The betting markets seem to have settled on the usual quartet of favorites to take the World Cup trophy (in alphabetical order): Brazil, France, Germany, and Spain. Are you loading up on players from any (or many) of those four heavyweights? Or are their key cogs too expensive? After all, stars from the top teams do tend to come with a hefty price tag. Is better value instead to be found outside of that realm, perhaps from Argentina, Belgium, England, Portugal, Uruguay or an even more under-the-radar side?
Let’s look at the teams which have multiple players with at least 10% ownership:
Brazil (6 players at 10% or more in fantasy ownership)
[defender Marcelo (43%), forward Neymar (32%), midfielder Philippe Coutinho (29%), midfielder Casemiro (14%), forward Gabriel Jesus (11%), keeper Ederson (10%)]
Well this is not too much of a surprise now, is it? Everybody digs Brazil! Marcelo is by far the most-owned defender, Philippe Coutinho comfortably gets the biggest love in midfield, and Neymar nips Lionel Messi for the top spot at forward in the entire game. If only Ederson’s rate were higher, it would be a clean sweep at every position by the Samba Kings!
[forward Antoine Griezmann (29%), midfielder N’Golo Kante (17%), forward Kylian Mbappe (14%), keeper Hugo Lloris (14%), defender Samuel Umtiti (13%), defender Raphael Varane (12%)]
France is not far off the level of Brazil in terms of the individual percentages. In terms of depth, France is equal. And this list for Les Bleus could actually grow higher if things fluctuate a bit in their favor, as defender Benjamin Mendy and midfielder Paul Pogba are each at 9%. Could they tick up to 10%, too? Or will the masses detect that Kante is a deep midfielder and ditch him in favor of someone with more goals (or even assists) in his repertoire? Do the masses know something that we don’t?
[midfielder Yannick Carrasco (19%), keeper Thibaut Courtois (13%), defender Thomas Meunier (11%), midfielder Kevin de Bruyne (11%), forward Romelu Lukaku (10%)]
If you’d told me weeks ago that Yannick Carrasco would be owned by far more managers than Eden Hazard, I would have told you to jump in the Scheldt River. But of course there are a couple of factors going here: first, Hazard is listed at forward (where managers prefer teammate Romelu Lukaku) rather than midfielder, and second, Carrasco is much, much cheaper.
Carrasco is the third-most owned midfielder in the game, while Courtois is the fourth-most owned keeper. Clearly, managers think Belgium will have little to no trouble dominating its group against England, Panama and Tunisia.
[defender Joshua Kimmich (26%), keeper Manuel Neuer (21%), midfielder Thomas Mueller (16%), defender Mats Hummels (13%)]
So, Belgium is actually sexier than defending champion Germany from a fantasy perspective! Most interesting, indeed. Fantasy managers love the Die Mannschaft back, going with keeper Manuel Neuer and a pair of defenders (Joshua Kimmich and Mats Hummels) at a healthy clip.
Germany has some of the most well-known midfielders in the world, but former forward Thomas Mueller actually boasts the most ownership in fantasy at the position for the team. Comparatively, Tony Kroos (8%), Mesut Oil (4%), Sami Khedira (3%) and Julian Draxler (2%) are barely getting any action. On top of that, the forwards — Timo Werner (6%), Marco Reus (2%), and Mario Gomez (0%) — are basically afterthoughts.
[midfielder Isco (22%), defender Sergio Ramos (18%), keeper David de Gea (16%), midfielder Marco Asensio (11%)]
Spain and Germany are similar, in terms of getting their forwards shut out of the double digit category. It’s actually even more extreme, with Diego Costa and Lucas Vasquez each at 1%, and David Silva, Iago Aspas, and Rodrigo all at 0%. Silva surely would have gotten more action at midfield, where fantasy managers instead have jumped on Isco and Marco Asensio. Elsewhere at the position, Andres Iniesta (6%), Thiago (6%) and Sergio Busquets (5%) all have a fair share of managers jumping in. After Sergio Ramos, defenders Dani Carvajal (7%), Jordi Alba (6%) and Gerard Pique (6%) give Spain a whopping 10 players at 5% or above, the most of any team, and those percentages could climb following Spain’s difficult opener against Portugal.
[defender Ahmed Hegazy (15%), forward Mo Salah (13%)]
Salah would surely have had a higher ownership rate, had it not been for his injury in the Champions League final. Pharaoh teammate Hegazy is held at a higher clip surely thanks to his comparatively discounted status.
[midfielder Carlos Sanchez (18%), midfielder James Rodriguez (15%)]
It’s no surprise that the star of Brazil in 2014, James Rodriguez, finds himself in plenty of rosters. But fewer than teammate Carlos Sanchez at the same position? Well, Sanchez only costs half as much, and we all have benches to fill, so that must explain it!
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If you add it all up, there are five national teams that each boast at least 10% ownership of three or more players, and two more squads have multiple players at that level. Are you following suit and jumping all over one (or more) of the popular teams, or is it savvier to make an against-the-grain play by targeting the lesser loved sides? Take the poll and let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Which national team is the most essential to load up on in World Cup fantasy?
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Other (name in comments)