First things first, apologies. We wanted this post up Monday evening but (and proving I have the modern day players list of excuses for failure) due to problems with the net at home and too much project work at ummm work it is a little late.
So off we go (just) with this summers fantasy competition. The game is on and we are presented with our first problem. A squad of 23 players with only £100m to spend. First thought was to spend the wealth exploiting the substitution rule. An early play with my team has made it clear that it would be difficult, very difficult unless you decide to go against the big guns. However if you can manage it is remains the sensible system. The second option is to cover the Yahoo system of last season in picking the best starting 11 and using the bench where you can with a selection of fillers. Without the sub system this would be my plan.
Overall i'm leaning to looking to have two players to cover failure in my starting 11 on the bench. Second you will want to spread your players over the days allowing you to use the bench option.
Finally remember this game gives us unlimited transfers so we only need to be looking at players who will star in the group stages.
Now in our, phew, 32 previews we highlighted the players to consider and watch. During the previews many have posted additions as our knowledge grew. For fear of duplication I won't go through what must be close to 150 players so I going to comment on the obvious big guns just for the first round.
If like me you fancy Brazil to open with three wins Cesar would be the pick. Despite coming to the tail end of his career he is clear first choice. Two of his group opponents will have a go (Mexico and Croatia) while Cameroon refused to get on the plane to play in the World Cup until a dispute over their bonus was agreed!
My top defensive pick. The points system will suit the flying fullback who offers possibilities in either half. He should do well regardless of opposition but he mighty expensive. Undisputed left back and will thrive on the atmosphere and I feel plays better under the spotlight.
Fantastic, no awesome in the Euro 2012 tournament he also suits the points system. Definate first choice and endless energy could mean him getter stronger the later the match progresses. Expensive and in a tough group I know but likely to score strong phantom points.
Rock in the Atletico Madrid side will be doing plenty of defending the tournament. Uruguay keep the ball worse than most side meaning the number of blocked shots/tackles etc should rack up.
Garay is solid and strong and will be the man making the blocked shots for you. A free kick specialist should Mr Messi go off the boil he could get a look in. Comfy group could give a couple clean sheets.
Flying fullback who if he can transfer his club impact to the nationals side will give you some great points. His group is wide open and perhaps the swiss LB is your budget version of Marcelo/Alba.
Sensing a pattern here? I clearly like the full back position for the games points scoring and once again we have an attack minded fullback in a group his team will fancy their chances. The Ivory coast have choked in their previous World Cups. Maybe now with experience we can see the best of them.
Premium pick at the price but part of a strong Columbia side. Will be at the heart of the Columbia attack and with Falcoas injury he may also be on penalties. Safe starter and seems like they may need to put out a full strength team for all three matches.
We all seem to like Begiums chances in their group and Hazard is the star player of the team. He will be on pens and the group opposition will have to work hard to contain him. A word of interest. Belgians system relied on a centre forward who holds play up (Benteke) but they now have one who prefers playing off the shoulder of defenders (Lukaku). Lukaku is injured and out of game one. Perhaps Hazard starts as a false 9 if so will that increase or decrease his value?
Seems to play better for Germany with the fast counter attack style that suits him with all the extra space. Not as easy a group as on paper but Germany are a fantastic side.
Angel Di Maria
Again fantastic player. Incredible stamina will mean his threat grows as the game passes (see run in extra time to set up the winner in Champions League final). With the powerhouse trio in the Argentine attack he may provide more assist opportunities than goals but it is not impossible we see 3 wins of two or more goals
Kevin De Bruyne
Far better value than Hazard and had more assists and equa goals in qualification. Don't judge him on his handful of Chelsea games. He is a far better player however the lack of dominant centre forward may affect his game. Maybe he and not Hazard plays the furthest forward.
Remember I mentioned his pass rate success in my preview? Well there are points for an 80% plus rate in the game. Second he plays behind the forward and has a high tackle win rate for the ball recovered points. Shaq will offer a greater chance of goals however my man Xhaka may be the better player and definitely comes into this brimming with form and confidence.
Lionel Messi/ Kun Aguero
The duo frighten the living daylights out of me. The question is which do you like. Messi at 10m takes up 10% of your money but you feel may be the star of the tournament and is on pens/freekicks. Kun is only 1m cheaper at 9m but may you would think would have less focus on him from opposition defenders. My gut says Kun is the pick, my head says Messi. With the difficult budget I want to look at the value picks and I want Kun to b 7.5 or 8m. Any thoughts?
