Some of you reading this are probably practicing your fake cough for late Wednesday at work, and others are preparing to hit the supermarket to load an array of snacks and meats for the grill into the back of a SUV. Whatever you do to prepare, know that there are millions like you getting ready in their own ways. Filling out a fantasy team is the way we prepare, hours in front laptops and phones selecting the men to win our mini leagues.
This is my ‘Being John Malkovich’ piece, where you gain access to my mind to see who I selected and shower me with praise and applause – or urge me to start over because I’m headed to the bottom of my league with an anchor attached to my ankles.
Let’s take a look at my squad:
• GK: F. Muslera
• DEF: Danilo / D. Sidibe / J. Mascherano / S. Kjaer
• MID: A. Golovin / J. Rodriguez / Y. Belhanda
• FWD: K. Mbappe / L. Messi© / Neymar
• Bench: A. Almuaiouf / A. Hakimi / M. Layun / C. Kouyate
I will address the elephant in the room straight away. YES that’s right — I do not have a single German or Spanish player in my squad.
Conventional wisdom would mandate that rosters must be outfitted with players from teams that are expected to dominate in the tournament. However, I believe each of those teams faces its most difficult opponent in game one, thus I shall add players from these European powerhouses only after the first round of fixtures.
In goal I wanted a keeper with three solid fixtures who has a chance at clean sheets in each one. Muslera, the Galatasaray shot stopper, has top class defenders in front of him like Godin, so I expect minimum two clean sheets. I went for the cheap Saudi Abdullah Almuaiouf as a backup to save money for other areas.
Defensively I have chosen players whom I expect to be solid, starting, and able to chip in a goal or assist. Danilo and Sidibe should be the starters at right back for Brazil and France respectively. Two clean sheets and an assist each would be money well spent. The next two defenders in my starting eleven may not make it to Thursday, but due to deadlines the current starters are Javier Mascherano and Simon Kjaer. Argentina opens against Iceland who don’t score loads of goals, so the experienced Mascherano has a good chance of keeping a clean sheet despite his team being somewhat leaky at times. Kjaer faces Peru who I think can score, so it’s possible one of my bench subs in.
Potential is the key with the midfield selections, starting with Alexsandr Golovin. Playing on home soil, he should make some late runs into the box and chip in to help see his team to the last 16. James Rodriguez lit up World Cup 2014, and with a healthy Falcao this time, I think he has the potential to score some more goals and lend an assist to the Monaco player. Galatasaray are also home to my final midfield starter, Younes Belhanda. This is a player I saw lots of in the French League, and he was top class. I hoped he would have opted for the Premier League or La Liga, but instead he has been off to Turkey. I remember the talent though, and he is easily in my squad.
I’ve gone heavy on the budget up front, with the best player in the world plus two heirs to his throne. Kylian Mbappe leads us off. Those who don’t know him by now will surely know of him after the tournament because I believe he will take the world stage by storm. Antoine Griezmann is on the other side, and defenders will be backpedaling against these two.
Lionel Messi is up next. He does not have a great world cup record. Argentina got to the final last time out, but they are not expected to get as far this time. Only magic by Messi may get them another chance. He’s my captain in week one, because I think from the very start he will know Argentina will only go as far as he takes them.
Neymar is the final pick. He has been away doing rehab for some months, and this rest has him fresh for the cup. Warm-up games have shown he is ready, and I don’t see him leaving my team all tournament long.
My bench has some capable players to step in if required, and I’m happy with my squad. Should Messi not produce early, the plan is to use his budget to acquire German and Spanish players as previously mentioned.
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McDonald’s FIFA World Cup Fantasy
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How do you think I’ve done? Let me know, and have your teams ready by the deadline.