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2018 FIFA World Cup: How Did You Do in the Group Stage?

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The World Cup Group Stage is over. My fantasy teams did even worse than Panama. How did your sides fare?

Dumpster full of trash - metaphor
How do you like this selfie of my fantasy squad?
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

We’ve completed the Group Stage of 2018 World Cup Russia and narrowed the field down to the final 16 teams. Today’s break in the action affords us the time to look back at how our fantasy squads did over the first three rounds of games. As embarrassing as it will be, I’ll go first.

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Team DavidBrian: McDonalds FIFA Round 1

I finished on 36 points to sit me in 605,367th place overall, and 2449th in the NeverManageAlone BTB league. The only players in my squad who returned anything of consequence were Eden Hazard (assist), Yannick Carrasco (clean sheet), Thomas Meunier (clean sheet), and Antoine Griezmann (goal and penalty won).

Unfortunately, in spite of the 8 point return from Griezmann, I decided to throw caution to the wind and move the armband to Hazard. That decision cost me 6 points. Meunier also picked up a yellow card. That not only set me back a point, but with Belgium’s place in the Round of 16 guaranteed by Round 2, it threw his Round 3 status into jeopardy due to the potential for yellow card accumulation.

Antoine Griezmann - PK - France v Australia - Group C - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Gambling that Eden Hazard would outperform Antoine Griezmann, who won and then converted this penalty in Round 1, was a costly error for me.
Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

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Team DavidBrian: McDonalds FIFA Round 2

Despite my poor performance in Round 1, I made no transfers for Round 2. I did make more bad managerial decisions though. Although Francis Uzoho registered a clean sheet and three saves, I rolled the dice that David De Gea could do better. He didn’t, and that sub set me back a point. I also had to eat a -2 from Michael Murillo after he picked up a yellow card while being pounded 6-1 by England. And Johan Gudmundsson did not play, having picked up a knock in Round 1.

But Marcelo got me a clean sheet against Costa Rica, and Thomas Meunier was able to tally an assist in the 5-2 shelling of Tunisia. Most importantly, I got my captaincy decision right this time, doubling Eden Hazard’s 12 points to a juicy 24. I finished on 47 points for Round 2 — better than the 36 from Round 1, but only good enough for 952,519th overall and 3157th in the NMA BTB league.

Farouk Ben Mustapha -  Tunisia - Group G - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
I got my captain choice right in Round 2, with Eden Hazard winning and then converting this spot kick. Cha-ching!
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

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Team DavidBrian: McDonalds FIFA Round 3

With my side filling with injuries, under-performers and yellow-card holders, and with rest and rotation likely for many of the others, I decided to employ my wildcard for Round 3.

Out: Antoine Griezmann, Eden Hazard, Johan Gudmundsson, Yannick Carrasco, Thomas Meunier, Hakim Ziyach, Edinson Cavani, Francis Uzoho

In: Cristiano Ronaldo, Ahmed Musa, Mile Jedinak, Philippe Coutinho, Ricardo Rodriguez, Mathew Ryan, Denis Cheryshev, Diego Costa

In the end, the wildcard was wasted. Except for Coutinho, whose armband doubled his 6 points to 12, none of the players I transferred in ended up earning more than 2 points. And of the players I retained from Round 2, only Isco did. The roar of my McDonalds FIFA Fantasy World Cup dumpster fire continued into Round 3 then, with just a dismal 27 points this time around. Three thousand one hundred and thirty-six NMA BTB managers did better than I in Round 3, and globally I ended up #1,163,351. That’s right, over 1.1 million folks scored better than I did. How’s that for awful?

At the end of the three rounds of the Group Stage, then, I find myself in 768,252nd place overall with a total of 110 points. That translates to 3067th place in the NMA BTB league.

