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2018 World Cup Dream Team Fantasy: Quarterfinals Player Picks

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After a wild and woolly group stage, the knockout stage started off with plenty more craziness. Whether things are calm or off the rails in your fantasy teams, what changes should you think about making ahead of the quarterfinals?

Harry Kane - England - Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Another game, another big performance from England hero Harry Kane.
Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Everybody thought that defending champion Germany would go far. Nope, knocked out in the group stage. That and several other results had most of us burning through quite a few unexpected transfers at that time. Common wisdom saw Spain with a clear path to the semifinals, and perhaps even the finals. Sorry, kicked out in the Round of 16. Were you all in on the two biggest superstars in the world, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi? Buh-bye, current challengers to the GOAT crown! As they say in the laundromat business: Rinse, lather and repeat. And with all of these dirty, nasty goings-on, we sure need plenty of suds. (Pun intended!)

As such, your original plan may have gone out the window long ago. If you thought you would have more transfers left in the bank now for the later rounds, it’s tough. Were you envisioning not having to use so many at the moment, it’s time to rethink things.

THE OVERARCHING PLAN

Sure, you are going to want to drop players who have uncertainty surrounding injury, who aren’t performing well, who have a tough match-up or who earned a one-game suspension. That’s probably what you’ve been doing so far. But RESIST THE TEMPTATION! The priority now is first, foremost, and entirely only dropping players whose teams have been knocked out, or who are definitively ruled out the rest of the tournament with injury. That’s it!

The plan now is to get to the semifinals round with a number of transfers left. What number? Well, that’s where you’re going to have to look over your team and try to get an idea. An estimate. Not a wild guess, but also of course not an exact number. It’s impossible to know precisely, but you can get a rough feel for it.

Ideally, again, we’d all love to keep a whole lot of transfers for use ahead of the semifinals, then the maximum three for the second game, followed by likewise having a fair amount at your disposal ahead of the finals round, and again keeping the last three in your pocket for the championship game. But with all the land mines that have already exploded, and a few more yet to come, the likelihood of being in a position to do that is pretty slim. So you’ll probably want to throw at least part of that fantasy out the window.

We do want to keep as many transfers as possible, tied to our expectations for where our teams will be, for the semifinals round. Why do we want to keep as many transfers as possible for the semifinals round? And why are we hopeful of being able to plan somewhat for it? Because the same four teams will play in the semifinals round as in the finals round (because the latter of which includes the 3rd place game as well as the title decider). Theoretically, the same players should play, though of course not all will, as managers always throw a wrench into things by benching some of those in our sides. You don’t want to unnecessarily burn transfers now on players who may get knocked out after playing only one game for you, when you can save them to use on those who should be fairly guaranteed of giving you two games.

FIGURING OUT HOW MANY TRANSFERS TO USE NOW (OR SHORTLY)

So, how many transfers do you have left? And how many open spots are rotting from those who have been eliminated or are definitively out injured? Next, how many players do you have from the four favorites remaining, compared to the four underdogs? And how many who have injury worry, who could lose their starting spot, or could get suspended with a second yellow card? Putting all of those factors together will give you an idea of a target for the number of transfers you want to keep for the transition from quarters to semis. Subtract that from the number of transfers you actually have right now, and bingo, that’s how many you can go ahead and use.

Of course, you don’t have to use all of those transfers right this moment. You can use some now, and hold off on the rest, using those strategically ahead of the second day of the quarters. That’s where you may have to readjust who you want to drop, choosing between a player who has already been eliminated prior to the quarters, or a player who was eliminated on the first day of the quarters. If that’s the case, the main factor will be money. If there ever comes a time when you choose to hold onto a dead spot, make sure the one you keep is cheap. Always sell the more expensive players who you have to get rid of, freeing up the most money for your purchases.

TARGETING TEAMS

There are only eight teams left. Sorry, but I’m narrowing that down even further. As for new players, I’m only looking at four of those sides. If you already have Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Diego Godin, Luis Suarez, Denis Cheryshev, Artem Dzuba, Andreas Granqvist, Robin Olsen, and others of those ilk, great, keep them. But unless you have a flowing overabundance of transfers in the bank, I’d advise sticking to the following quartet of favorites: France, Brazil, England and Croatia. If you have a strong feeling about a different team (or teams), feel free to go against conventional wisdom and instead target players from your chosen teams of destiny. Otherwise, playing the percentages is generally the smart avenue.

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STRIKERS

Neymar (Brazil v. Belgium, £7.5)

Sure, Neymar the Embellisher can be extremely frustrating to watch after he gets fouled (and he gets fouled A LOT), but he’s also magical with the ball, particularly when he scores one goal and creates the other as he did in the 2-0 conquest over Mexico. Neymar is doing his best to take over this World Cup (though of course he’s got plenty of competition), and there are no signs that he can be stopped by a Belgian defense that just gave up two goals to Japan and easily could have conceded more.

Harry Kane (England v. Sweden, £6.0)

The Tottenham Hotspur and England talisman has tallied 18, 28, and 8 points in his three games, leaving him the leading scorer in Dream Team fantasy by a comfortable margin. In the World Cup of Penalty Kicks, Kane has taken and scored three (not counting the one he added for good measure to help seal things after the draw with Colombia). Sweden will be a tough nut to crack, but if anybody’s going to do it, Kane’s the squirrel.

France v Argentina: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
France’s young star Kylian Mbappe has officially announced himself.
Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Kylian Mbappe (France v. Uruguay, £3.5)

Antoine Griezmann is a good, solid, strong choice who takes France’s PKs. I wouldn’t blame you at all for going with him, whether keeping or adding the Atletico Madrid star. But the youngster Kylian Mbappe has come on as the emerging star of this World Cup, so you will not want to miss out there.

