World Cup winning squad, while talented youngsters Timo Werner, Julian Draxler and Joshua Kimmich compliment their team-mates’ experience with dynamism. Right-back Kimmich possesses particular fantasy appeal; the Bayern Munich star

Berg

STAR PLAYER

has scored 15 club goals in his last two seasons, and has already found the net three times for Germany. Germany’s squad is so imperious it’s easy to overlook their group rivals, but South Korea possess notable World Cup pedigree (finishing fourth in 2002), Mexico travel to Russia following a vein of excellent form, and Sweden are looking to carve out a new identity ahead of their first World Cup since 2002 without talisman and alltime leading scorer Zlatan Ibrahimović. On paper, all three are locked in a battle for second, but could either of them realistically claim first place? Mexico appear best positioned to challenge Germany for top spot. Under head coach Juan Carlos Osorio El Tri went 22 games unbeaten before their 2016

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y


23TH JUNE, 16:00 Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don

23TH JUNE, 19:00 Fisht Olympic, Sochi

27TH JUNE, 15:00 Kazan Arena, Kazan

27TH JUNE, 15:00 Central, Yekaterinburg

South Korea Mexico

Germany Sweden

South Korea Germany

Mexico Sweden

Mexico

South Korea

FIFA RANK: 15 ODDS TO WIN: 100/1 HEAD COACH: Juan Carlos Osorio

FIFA RANK: 61 ODDS TO WIN: 400/1 HEAD COACH: Shin Tae-yong

Seung-gyu

Ochoa

Salcedo

Ayala

Moreno

Herrera

Guardado

Lee Yong

Layun

G. Dos Santos

Young-gwon

Hyun-soo

Ki Sung-yong

Woo-young

Jae-sung

Vela

Seung-woo

Lozano

Hee-Chan

Hernandez

DIFFERENTIAL

Joo-ho

Name

Son

LIKELY TO START

Copa America quarter-final exit and in Javier “Chicharito” Hernández – Mexico’s all-time leading scorer - they have a striker who’s scored 49 international goals, including three at World Cups. Mexico lost just once in qualifying, and in the likes of Carlos Vela and Hirving Lozano possess enough creativity for fantasy managers to reasonably expect attacking rewards. South Korea, meanwhile, are heavily reliant on one key star: Tottenham’s Son Heung-Min. If Son doesn’t perform, neither will South Korea. Son is the top-scoring Asian player in Premier League history, but even his influence couldn’t put gloss on a turgid qualifying campaign where South Korea finished seven points behind Iran. Quite the antithesis of South Korea, Sweden are rebuilding their identify

QUALIFICATION STATISTICS AVG. GOALS SCORED

AVG. GOALS CONCEDED

TOP GOALSCORER

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 4.30

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.40

BERG

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 2.25

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.50

SON

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 2.11

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.56

MULLER/WAGNER

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.81

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.75

LOZANO

GERMANY

SWEDEN

SOUTH KOREA

MEXICO

GERMANY

MEXICO

SOUTH KOREA

SWEDEN

following almost two decades of being “the Zlatan team”, and qualified on the back of a remarkable campaign where they finished ahead of the Netherlands and knocked out Italy in the play-offs.

SWEDEN

SOUTH KOREA

GERMANY

MEXICO

8 7 5 4

Winger Emil Forsberg is their attacking nucleus, and the three-time Swedish Midfielder of the Year will be pivotal if Sweden are to not only finish second, but prospectively challenge for top spot. n

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y

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FANSBET

A BETTING COMPANY THAT GIVES BACK? NO LONGER JUST A FANTASY.

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y


By promising to share an element of their net profits with supporters, FansBet are working on changing the way sports fans gamble. We spoke to them about the first betting platform that promises to be something close to a win/win for everyone.

I

f you’ve ever placed a bet before, you’ll likely be acquainted with that distinct brand of disappointment that tends to rear its head whenever a flutter doesn’t come off. It’s an allto-familiar feeling for even the most experienced punters: your money, which might’ve multiplied innumerably, has instead found its way into the deep, dark pockets of another betting company. And all because Maidstone United missed a penalty away at Tranmere. But what if some of your spurned cash was going to a deserving cause instead? Surely the knowledge that your failed 4-fold had helped to fund something worthwhile would make Maidstone United’s woeful away record a much sweeter pill to swallow.