At 29 it is likely to be the final World cup for Ronny, If not then it is the last of him in his prime. Playing under his former teammate he has blossomed. At club level as well he has been outstanding. Should we see proof that he is fit (playing in a friendly tonight may help) he really is due a big competition. Portugal have a very settled, very experienced starting 11. They are effectively playing at their second home and the crowd support will only be beaten by Brazil themselves. If Ronaldo is fit I like Portugal to score a minor upset against Germany in game one. If he is fit I like Ronaldo to produce his goal scoring streak and finish with the golden boot. One more time nice and loud IF RONALDO IS FIT. Any views?
With things going wrong in the Belgian camp and signs of the expectation on their young shoulders showing(the keepers hate each other) I started to think about Group H a little more. Fabio Capello is not as bad a manager the England golden generation made him look. Perhaps is though a little stuck in his ideas now. However, he knows how to build an organised team and this Russian team do have stats to encourage you. In a group that is wide open, their experience and short passing game to keep possession in the conditions may supersede their weaknesses. There is little pressure on them (that will come in four years time). All of this to point towards a sleeper pick in Kokorin. At 23 he will be one of the few current squad members who could make it to Russia 2018. A good finisher and clever with it, he can play as centre forward or second striker. Korea and Algeria are sides that consistently fail in this competition (Ignoring Koreas home run in 2002). Perhaps then is value in Russia then and Kokorin at 4.5m may be a useful bench option.
Wayne Rooney/Daniel Sturridge
Along with Messi and Ronaldo, Rooney he is playing for his place in history this summer. When you look back to his performance in Euro 2004 you could not have imagined the man failing consistently as he has done once we get the the finals. No goals in 8 World cup does not tell the story. 2006 he was rushed back from injury too soon and lacking fitness lost his composure. 2010 he got himself banned for the start of the tournament and perhaps out of shape again decided to have a go at the England fans. England fans like him rather than love him, probably due to this. It would all change if the old Roo returned. His form in the friendlies has been a concern and while he definitely starts against Italy, for the first time his place is under challenge. He has the look of a player while still very good is not the player he once was or could have become. This tournament may not define his career but it will have a huge impact. He seems in a better place in his mind and after no goals ever in a World cup he has to score this time, right? The alternative option is Sturridge. Finally with a manager who believes in him at club level he has found a second playing for his country. With the pace Rooney has lost and self confidence often missing in english players we have seen him play some outstanding football. The question for him is how he handles the pressure of the truly big games and we won't know that until well past bed time on Saturday night. There is only half a million between their values. You have to like Sturridge to be England's top scorer but Rooney will be on free kicks, some corners and maybe pens. He is also more likely to score the phantom points the game offers. This England team don't look like they will hammer anybody but you never know. Head says Rooney suits the points system better, gut says Sturridge is the type to take a competition in goal scoring form. Opinions?
I could go on for hours but the post will be way too big and it will be Thursday when I post it. Therefore I will stop at this point and look forward to hearing your views.
Before I finish a few to be careful of
Out of game one with an ankle injury. That should be enough to put you off but as I see his price is tempting I will add more, TROOOOOLLLLLLL.
As a player I love him. Complete midfield dynamo. However he is struggling big time to be fit. So important I'd guess he sits out game one (against Australia ,which is the game you want him to play) ready to risk him v Spain in a match that could be great viewing rather than great fantasy points. Unless you have a deep bench he is high risk.
Columbia winner highlighted by Mikolaj made me do some more research. It appears the manager is not convinced he suits Columbia's tactical system. Hence he has not featured much in a very settled side. He often does comes from the bench but Juan Cuadrado holds the position in the first team. Mr Cuadrado is a bit of a street football type, all tricks and skills who plays for Florentina. Priced at 6m maybe you could have a shot at him instead.
I have only just started working on my squad and I'm going to be making changes for at least two hours a night until Thursday!
I will almost certainly take Hazard and Ozil out. I may talk myself into Kokorin. The urge to pick English is strong. I will try and get Ronaldo in If I think he is fit and I'm liking Portugal more and more.
Ladies and gentlemen I am enjoying this game but can I make a decision!!!!!!