Philippe Coutinho - Brazil - Group E - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
The swift feet of my Round 3 captain, Brazil’s Coutinho, earned me 6 x 2 points. He and Isco were my only bright spots for the Round.
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

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Team DavidBrian: Dream Team

As bad as my luck has been with the McDonalds game, I’ve fared no better in the Dream Team format. While I did see double digit returns from Lukaku in Round 1, Hazard and Lukaku in Round 2, and Isco in Round 3, I still finished the Group Stage with a mere 140 points.

That leaves me adrift in 467,766th place before the start of the Knockout Rounds. There’s no two ways about it; that is lousy. But I’ve used only 3 of my 20 allotted transfers so far, so I still have plenty of room for the surgery that will be necessary to turn my fortunes around.

In the NMA BTB Dream Team league, my 140 points puts me in 36th place. That’s one point and one place behind Team Chris Manfredi. I’m coming for you Chris!

Romelu Lukaku - Belgium - Group G - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
I didn’t have many good performers in the Dream Team platform, but Romelu Lukaku was certainly one of them.
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

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Leaderboard Results

There’s no better way to put my poor results into perspective than by checking out the performance of the fantasy managers who are killing it in these games. Let’s have a look.

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McDonalds FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia

At the head of a pack of more than 1M fantasy managers is Zirka10. With a crazy 96 points in Round 1, 86 points in Round 2, and 60 points in Round 3, I have to wonder if Zirka10 has ESP, or is a time-traveler from the future, or is a Russian oligarch who paid billions to rig the World Cup so that his fantasy team could win. Interestingly, Zirka10 played his Bench Boost chip in Round 1, and his Maximum Captain chip in Round 2. Was the early use of those tools brilliant or foolish? Only time will tell, and we’ll follow Zirka10s progress to find out.

In the NMA BTB league, the top dog after the Group Stage is Tajtooj with 213 points. With scores of 93, 88, and 32, Tajtooj’s results were helped by the selection of Lukaku and Kane in the first two rounds, where the Belgian and the Englishman put up huge numbers. And like Zirka10, Tajtooj spent a chip early, using the Bench Boost in Round 1.

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Dream Team

At the top of the overall leaderboard in the Dream Team format is Lawrenson, with a massive 370 points. That’s well over twice the points I’ve accrued. Crazy!

In first place in the NMA BTB Dream Team league is Short 1 Pt 3rd Place Danny Destiny, managed by Greg Wilcox. Greg has put up an impressive 212 points so far. Staff writer Stall Express trails him in second place by just 8 points, and frequent chat contributor Sean Hobson’s FCUK Put In squad sits in 4th with 195.

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Lessons Learned

Unlike the English Premier League’s Fantrax or Togga platforms, there are virtually no “phantom” points to be had in the World Cup fantasy formats. Things like accurate crosses, shots on goal, corners won, passes intercepted, blocked shots, tackles won, and fouls suffered earn a fantasy manager exactly nothing. When it comes down to it, the World Cup games are really all about goals, clean sheets, and assists.

Predicting goals has been hard, and, except for Uruguay, predicting clean sheets has been even harder. But a trend has emerged in this World Cup that I plan to leverage in order to improve my odds. After 48 games, we’ve had a spot kick awarded, on average, every other game. The 24 PKs we’ve seen so far shatter the previous World Cup record of 18, and we haven’t even started the knockout rounds yet. This is no fluke; video-assisted review has absolutely influenced the number of penalties that have been given. And since VAR will remain a part of the tournament, we should expect this trend to continue.

Goals from open play can come from anywhere and anyone, but every team has a single player who is its designated PK taker if he is on the pitch. With spot kicks awarded, on average, in 1 of every 2 games so far, it seems clear that if you want to improve your squad’s odds of accruing goals, you should stuff it with guys who take pens. That’s what I’ll be doing from here out.

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OK, I laid all my humiliating cards on the table. Now it’s your turn to let us know how you’ve done in the Group Stages. Have you played any chips yet, or are you saving them for later? What have you learned from the Group Stages that will alter your strategy in the Knockout Rounds? Come and in and share!

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