They are without a doubt the most critical slots to fill in a football fantasy league team. Their goals can fire your team to mini league glory and they are usually the first point of call for the captain’s armband. With so many world class strikers available across the game, picking just three from the lot will be difficult — especially within budget constraints.
Let’s look at the best forward options for the World Cup Group Stage.
As the most expensive position in the game, forwards will consume the lion’s share of your budget so it’s important to get the mix right. As tempting as it is to go for the “CMN” (Cristiano-Messi-Neymar) nuclear attack, a stacked front 3 can leave you short of funds everywhere else. No one wants to be scouring the rosters of World Cup minnows looking for bargain basement buys just to field a team.
How you approach your striker setup is totally dependent upon you. Some managers prefer to spend heavily up front on premium options and cut corners elsewhere. Other managers like myself subscribe to two expensive strikers with an affordable third option who can rotate with a 5th midfielder depending on the fixtures. This also gives me some spare cash to use on the midfield and defense. There’s also a minority who go for one premium striker to instead spend heavily in midfield and defense.
Whichever strategy you favor, whether or not your chosen strikers hit can make or break your fantasy season. So let’s have a look at the best strikers who will grace this summer’s World Cup in the different price brackets.
PREMIUM (9.5 - 12.0)
In the premium bracket, three of the game’s best attackers are listed as the most expensive players in the game. Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Neymar are the game’s luxury options at 12.0, and they all have the potential to take the World Cup by storm.
In my opinion, Neymar looks the best of these three for a few reasons. Having just returned from a long term injury that kept him out of the entire second half of the club season, he’s fully fit with no fatigue concerns. He will have a point to prove after a forgettable 2014 World Cup, and he’s already shown that he’s raring to go with some amazing individual goals in Brazil’s pre World Cup friendlies.
Nevertheless, who can bet against the two best players in football — Messi and Ronaldo? The reality is that this World Cup could well be the last chance for either to grab the coveted title that would cement his legacy as the best player of all time. Expect them to play as if there is no tomorrow.
Looking at some other expensive strikers, Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku (10.0), Germany’s Timo Werner (9.5) and France’s Antoine Griezmann look set to prosper as the go-to strikers for their respective teams. Griezmann was the top scorer at Euro 2016 with 6 goals is France’s most dangerous option. Lukaku spearheads a free scoring Belgian lineup that always delivers goals. As for Werner in his first World Cup, he is the man that the favorites are banking on to defend the Cup that Germany won four years ago.
Honorable mention: the fearsome Uruguayan duo of Luis Suarez (10.5) and Edinson Cavani (9.5).
MID PRICE (7.5 - 9.0)
Elsewhere in the mid price category, a number of forwards stand out. Brazil’s Gabriel Jesus (9.0), Spain’s Diego Costa (9.0), Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuain (9.0) and Egypt’s maverick striker Mo Salah (8.5) all scream huge potential albeit with some question marks.
Despite having the season of his life, Mo Salah’s Champions League injury means he’s a doubt for the first game. Egypt’s hopes rest on his crocked shoulder, and it’s left to be seen if he can find full fitness at all. Higuain’s well documented failures on the big stage may dissuade Fantasy Managers as much as die hard Argentina fans (and even Argentina’s manager -- Aguero might start ahead of him). As for Diego Costa and Gabriel Jesus, the fact that they have not fully established themselves in their teams and the huge competition for places makes them a risk.
Worth a look is Russia’s talented striker Fedor Smolov (9.0) who will carry the host nation’s hopes in an open group. Should Russia ride a wave of home support, he is set to profit. France’s young sensation Kylian Mbappe (9.0), Mexico’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (8.5) and Colombia’s Radamel Falcao (8.5) also look like tasty options for the third striker spot.
Outside the box, it’s always a good idea to look at players who carry the weight of responsibility for their national teams. South Korea’s Heung Min Son (8.0), Peru’s Paolo Guerrero (7.5), Serbia’s Alexander Mitrovic (7.5) and Senegal’s Sadio Mane (8.5) will all be absolute focal points - which could translate into goals and assists.
BUDGET (4.5 - 7.0)
An expensive midfield may well pay dividends given that they are rewarded more for goals and can get clean sheet points. If you’re going this route, then it’s worthwhile to employ a cheap 3rd striker that can rotate with your 5th midfielder, and maybe even grab a goal or two in the process.
Nigeria’s Alex Iwobi (6.0) looks the best option in this category. The jury might be out on him at club level, but for Nigeria he is a talismanic presence. Similarly, Tunisia’s Wahbi Khazri (6.5) and Japan’s Shinji Okazaki (6.0) may not get the juices flowing for FPL managers, but on the international stage, they have an entirely different profile.
While it is tempting to focus on having a killer forward line, we also need to be rational. The fantasy game awards 4 points for a forward goal, whereas a midfielder gets 5 points with the potential for additional clean sheet points. Goal-scoring midfielders are by far the most attractive options in the game, and by spending too much money on top, your team could be missing out on fantasy gold.
Let’s not forget that the top scorers at the last World Cup were James Rodriguez and Thomas Mueller — Midfielders!
I’m also looking at the fixtures and the lineups. I think Lionel Messi will have a statement tournament but probably in a deeper role, which could reduce his goal output. I’m also skeptical about Germany and Spain’s opening games, which may encourage me to look elsewhere for the first round. I can always come back for the second round of games.
Balance is key!
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What strategy do you plan to use for your forward line? Which of the big three do you expect to have a strong tournament? Do you rate any other forwards not mentioned here? Who are you thinking about as captain for Round 1? Let us know in the comments below!