Enter FansBet, the betting company that have decided to do things differently. Through their Fan Partner scheme, FansBet have pledged to share a massive 50% of their net profits with sports fans. The simplicity is almost liberating. When you create an account with FansBet, you’ll be asked to enter the team you support. This might be a football club, but it can include other sports providing they meet the criteria. After that, you can use FansBet as you would any other betting site. Everything - from the live in-play odds to the cashing out of your winnings - works as you’d expect. Until you place a bet that doesn’t hit the target.

That’s because while you’ve been enjoying placing a bet with FansBet, they’ve been keeping a close eye on that activity, syphoning off half of any net profit they’ve derived from you, ready to be sent to the relevant Trust, supporters’ club or independent supporters’ association. It means if the house does get the better of you, your money can stay alive for longer and find its way to helping support causes that matter. “We’re a young company with a clear vision of what we can do to make a difference” explains Tom Lee, FansBet’s Head of Communications, “but we’re already on the cusp of sharing our first wave of funds to supporter groups in the UK and beyond.” “The aim of FansBet is to give fans of all sports the choice of a superior gaming experience in the best and most

sport and league. The site supports inplay betting and offers competitive odds, special offers and concessions too. Yet despite its comprehensive features, the design is sleek enough to navigate them all with ease. The result is a betting site that has what it takes to make a real difference; not just in terms of the betting experience itself, but for the wider sporting community too. “Within reason it doesn’t matter what their chosen sport is or which team they follow, it gives our customers comfort and reassurance knowing that an unsuccessful wager will still be doing some good for causes that matter to fans,” says Tom. Betting fans will doubtless see the World Cup as an exciting opportunity to pit their wits against the bookies, but before they ask themselves which teams

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE INDUSTRY, FANSBET ARE OFFERING PUNTERS A CONSOLATION PRIZE THAT ACTUALLY FEELS LIKE WINNING. enjoyable environment,” he continued. “This means giving fan groups a voice, enabling them to grow and in doing so supporting causes that matter to their members; be it fan ownership, the campaign for safe standing, tickets for kids from underprivileged backgrounds or simply subsidised travel or access to matches.”

they fancy backing, they must first ask themselves a far more important question: which bookies do they want to bet with? For the first time in the industry, FansBet are offering punters a consolation prize that actually feels like winning. It’s surely a no-brainer for even the most risk-averse gamblers among us.

Happily, the scheme is far more than just a gimmick. FansBet’s platform is usable, with extensive markets in almost every

FansBet will match your first deposit up to £10 - just use the code “WELCOME10”. Go to fansbet.com to learn more.

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y

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GROUP G Belgium

18TH JUNE, 16:00 Fisht Olympic, Sochi

18TH JUNE, 19:00 Volgograd Arena, Volgograd

Belgium Panama

Tunisia England

England

FIFA RANK: 3 ODDS TO WIN: 11/1 HEAD COACH: Roberto Martínez

FIFA RANK: 13 ODDS TO WIN: 16/1 HEAD COACH: Gareth Southgate

Pickford

Courtois

Alderweireld

Kompany

Walker

Vertonghen

Stones

Cahill

Trippier

Meunier

De Bruyne

Dembele

Mertens

PENALTY TAKER

Dier

Carrasco

Lingard

Alli

Sterling

Kane

Hazard

Lukaku

KEY

Young

CORNER/IN-DIRECT FREE KICK TAKER

DIRECT FREE KICK TAKER

A Chance for the Europeans to Shine Panama will be looking to upset what is surely a three-horse race between Belgium, England and Tunisia

R

emarkably, Group G includes three teams who went unbeaten during their respective qualifying routes. Tunisia emerged from their third round qualifying group unscathed; Belgium scored 43 goals and won nine games across their 10 qualifying fixtures and England have not lost a qualifying match for any major competition since October 2009. Panama had a far more challenging road to Russia, but still finished third in a group that included Mexico, Costa Rica and the United States.

