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2018 McDonald’s FIFA World Cup Fantasy Player Picks: Keepers

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The official FIFA World Cup fantasy platform launched recently, so let’s get going with player picks! Kicking things off with the loneliest position, which goalkeepers can make your fantasy sides prosper?

Alisson - Brazil - 2018 FIFA World Cup
The world tends to focus on Brazil’s potent offense, but star goalkeeper Alisson should not be overlooked.
Photo by Lucas Uebel/Getty Images

As we all know, one is the loneliest number, and each team is limited to having a single goalkeeper on the pitch. But your fantasy squad gets two keepers, so nobody’s going to feel all alone here!

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THE BASICS

NUMBER OF KEEPERS ON ROSTER: 2 (one starter, one back-up; they can be rotated in your starting line-up as long as they play on different days)

PRICE RANGE: €6.5 (high) to €4.0 (low)

SCORING:

Following is the scoring for a keeper, per game:

1 point: Playing in a game

2 points: Playing at least 60 minutes in a game (1 for playing, 1 for playing 60+ min.)

4 points: Not conceding a goal while on pitch, and playing at least 60 min. (a.k.a. clean sheet)

5 points: Saving a penalty

1 point: Every three saves

-1 point: Every 2nd goal conceded while on pitch

-2 points: Own goal

-1 point: Yellow card

-3 points: Red card (includes -1 for first yellow card if red card comes via two yellows)

There are other points categories (goal scored, assist, penalty drawn) but those would be extremely rare for a keeper to get.

We all vividly remember examples of keepers getting a slew of saves — Tim Howard’s 15 stops for the U.S. when it lost 2-1 to Belgium in the 2014 World Cup, or David De Gea’s 14 saves for Manchester United in a 3-1 Premier League win over Arsenal in early 2018 — which would still return a very good fantasy result even while giving up a goal or two. Similarly, a keeper saving a penalty would more than make up for allowing a score here or there. However, those types of games are few and far between. Pure and simple, the best and easiest way to points for your keeper comes via the clean sheet.

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STRATEGY

There are six basic choices when you pick your pair of goal liners:

  • two expensive
  • two mid-priced
  • two cheap
  • one expensive, one mid-priced
  • one expensive, one cheap
  • one mid-priced, one cheap

You can make unlimited transfers between the end of the group stage and the start of the knockout stage, so when you’re picking your team to start the competition, you don’t necessarily have to worry about expecting one or both of your keepers making it through to the Round of 16. And you don’t want to shell out too much money on your keepers, since that would leave you with less to fill out the rest of your roster.

So I’d love to tell you to go cheap with both keepers... but I can’t. After all, there’s usually a fairly strong correlation between how a team fares in the group stage and how well its keeper does, both on the pitch and in fantasy.

If you don’t feel like paying up for a truly elite — and very expensive — keeper, a good strategy is to look for a mid-priced keeper who has a good chance at two clean sheets and match him with a cheap back-up who could nick one if you’re lucky; after all, being able to get three clean sheets across the opening round would be ideal (but not easy, of course). You’ll want to look at the schedule and have those games offset each other. For instance, if keeper A has a favorable match-up in games 1 and 2, you’ll want a keeper B who faces a weak offense in game 3.

As much as you’d love to, you can’t count on those three clean sheets necessarily happening according to plan. So since you can rotate keepers not just between stages, and not just between rounds but also between days of a round, you will want two keepers who always play on different days. That means that you do not want keepers from the same group, and you may not even want keepers from adjacent groups (because there’s some interleaving in the schedule).

So be sure to check the schedule to make sure they do not play on the same day for any of the first three games. Then go ahead and start your keeper who has the earlier game and hope he does well. If he doesn’t, then swap him with the other. Just as fortune may frown and see your #1 keeper with a great match-up end up conceding a goal or two, you may get lucky and earn an unexpected clean sheet from your #2 who has a tough fixture.

At the goalkeeper position, the price range from high to low (a difference of €2.5) isn’t nearly as pronounced as it is at the other positions. But every euro (or half-euro) counts! Saving €1.0 or €0.5 to be able to use at another position could prove vital. Then again, using that little extra at keeper might end up making a huge difference. But generally speaking, you have a chance to get more fantasy points at the other positions, so that is why field players should be given the utmost priority for premium spending.

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WHICH KEEPERS LOOK TO PROVIDE THE BEST VALUE?

As with most everything, it’s all about getting value. Let’s look at a couple/few keepers in each price range who look like they offer the best possibility for a nice return on investment.

PREMIUM

There are seven keepers priced at €6.0 or €6.5 (not surprisingly, they play for the elite teams that are expected to advance through the knockout stages). Let’s start by getting rid of a couple. Spain’s David De Gea is the only goalie at €6.5. If you’re 100% certain he’ll have the best fantasy return of any keeper in the group stage, then go for it. But hey, I’m not 100% sure. It’s more of a crap shoot. So I’m nixing De Gea and saving at least a half-euro. Brazil’s Alisson costs €6.0, but for some strange reason, so does his teammate, and expected back-up, Ederson. So here’s an easy one, let’s also blackball Ederson.

That leaves us with five keepers at €6.0. And they’re all fine picks. They all have excellent chances of doing very well. But I’m going to keep whittling away at this. Portugal’s Rui Patricio is part of an outstanding Portugal defense (and overall team), but the opener against Spain (great team, and brilliant offense) threatens to stain my desired clean sheet. Similarly, Germany’s Manuel Neuer could easily give up a goal or two to Mexico and/or Sweden. Likewise, France’s Hugo Lloris with respect to Denmark and/or Peru.

