It’s Father’s Day!
If you’re a football loving dad like myself, you simply could not ask for a better gift. It’s almost as if FIFA conspired with the inventor of Father’s Day to deliver a football feast.
Today, we will watch in earnest as the tournament co-favourites Germany and Brazil kick off their respective World Cup campaigns. For the early risers, Costa Rica vs Serbia also promises to be an intriguing contest.
So for the reading fathers - stock your fridges with beer, fire up the barbecue grills and most importantly, make sure your WAGS read the memo - because days like this only come around once every millennium.
Happy Fathers Day to you!
Costa Rica vs Serbia (13:00 BST)
This is a hugely interesting match-up that pits CONCACAF stalwarts Costa Rica against a talented Serbian outfit. Both teams will be hoping for a good start in Group E with a Brazil clash looming on the horizon. A loss here could leave either team with a huge uphill task for the remainder of the group stage.
The Ticos have had a less than ideal build up to the World Cup, culminating in a humbling 4-1 loss to Belgium on the eve of the tournament. This team is heavily reliant on many of the players that took them to the World Cup 2014 quarterfinal. Four years later, Costa Rican fans will have guarded expectations knowing that many of them are not club regulars or may be past their peak.
Real Madrid goalkeeper and 3-peat Champions League winner Keylor Navas is their biggest star and will captain the team. The best fantasy options in their three man defense are wing backs Cristian Gamboa and Bryan Oveido. The main goal threats in midfield are veterans Bryan Ruiz and Cristian Bolanos. Up front, the speedy Joel Campbell will be the main outlet for a goal threat on the counter.
The Serbians arrive at the tournament with a roster of household names in European football. They have had excellent results in the friendlies leading up to this tournament and will aim to keep their momentum. Aleksander Kolarov and Branislav Ivanovic are experienced leaders in defense. In midfield, all eyes will be on highly rated Lazio youngster Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, but Dusan Tadic, Luka Milivojevic and Adem Ljajic provide real quality and goalscoring potential. Up front, Alexander Mitrovic will try to use his physical prowess to batter the Costa Rican back line.
Verdict: Expecting goals in this one, but I’m predicting that Serbia will edge it on European soil.
Germany vs Mexico (16:00 BST)
On paper, this match has the potential to be an early World Cup 2018 classic. The defending champions Germany arrive with a wealth of big tournament experience and bravado, but the Mexicans are a fearless, technical outfit who will surely take the game to their opponents.
Despite a shaky build up to the World Cup with sub par friendly results, Die Mannschaft arrive in Russia boasting a powerful roster. The focus will be on Germany’s goalkeeper captain Manuel Neuer to see if he is fully recovered from his long term injury. The defense looks solid — Joshua Kimmich and Jonas Hector the best fantasy options.
Thomas Mueller, listed as a midfielder in the fantasy game, looks to be the standout option, with Mesut Ozil operating as the creator-in-chief. Striker and World Cup debutant Timo Werner is their biggest goal threat in attack.
Mexico is always an enjoyable watch because they never sit back, regardless of the opposition. They stay true to their individual qualities and have pace on the counter that can hurt pretty much anyone. Between the sticks, Guillermo Ochoa will need to replicate his World Cup 2014 heroics to repel the relentless Germans. In the defense, it just does not get more veteran than 39 year old Rafa Marquez and the ageless Carlos Salcedo. But the best option for fantasy is the out of position Hector Herrera.
The El Tri midfield will be led by Andres Guardado, and there are good fantasy options such as Jesus “Tecatito” Corona and Miguel Layun. In attack, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez has the experience and guile to get onto the scoresheet.
Verdict: I’m going for a slight upset and predicting that the Mexicans will take the game to the Germans and emerge with a 2-2 draw.
Brazil vs Switzerland (19:00 BST)
When the Brazilians step onto the World Cup stage, the world watches. All eyes will be glued to the television to see what the Samba boys have to offer – and if their recent form is any indicator, then we’re in for a treat.
Brazil has looked sumptuous in the build up to this tournament, with the return of Neymar particularly inspiring. He has looked sharp and inventive with the potential to take this tourney by storm. Alisson should get the nod in goal in front of a defense featuring Marcelo, Miranda, Thiago Silva and Danilo. In midfield, the best two options on paper are Willian and Coutinho who are simply enigmatic in national colors. Apart from the above-mentioned Neymar, Gabriel Jesus should pose a major goal threat with Douglas Costa and outside the box option.
Switzerland on the other hand have grown into an extremely solid and effective outfit over the last few years. They showed strong results in Europe World Cup Qualifying to top their group. They also had a very good previous World Cup, being narrowly eliminated by a Lionel Messi beauty in the quarterfinal.
Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Burki should start in goal for the Swiss. In defense, the best fantasy pick is the very attacking wing back Michael Lang. New Arsenal signing Stephan Lichsteiner and Ricardo Rodriguez are also solid options. The main man for Switzerland without a doubt is the diminutive and skillful midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri. Haris Seferovic should be the striker chosen to lead the line.
Verdict: Brazil should get the tournament started with a comfortable win here. 2-0 is my prediction.
What are your predictions for today’s games? How is your fantasy team doing so far? Who are you expecting to do well today? Let us know in the comments.