40

Entering the tournament as third seeds, Belgium are in the midst of a golden generation of footballing talent. Their squad list reads like a Premier League Team of the Season, and includes Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Toby Alderweireld to name but a few. Their manager, Roberto Martinez, has turned heads with some of his pre-tournament decision making, most notably in leaving out Roma favourite Radja Nainggolan, who

STAR PLAYER

subsequently retired from international football. Nonetheless, Belgium are an outside favourite to win the World Cup this year and it’s easy to see why. 2014 was the first time that England failed to progress from the initial group stage of a World Cup since they failed to qualify in 1978. Whilst they’ve been accused of failing to meet expectations in recent tournaments, England usually manage to find their way out of a group and Russia should be no exception. Gareth Southgate has chosen a younger side than many predicted, and the weight of belief that usually lingers above the England squad doesn’t seem quite as heavy this time around. Even so, failure to reach the knockouts would be hugely disappointing for even the most sceptical England fan, and this inexperienced side won’t have it easy.

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y


23TH JUNE, 13:00 Otkrytie Arena, Moscow

24TH JUNE, 13:00 Nizhny, Nizhny Novgorod

28TH JUNE, 19:00 Kaliningrad, Kaliningrad

28TH JUNE, 19:00 Mordovia Arena, Saransk

Belgium Tunisia

England Panama

England Belgium

Panama Tunisia

Panama

Tunisia

FIFA RANK: 55 ODDS TO WIN: 1000/1 HEAD COACH: Hernán Darío Gómez

FIFA RANK: 14 ODDS TO WIN: 750/1 HEAD COACH: Nabil Maâloul

Balbouli

Penedo

Baloy

Torres

Bronn

Escobar

Murillo

Meriah

Maaloul

Ovalle

Godoy

Skhiri

Gomez

Cooper

Ben Amor

Quintero

Badri

Torres

DIFFERENTIAL

S. Ben Youssef

Name

Sassi

Khazri

Sliti

LIKELY TO START

Tunisia have never emerged from the group stage of a World Cup before, and travel to Russia after a 12-year absence from the tournament. Their chances of bucking that trend are limited not only by the strength of their group, but also by the fact that their key playmaker, Youssef Msakni, is missing through injury. It’s a big blow for the Tunisians, who aren’t adorned with the big names of other nations in the tournament. From a fantasy perspective, there’s very little here to get excited about, though Sunderland’s Wahbi Khazri is a danger on set-pieces. At 1000/1 to win this year’s World Cup, Panama are considered one of the weakest sides entering the tournament. The fact that they’ve made it to Russia at all is worthy of praise: this is one of

QUALIFICATION STATISTICS AVG. GOALS SCORED

AVG. GOALS CONCEDED

TOP GOALSCORER

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 4.30

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.30

LUKAKU

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.83

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.60

KANE

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.80

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.67

TORRES

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.00

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.94

MSAKNI

BELGIUM

TUNISIA

ENGLAND

PANAMA

ENGLAND

BELGIUM

TUNISIA

PANAMA

the few sides who will be competing in a World Cup for the first time in their history in Russia. But the team are established in the CONCACAF hierarchy, and can boast a squad comprised mostly

BELGIUM

ENGLAND

PANAMA

TUNISIA

11 5 3 3

of South American and US-based players. You won’t find any superstars hidden away here, but Panama will doubtless fight with a resolute spirit typical of World Cup minnows. n

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TACITICAL ANALYSIS

The Men Behin

the Madn LOOKING AT THE MANAGERS EXPECTED TO LIFT THE 2018 WORLD CUP As has been proven so many times in tournaments gone by, the manager of a national side can make or break his team’s World Cup fortunes. We examine the style and approach of the intriguing men behind this year’s favourite teams.