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MIDFIELDERS

After delivering brilliantly in 2014, midfielders have comparatively been quite a dud in 2018. Only four at the position have delivered 25+ fantasy points, compared to eight strikers (as well as four defenders and one goalkeeper). The England midfield is kind of a fantasy wasteland, despite having Premier League talent in the form of Jesse Lingard, Raheem Sterling, and Dele Alli, so I’m avoiding the Three Lions at the position, but if you feel good about any of them, I’m not going to stop you.

Coutinho (Brazil v. Belgium, £5.0)

Alright, so the mighty Coutinho finally had a game without a goal or an assist. Cut him a break, it happens! He should be able to get rocking and rolling again with a likely open game against Belgium on the ledger. Coutinho has 25 points, and the next most for Brazil at the position is Paulinho with 11, so if you’re going with the Brazil midfield, it’s all about the Barcelona man. But if you are looking to add on a Samba Kings middie to Coutinho, Willian looked awfully good against Mexico.

Paul Pogba (France v. Uruguay, £4.0)

If you’ve ever had Pogba on your Premier League or Champions League fantasy team, you know how frustrating he can be. He has become a better option as the tournament has progressed... not because he has demonstrated any sort of growing greatness, but simply because the number of choices has dwindled so much. I never count on Pogba to perform well, but rather pray that he surprises me. Against Uruguay, which allows plenty of possession, the hope may even be slightly better than half decent.

Ivan Perisic (Croatia v. Russia, £3.5)

It’s a tough call between Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic. The three aren’t too far off from each other in terms of scoring or price. They have each looked lively at times, and sluggish otherwise. But Perisic seemed the most consistently active and involved of the trio on the offensive end against Denmark, and I’m hoping that will carry over against Russia. Modric of course is in danger of losing his PK duties after his poor attempt was saved by Kasper Schmeichel.

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As for defenders and keepers, here’s where you’re going to want to avert your eyes, hold your nose, or just altogether curl up in a fetal ball. Go ahead and switch to a 3-4-3 if you haven’t already. After what happened in the group stage, you’re not surprised, I trust. But in case you’re looking for some cold, hard numbers, I’ll be accommodating:

  • In the round of 16 for the 2014 World Cup, there were 18 goals scored by both teams combined (2.25 goals per game). In the same, just-completed period of 2018, that has risen to 24 scores (3.0 per game). Six goals may not sounds like many, but that is a jump of 33%. If you got a 33% pay raise at work, would you say that was a lot? I thought so!
  • In 2014, there were three clean sheets. In 2018, there have been just two. What’s a major part of scoring for defenders and keepers? Say it together, friends: CLEAN SHEETS! If you had defenders/keepers from 14 of the 16 teams who played, you didn’t get a clean sheet.

So if you need a defender or defenders, don’t be afraid to go cheap, if you want to be able to afford expensive strikers and/or midfielders you may feel better about. It’s no fun needlessly wasting money. But don’t despair. If you have a good idea of who can deliver a clean sheet, and for defenders someone who can also contribute on the offensive end, you might be able to find some joy after all.

DEFENDERS

In the Round of 16, a whopping 17 goals came from the left side of the bracket, compared to only seven on the right side. So instead of recommending players from Brazil and France, I’ve got to go with Croatia and England. If you need more than two defenders, it’s up to you whether you want to keep going down the line with Croatia and England, or switch up with Brazil or France. Then again, if you need two defenders, it may actually be savvier to pick a pair from the team you expect to make it to the championship game rather than splitting things.

Dejan Lovren (Croatia v. Russia, £2.5)

Dejan Lovren, Sime Versaljko and Domagoj Vida all have around the same number of points, and are in a similar price range. The tie-breaker for me is that Lovren has a slightly better offensive record than the other two, though of course it hardly moves the dial.

Kieran Trippier (England v. Sweden, £2.5)

John Stones has scored more points than Trippier, but that’s because of his brace against Panama. Do you think that’s going to happen again? Me neither. Trippier gives you a much more consistent chance at assists from his wing runs, while he also occasionally takes free kicks in danger zones as well.

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GOALKEEPERS

I love Alisson. He’s been on my team from the start and I’m keeping him. While he’s got three clean sheets in his first four games, pardon my language but it’s pretty gosh darn optimistic to see that continuing against high-flying Belgium and then, likely, just as explosive France. Les Blues are expected to beat Uruguay, but even without Edinson Cavani, I also don’t feel all that great about Hugo Lloris who just gave up three goals to Argentina; then of course France would face dangerous Brazil or Belgium. By the process of elimination, that leaves the other two favorites. Whomever you think will win this game and the next is your best pick.

Jordan Pickford (England v. Sweden , £3.0)

England hasn’t kept a clean sheet yet, but this could be a good spot to start against a defensive-minded Sweden team that managed to eke out its 1-0 victory over Switzerland with a deflected shot that surely would have been saved had it been untouched.

Danijel Subasic (Croatia v. Russia, £2.5)

Russia will have the home crowd behind them, but it probably won’t be enough. Given how they played against Spain, you’re certainly not going to worry too much about seeing the offensive explosion that came against Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

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How are your teams doing after the Round of 16 carnage? Are you in fixer up mode, or is it a complete rebuild? Are there any players who were not mentioned above who you recommend? How many transfers are you using and how many does that leave you in the bank? Take the poll below and let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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Poll

Following the Round of 16, how many transfers do you have left to use?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    17-20, I have the patience of a saint
    (7 votes)
  • 13%
    13-16, looking good here!
    (9 votes)
  • 10%
    9-12, that might still be enough, right?
    (7 votes)
  • 16%
    5-8, kind of worried about things
    (11 votes)
  • 47%
    0-4, can you say "dumpster fire?"
    (31 votes)
65 votes total Vote Now