The World Cup drama continued in spectacular fashion today with constantly changing situations in the Group G matches between the USA and the Germans, as well as Portugal and Ghana. Group H didn't disappoint, either, with a captivating Algerian team advancing over a drab Russia squad. Just why Fabio Capello is such a highly regarded coach is beyond me, but that's a story for another time.
We've got a day to rest and tinker with our teams tomorrow before diving right back into the matches in the Round of 16. Here's the breakdown of the matches for the upcoming round (all times local time in the host nation):
There should be some absolutely fantastic games in store for us based on that schedule, and I'm hard-pressed to find a match that looks like a blowout. That said, there are a few teams who look most likely to benefit from their match ups, namely the Netherlands, Costa Rica and Germany, though as we've seen already we never know what will happen in this wonderful tournament.
Let's move on to some players you should be considering for your team for the Round of 16. Something to keep in mind as you are selecting your 23-man squad for this round is that the limit for the number of players you can choose from any one nation has been increased from 3 to 5. This will bode well for loading up on players from your most highly favored team, and also for cheap fillers from Algeria.
Also bear in mind that the transfer window will open yet again before the Quarterfinals, so you are only selecting a squad for the set of matches listed above.
One final note from looking at the transfer window before it opens in a couple hours is that it seems like you will not be able to select players who have been eliminated, but you may be able to hang onto players you've already selected for your squad. I'll update this post with a confirmation as soon as this is made clear.
UPDATE: You CAN purchase players from eliminated teams if you need to use them as fillers to afford the higher priced options.
Manuel Neuer (7.0) - It's unlikely many people will be looking to fill a goalkeeper slot with a mid-to-high price keeper with such a tight budget, but if you're going that route the German keeper is probably your best bet. The Bayern Munich keeper recorded two clean sheets in the group stages and will be looking for another one against Algeria.
Vincent Enyeama (5.0) - If there's anything we've learned about keepers throughout the group stages, it's that they can still score extremely well even if they concede a couple goals provided they make a lot of saves. Nigeria can thank their keeper for helping them advance from their group, and even if he doesn't help them keep a third clean sheet of the tournament, he should have plenty of shots heading his way when the Super Eagles face France.
Guillermo Ochoa (4.5) - Another hero of the group stages, Ochoa's heroics helped them advance from a difficult Group A. Facing the attacking powerhouse that is the Dutch side should afford the free agent keeper a host of save chances. For a price point slightly lower than Enyeama's, Ochoa might be the best play if your strategy is to pick up a keeper who will face a lot of shots and hope they save most of them.
Jasper Cillessen (3.0) - On the other side of the pitch, the affordable Dutch keeper will have the rare combination of a clean sheet chance while also facing quite a few shots from a surprisingly potent Mexican attack. Most likely the best value for cost as far as keepers go, but with only 18 points (compared to 33 for Enyeama) in the group stage his value may be a bit overstated.
Rais Mbolhi (1.0) - Algeria surprised many viewers with their performances, and Mbolhi was an inspirational figure between the posts. For a price of 1, he should absolutely be in your team as a filler capable of making an impact off the bench. He scored a point more than Cillessen through the first three matches, for those keeping track.
Mats Hummels (7.0) - If I asked everyone here to guess who the tournament's top scorer so far is, I bet a lot of people would have said Messi, Neymar or Muller, and everyone would have been wrong. With 41 points to his name in 3 games, the German center back is leading the overall scoring charts. With the potential for a clean sheet, blocked shots, recovered balls and possibly even a set piece goal, he has every chance of maintaining his lead.
Mamadou Sakho (6.0) - The scoring system in the McDonald's game lends itself to the type of player Sakho is, and with the center back being the only nailed on starter in the French defense, he should be good value against a Nigeria squad that takes a lot of shots and makes a lot of runs into the box.
Rafael Marquez (5.0) - The veteran Mexican defender has been surprising people who didn't think he still had the legs and the energy to keep up at the highest level. He's a huge aerial threat on set pieces and has been racking up the points so far. If you're looking for a slightly cheaper alternative, Andres Guardado is playing in midfield and having a good tournament as well, though is trailing Marquez by 10 points.
Daniel Van Buyten (4.5) - Speaking of veterans, not many expected Van Buyten to even be selected amongst the starters for Belgium. The United States have had trouble getting into attacking positions from open play without the services of Jozy Altidore, so a clean sheet is a possibility. Even without it, though, the center back is hot on the heels of Hummels with a stunning 38 points.
Daley Blind (4.0) - The wing back showed his quality in the opening match against Spain with two fantastic assists. His crossing ability and the fact that he is listed as a defender will play into his favor against a Mexico side that will be pressing high up the flanks. If he can exploit the space vacated by the opposing defenders, he could pop up with another assist or two.
Oscar Duarte (3.5) - Costa Rica have been the surprise package of the World Cup so far, advancing as group champs over a trio of previous World Cup winners. While their attack has gotten a lot of attention, the defense has also performed admirably, and Duarte has averaged double digits across the first three matches.
Jose Cholevas (2.5) - While the Greeks have probably been the least impressive of the teams to advance to the Round of 16, they have shown they're capable of combining their defensive style with some goals from open play. Cholevas is a cheap way to get in on the Greek defense, and the left back is often found in the opposition half. Add some set piece duties and he's got a lot of potential to score well. If nothing else, he's a solid bench option.