BRAZIL With one of the strongest talent pools in the world, Brazil were able to blitz through CONMEBOL’s World Cup qualifying with 12 wins and just a single defeat in 18 matches, sporting an impressive +30 goal difference. More defensively stable than Luiz Felipe Scolari’s infamous 2014 outfit, Tite’s Brazil have shown to be both electric going forward and tough to break down, conceding just five goals in their final 12 qualifying matches. Tite, a generally well-liked figure in Brazil, was appointed manager in 2016 following two separate successful stints

42

with Corinthians in a six-year period. With the toxicity surrounding Brazil’s performance at the 2016 Copa America Centenario under Dunga, Tite inherited a turbulent situation and has managed to steady the ship and bring back faith in the national team. If he has one fault, it may be that Tite is overly loyal to players he formerly managed at Brazilian giants Corinthians, often selecting them over players of higher stature in both Brazil and Europe. With that caveat in mind, it’s difficult to question Tite’s judgement given his success and exposure to the personalities and squad dynamics of the given players, something that we simply don’t have access to from the outside looking in.

Tite

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y


nd

Joachim Löw

ness Throughout qualifying, Tite has primarily lined up his side in a 4-1-4-1 formation with a holding midfielder (normally Casemiro) sitting behind two aggressive, physical central midfielders (normally Paulinho and Renato Augusto). While it may be enticing to try to fit a wealth of attacking options such as Neymar, Coutinho, Willian, Douglas Costa, Roberto Firmino, and Gabriel Jesus in the same lineup, Tite’s more conservative approach has proven to be beneficial in multiple ways. With a left side pairing of Marcelo one of the most attacking full-backs in the world - and Neymar - a player who thrives with the freedom to roam at will - it is essential that Brazil have adequate balance and that is exactly what the more conservative midfield trio offers. Whether it be stable ball circulation or defensive cover after a turnover, the trio allows Tite to get the most out of his flair players.

GERMANY It seems that every fourth year, Germany are one of the favorites to bring the World Cup home and 2018 looks to be no different. The reigning title-holders were completely dominant in UEFA World Cup qualifying, going unbeaten in 10 matches with a staggering 434 goal difference (although playing San Marino twice does bolster those figures). Manager Joachim Löw enters his 12th year at the helm and shows no signs of slowing down, having just signed a contract extension into 2022. An extremely well-liked figure, Löw enjoyed successful stints as both a

LOW’S GERMANY BEING THE MODEL OF CONSISTENCY AND SUSTAINED DOMINANCE, ANYTHING LESS THAN A SEMI-FINAL APPEARANCE WILL FEEL LIKE A MASSIVE LET-DOWN.

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TACITICAL ANALYSIS player and manager for numerous clubs in his native Germany before landing the assistant managerial role with the national team in 2004. Just two years later, Löw was offered the national team managerial job in what is often cited as a critical moment in Germany’s “Das Reboot,” a period of heavy selfexamination and upheaval within the German football federation that many attribute their modern success to. In qualifying, Löw’s side showed multiple approaches but most frequently lined up in a 4-2-3-1. The stability of having two defensive-minded midfielders allows players such as Mesut Özil and Thomas Muller to play with a great deal of freedom and drift into pockets of open space as they do so well. Germany possess a great deal of continuity, with the backbone of the squad having played together with both the national team or at Bayern Munich for extended periods of time. In a competition that extends hardly two months from the first team training session to the final, familiarity cannot be overstated. Details that may seem minor, such as understanding of pressing triggers, movement patterns, and defensive communication all improve with shared experience which should give the Germans an edge over their less cohesive opponents. Löw’s Germany being the model of consistency and sustained dominance, anything less than a semi-final appearance will feel like a massive letdown.

FRANCE It’s difficult to not be in awe when looking at the talent pool France has to work with. In fact, they would probably be one of the most talented national teams in the world even if they were restricted to players under 25-years-old. Of course, at some point talent on paper must be backed by performances on the pitch. Just ask France’s 2016 Euro squad, who, despite reaching the final, largely disappointed with their quality of football and entertainment value. Another underwhelming showing in Russia could see the end of manager Didier Deschamps’ reign. Deschamps, a controversial figure in French football, is heavily credited

44

Didier Deschamps

DESCHAMPS, A CONTROVERSIAL FIGURE IN FRENCH FOOTBALL, IS HEAVILY CREDITED WITH CLEANING THE NATIONAL TEAM OF THE PREVALENT DRAMA AND NONCHALANT ATTITUDE THAT SEEMED TO FOLLOW IT PRIOR TO HIS ARRIVAL IN 2012.