By the process of elimination, there are two left. Compared to most of the top squads, Brazil’s Alisson is in a tough quartet, top to bottom. There is no low-rated team like Japan, Panama, Saudi Arabia, or South Korea that the Samba Kings can expect to dance over. But the Selecao will be the clear favorite in each of its three games, and it will go into all of them with a good to great chance of securing a clean sheet. Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia are not completely bereft of offensive talent by any means, but they all tend to be fairly defensive-minded at heart, and each will likely face Brazil thinking that “parking the bus” is their best survival strategy. Alisson made the most saves in the 2017-18 Champions League competition with AS Roma, and he posted the most clean sheets in the long CONMEBOL qualification with Brazil.

Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois is the other high-priced keeper whom I like in the group stage. Belgium will be expected to win its group with a clean sheet possible in each of its games. England is a tough competitor, but despite having a lot of players who put up big numbers in domestic play, the Three Lions actually seem more defensive-minded than attack-oriented. Panama and Tunisia should be even easier to keep off the score sheet.

MID-PRICED

There are more options here, so it’s not worth going through each one. I’ll just mention the ones who look the most promising. Jordan Pickford (€5.5) plays for an England team that allowed only three goals across 10 games in qualifying, and other than when it faces explosive Belgium, can expect more of the same in its group. Danijel Subasic and Croatia (€5.5) conceded only four times in qualification, and will look to excel at the back end against Iceland and Nigeria, though Argentina and a certain Mr. Messi will likely present more difficulty.

At a slightly cheaper price point, Jan Sommer (€5.0) plays for a fairly defensive-minded Swiss side that will find things tough against Brazil, but much easier when facing Serbia and Costa Rica. Speaking of the Ticos, Keylor Navas (€5.0) is one of the best shot stoppers in the world at Real Madrid, and Costa Rica allowed the second-fewest goals in the CONCACAF qualifying. Again, you won’t expect much joy against Brazil, but he has a legitimate shot at clean sheets against Serbia and Switzerland. From the same confederation, Mexico allowed one goal fewer than Costa Rica in qualifying, and you probably remember the heroics of Guillermo Ochoa (€5.0) from 2014. Mexico does not have an easy path, though, coming up against high-scoring Germany and Sweden.

Denmark conceded the fewest goals in its qualifying group (six less than group winner Poland!), leaving Kasper Schmeichel (€5.0) a pretty nice option; the only drawback is that France and Peru are tough draws. Sweden allowed only three goals more than France in the same qualifying group (and three fewer than Netherlands), so Robin Olsen (€5.0) could bring some joy; in the same vein, though, Germany and Mexico will not be pushovers. Meanwhile, Argentina’s starting keeper would be more expensive if Sergio Romero weren’t out injured. You’re getting a built-in discount with new #1 Willy Caballero (€5.0), but that is of course because he’s not nearly as good. But with Argentina’s strong defense (only Brazil allowed fewer goals in CONMEBOL qualifying) and favorable fixtures (Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria), he may not need to be too outstanding to provide nice value.

CHEAP

With the explosive Mo Salah up front, you may assume that Egypt is an offensive powerhouse. Not true! Though Salah does get his share of goals, the Pharaohs’ real key to success is their defense. In its six qualifying games, Egypt scored only eight goals, while conceding just four times. If Salah is healthy and can keep opposing teams honest, that can make Essam El-Hadary (€4.5) a good value at a cheap price. At 45 years old, El-Hadary will be a fan favorite! Why not a fantasy favorite, too?!

Iran is even more defensive-minded than Egypt, as Team Melli allowed only TWO goals in their 10 qualifying games, while scoring 10 which is very low for a group winner. The team will be expected to park a bus the size of Tehran in its three group games, making Ali Beiranvand (€4.5) an intriguing budget pick.

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JOIN THE NEVER MANAGE ALONE LEAGUES

McDonald’s FIFA World Cup Fantasy

If you have not already done so, you will want to be sure to join the Never Manage Alone “Beat the Bloggers” league to see how you stack up against our crack staff, community members, regular readers and fantasy managers around the globe in McDonald’s FIFA World Cup Fantasy! Just click on this invitation:

LEAGUE NAME: NeverManageAlone BTB

LINK: Click here to join the league

CODE: ROUW0ATB

If you have to use the code, please paste it so you get the letter ‘O’ and the zero sorted.

Dream Team World Cup Fantasy

We also have a Never Manage Alone “Beat the Bloggers” league going in the Dream Team fantasy game, so be sure to join that as well.

LEAGUE NAME: Never Manage Alone Beat the Bloggers

LINK: Click here to join the league

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We have plenty of World Cup coverage to help you assemble your teams, so if you haven’t already done so, be sure to read our previews for all of the groups (A-H). We will also continue with player picks for the other positions, as well as live chats and other articles, so check back with us regularly as you tinker with your teams and enjoy the competition!

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What strategy are you adopting for your pair of keepers? How much money are you spending on them? Is one your clear #1 that you plan on relying on for all three group games, or are you going to look to rotate as needed? Take the poll and let us know your thoughts below in the comments!

Poll

Who are you going with as the #1 keeper in your fantasy team?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    David De Gea (Spain)
    (66 votes)
  • 11%
    Manuel Neuer (Germany)
    (75 votes)
  • 8%
    Hugo Lloris (France)
    (54 votes)
  • 18%
    Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)
    (119 votes)
  • 29%
    Alisson (Brazil)
    (189 votes)
  • 5%
    Rui Patricio (Portugal)
    (33 votes)
  • 17%
    Other (Name in comments)
    (110 votes)
646 votes total Vote Now