Rafik Halliche (1.0) - Another vital filler from the Algerian squad, the center back is an aerial threat and got on the scoresheet in the entertaining 4-2 victory over South Korea. With set pieces likely to be viewed as the best opportunity for Algeria to score, he'll be a focal point in the attack from dead ball situations. If previous matches from Germany are any indication, he'll be a busy man in open play trying to block shots and intercept passes as well.
Oscar (8.0) - Brazil have hardly lived up to expectations so far, but advanced quite comfortably from their group. Oscar has rediscovered the form he displayed at the Confederations Cup and has been one of the key players for the host nation. He'll be a key point of the attack against a Chilean side quite focused on their own attacking endeavors.
James Rodriguez (8.0) - Easily one of the most impressive players of the tournament so far, the attacking midfielder is the second-highest scorer in the game despite only playing half of the third match in the group stage. He's scored in every match so far and will be eager to dump their fellow South Americans, Uruguay, out of the tournament.
Juan Cuadrado (6.0) - If you're planning on saving your funds for the big guns at striker, you could opt for the cheaper Colombian midfield option in Cuadrado, who is also having a great tournament. The pacy, tricky midfielder will be a creative source against a Uruguay side who have already shown once that they're not the same team without Luis Suarez.
Mathieu Valbuena (5.0) - While the French midfielders we had high expectations of (looking at you, Paul Pogba and Yohan Cabaye) have disappointed so far, the diminutive winger has been a creative spark for a surprisingly cohesive French squad. Taking set pieces adds to his value and potential for assist and delivery points.
Yeltsin Tejeda (3.5) - With the midfield position thus far being the most disappointing in terms of points returns, it may be a good strategy to include as many cost-effective midfielders as possible to allow for more funds to be spent on the defense and forward positions. Tejeda won't set you back much and is the leading scorer among the mids for the very impressive Costa Rica squad.
Nabil Bentaleb (1.0) - You're seeing a trend here, right? Another Algerian available for the minimum price, the midfielder has actually contributed a respectable score of 19 points over the course of the group stage matches. A great bench option, and potential starter if your other moves don't pan out.
Lionel Messi (10.0) - Four vital goals in three games for Argentina has lent further credence to the argument that the little genius is the world's best player. He finally looks like he's figured out how to play to his potential in an international setting, and against a leaky Swiss defense he'll be eager to continue his push for the Golden Boot.
Neymar (9.0) - Enter Messi's greatest competitor for the top scoring honors. The Barcelona teammates have each contributed with four goals and have lived up to expectations. The match against Chile should be an electric affair, and the Brazilians will need to be on top of their game to advance to the quarterfinals. Neymar will be key to their success.
Arjen Robben (9.0) - Another contender for best player of the tournament so far, Robben has been in incredible form for the Dutch side so far. His pace, agility and finishing make him a complete attacker and he'll likely be at the center of everything aimed at the Mexican goal. Whether he can get one past Guillermo Ochoa remains to be seen.
Robin Van Persie (8.5) - We seem to be getting a preview of what life will be like for RVP at Manchester United next season under Louis Van Gaal, and as a Liverpool fan it's a big concern. After a woeful season under David Moyes (to be fair, everyone had a woeful season under David Moyes), RVP is back to his best and will have plenty of opportunities to add to that glorious headed goal.
Karim Benzema (8.5) - The French striker can probably count himself disappointed not to be the top scorer at the tournament so far after missing a penalty and having a last-second goal disallowed by the final whistle. Still, he's averaged double digits throughout the group phase and has looked in top form.
Thomas Mueller (8.0) - The man for the big occasion came up big again at international level for Die Mannschaft. A hat-trick against Portugal and a match-winner against the USA highlights his importance to the Germans and he's earned the right to start ahead of Miroslav Klose. He may be on track to break his compatriot's goalscoring record at the World Cup.
Alexis Sanchez (7.5) - I can't help but think the Brazil-Chile game will be a high-scoring encounter for both sides, and if I'm right Sanchez will be heavily involved for his side. He'll be looking to outshine his Barcelona teammate and opponent on the day Neymar. If Arturo Vidal is fully fit, he may get more of the type of service he thrives on.
Joel Campbell (5.5) - He announced himself in grandiose fashion with a man-of-the-match performance against Uruguay and has been one of the most exciting players in the opening three matches. Against a less-than-stellar Greek defense, you have to like the striker's chances of adding to his tally.
Islam Slimani (2.0) - "Super Slim" repaid the faith his international and fantasy managers alike with his impressive attacking displays in the second and third matches. His goals have carried the Algerians into the Round of 16, and he'll certainly continue to start based on his inspired performances so far.
Abdelmoumene Djabou (1.0) - Another Algerian who wasn't selected for the first match, the attacker expressed his frustrations to his manager and proved why he should have been among the starters in the first match against Belgium. While he isn't a striker in the truest sense of the word, you could do much worse for the minimum outlay.
Hopefully these recommendations will help you as you reorganize your team. It will be difficult trying to decide where to spend your funds, and
hopefully we'll be able to hang onto fillers we've already purchased for our teams. If not, it's going to be a real challenge, but it should be fun. UPDATE: You can buy anyone you want for your team!
How did your fantasy team fare over the group stages? I've managed 305 points so far to claim a spot at 31,113 overall, which I should be very happy about considering there are nearly a million people registered for the game. I guess some of the previews and advice helped you all (kidding), though, because so many of you guys are killing it! Great job to everyone so far, and good luck moving forward!