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y


SPAIN IS STILL VERY MUCH INFLUENCED BY THE TIKI-TALA STYLE OF THE GREAT BARCELONA TEAMS AND PUTS AN EMPHASIS ON BALL RETENTION AND INTENSE COUNTERPRESSING.

with cleaning the national team of the prevalent drama and nonchalant attitude that seemed to follow it prior to his arrival in 2012. Of course, this decision didn’t come without its own set of controversy, mainly based around the continued exclusion of Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema. From the outside looking in, it’s difficult to access how players view managers. However, it’s fair to speculate just how much support Deschamps has from both his players and the country itself, with him seeming to be perennially on the hot seat. Despite the questions that come with the inner-working of the squad, few teams, if any, will be able to match France’s collective athleticism and 1v1 ability. This will likely lead to Deschamps facing opposition that sit deep in order to reduce the space given to the likes of Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé, who excel in transitional phases. In qualifying, Deschamps’ preferred setup was a 4-4-2 that often resembled a 4-2-3-1 depending on the personnel used. Because of the contrasting profiles in the France squad, the selection often dictates how the team plays opposed to a universal match-to-match shape. Given the likelihood of their opponents sitting deep, it is vital for Deschamps to select players who not only make sense in collaboration with each other but also for the game state they will find themselves in.

SPAIN Similar to Germany in more ways than one, Spain are a perennial favorite in international competitions. Like their aforementioned counterparts, Spain stormed through UEFA World Cup qualifying without recording a single defeat with an absurd 36-3 goal difference. Manager Julen Lopetegui took over in 2016 for Vicente del Bosque, whose successful eight-year reign flamed out after disappointing showings at both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Euros. Coming off a two-year stint with FC Porto that culminated in his sacking, many

Julen Lopetegui

were apprehensive about the appointment. However, Lopetegui has performed what has been asked to date, although he is yet to manage in a major tournament. With a half of the squad (and a majority of the starters) coming from either Barcelona or Real Madrid, Lopetegui is blessed with a group of players that know each other inside out. Because of this, many have argued that Lopetegui is best off allowing his players to use their supreme intelligence to make decisions for themselves. For example, in a recent friendly with Germany, Spain started five generally recognized central midfielders (Thiago, Iniesta, Koke, David Silva, and Isco). What resulted was a fascinating display of fluidity, with Spain staying organised despite constant changes in individual responsibility both with and without the ball, confusing Germany with their unpredictable movements. Stylistically, Spain is still very much influenced by the tiki-taka style of the great Barcelona teams and puts an emphasis on ball retention and intense counter-pressing first and foremost. This emphasis is so strong that Spain frequently line up without a recognized forward in order to have an additional player drop deeper and help in build-up play as they methodically carry the ball up the pitch. It will be interesting to see what Lopetegui identifies as his strongest line-up given the vast amount of talent at his disposal and his heavy rotation at the back end of the qualifying cycle. With a great squad comes great expectation, especially when Spanish fans have been severely underwhelmed by their performances in tournaments the past four years.

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GROUP H Colombia

19TH JUNE, 13:00 Mordovia Arena, Saransk

19TH JUNE, 16:00 Otkrytie Arena, Moscow

Colombia Japan

Poland Senegal

Japan

FIFA RANK: 16 ODDS TO WIN: 40/1 HEAD COACH: José Pékerman

FIFA RANK: 60 ODDS TO WIN: 250/1 HEAD COACH: Akira Nishino

Kawashima

Ospina

Arias

D. Sanchez

Mina

Aguilar

C. Sanchez

Mojica

H. Sakai

Yoshida

Makino

Hasebe

Yamaguchi

Kagawa

Rodriguez

Cuadrado

Uribe

Honda

Haraguchi

Osako

Falcao

KEY

PENALTY TAKER

CORNER/IN-DIRECT FREE KICK TAKER

DIRECT FREE KICK TAKER

A Very Wide Open Contest Group H is punctuated by individual stars who could be the difference between progress and disappointment

C

olombia, Japan, Poland and Senegal comprise what might be the weakest group in the competition this year. Nonetheless, it’s likely to be fiercely competitive, with every team capable of progressing to the last 16. Poland will fancy themselves as favourites, but the competing sides in Group H have an excess of talent that can very feasibly turn a game on its head. It appears no team is a shoe-in for progression here.

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Nagatomo

In Robert Lewandowski, Poland boast one of the world’s great centre-forwards. Unlike some superstars, the Bayern Munich striker seems to relish his talismanic role for the national side, scoring 16 times in Poland’s 10 qualifying games. He will surely be Poland’s focal point against defensively vulnerable opposition. But whilst Poland’s defensive prospects like Łukasz Piszczek, Wojciech Szczęsny and Kamil Glik might appear tempting too, it’s worth noting that Poland conceded more goals during

STAR PLAYER

qualifying than any other group winner. Given the attacking vigour of the other teams in their group, Poland’s attack is likely to be the safer investment. Coming to Russia on the back of an impressive showing in Brazil that saw them bow out of the quarter-final to the hosts, Colombia have risen from obscurity to become one of South America’s most promising sides. James Rodriguez was the star of the 2014 World Cup and will doubtless be aiming to remind the world of his ability for his national team. He’ll be helped by other big names like Juan Cuadrado, Davinson Sanchez and Carlos Sanchez. Colombia scraped through qualifying but in Group H they’ve been given a serious opportunity to reach the knockout stages once again.

T H E U LT I M AT E G U I D E T O W O R L D C U P FA N TA S Y


24TH JUNE, 16:00 Central, Yekaterinburg

24TH JUNE, 19:00 Kazan Arena, Kazan

28TH JUNE, 15:00 Volgograd Arena, Volgograd

28TH JUNE, 15:00 Samara Arena, Samara

Japan Senegal

Poland Colombia

Japan Poland

Senegal Colombia

Poland

Senegal

FIFA RANK: 10 ODDS TO WIN: 50/1 HEAD COACH: Adam Nawałka

FIFA RANK: 28 ODDS TO WIN: 200/1 HEAD COACH: Aliou Cissé

N'Diaye

Szczesny

Piszczek

Bednarek

Pazdan

Krychowiak

Linetty

Rybus

Wague

Kara

Koulibaly

Gueye

Kouyate

Sabaly

N'Diaye

Zielinski

Blaszczykowski

Grosicki

Mane

Lewandowski

DIFFERENTIAL

Name

Sow

Balde

LIKELY TO START

Japan’s qualifying was far more harmonious than Colombia’s. Akira Nishino’s squad finished top of their group, though it’s surprising to learn that some of Japan’s biggest names - notably Keisuke Honda and Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa - had fallen out of favour with the manager, who prefers a more counter-attacking approach. Still, Japan’s ranks include a number of talented individuals: Southampton’s centreback Maya Yoshida is an ever-present aerial threat and Shinji Okazaki’s tireless performances at Leicester should be enough to guarantee him some minutes. Senegal last qualified for a World Cup in 2002, where they defied all expectations and reached the quarterfinals. The current squad are arguably stronger than their 2002 incarnation,

QUALIFICATION STATISTICS AVG. GOALS SCORED

AVG. GOALS CONCEDED

TOP GOALSCORER

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 2.80

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.39

LEWANDOWSKI

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 2.44

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 0.50

HONDA

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.67

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.06

RODRIGUEZ

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.17

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII 1.40

NDOYE/SAKHO

POLAND

JAPAN

SENEGAL

COLOMBIA

JAPAN

SENEGAL

COLOMBIA

POLAND

bolstered by Sadio Mane’s fantastic stint at Liverpool, the lurking threat of Mame Biram Diouf and the imposing presence of their captain, West Ham’s Cheikhou Kouyate. Though Senegal won their

POLAND

JAPAN

COLOMBIA

SENEGAL

16 7 6 2

qualifying group comfortably, they only managed to score 10 goals in their six qualifying games. Those tempted to gamble on the African side’s attacking assets should bear this in mind. n

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Fantasy World Cup 2018 Magazine  

The Ultimate Guide to World Cup Fantasy.

Fantasy World Cup 2018 Magazine  

The Ultimate Guide to World Cup Fantasy.