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2018 McDonald’s FIFA World Cup: Quarterfinals Player Picks

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Half of the teams that survived the Group Stage are gone now, and your fantasy squad probably needs a little work. NMA has you covered.

Colombia v England: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Harry Kane’s searing form has made him a must-own asset for the McDonalds FIFA World Cup Fantasy game. Is he in your squad?

Just when you think 2018 World Cup Russia can’t get any better, it does. After the most entertaining Group Stage in recent memory, the Round of 16 provided even more excitement. Russia, Croatia, and England all advanced through nail-biting penalty shootouts, and Belgium and Sweden both went through on goals scored in the 94th minute. I can’t wait to see what kind of drama the Quarterfinals bring!

But now it’s time to get down to business with our fantasy squads. The next set of games starts on Friday, so let’s have a look at the best candidates for the transfers you need to make before the deadline.

Goalkeepers

There are only eight netminders left to consider, so I’ll share my thoughts on each of them.

Hugo Lloris (FRA, 6.0M): Lloris kept a clean sheet against Peru after conceding one goal to Australia. He was rested for Round 3, and then gave up 3 to Argentina in the Round of 16. It’s hard to ascertain how solid France’s defense really is, then. Lloris will surely feel relieved that Edinson Cavani is a doubt for Uruguay, but even so, I think there are better gambles than Lloris, especially considering his relatively high price.

Fernando Muslera (URU, 5.7M): So far, Uruguay’s defense has been among the best in the tournament. Muslera has only given up one goal since the World Cup started, and has three clean sheets and three games with save points to his credit. Save points could be important if Kylian Mbappe lights it up again in the quarterfinals.

Igor Akinfeev (RUS, 5.0M): Russia dazzled in its first two games, running up 8 goals scored against just one conceded. Unfortunately, those games were against Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Once they had to contend with serious competition, much of the bloom came off the rose. They were squashed 0-3 by Uruguay in their final game of the Group Stage, and in the Round of 16 they clung desperately to a tie with Spain in order to force a shootout. Akinfeev has been excellent, and his team is well-organized, but one gets the strong sense that Russia lacks the juice to advance any further. Croatia’s spear is pointier than Spain’s, and I think they’ll breach Akinfeev’s net. On the other hand, Russia has not shown much ability to score against quality opposition. Consequently, this will probably be Akinfeev’s last game. If he’s already in your squad and you’re working with limited transfers, then you might consider him as a bench option, but I would not be looking to bring Akinfeev in.

Danijel Subasic (CRO, 5.6M): Croatia conceded just one goal in the Group Stages and scored 7. And Subasic was fantastic in the shootout with Denmark, where he saved 3 PKs. Given what we’ve seen from Russia lately, Subasic’s chances are good for a victory and even a clean sheet. That means Subasic should at least get to the semifinals. He’s my top choice if you need to pick up a GK for this round.

Alisson (BRA, 6.0M): Although Uruguay’s defense has received much praise and attention, Brazil’s has been just as good. They’ve kept three consecutive clean sheets since allowing a goal to Switzerland in Round 1. Belgium will be a tough test though — they’ve scored a tournament-high 12 goals so far. Alisson may not keep a clean sheet, and he may not even win. At his price he’s too risky for me right now. Hold him if you have him, but otherwise see if he survives the quarterfinal before picking him up (at which point I very likely would).

Thibaut Courtois (BEL, 6.0M): Belgium allowed 2 goals to a spirited Japanese side, but also to Tunisia. Their two clean sheets came against Panama — widely considered to be the worst team in the tournament — and a depleted English side that did not feature Harry Kane. This time around they face threats like Neymar and Coutinho from an undefeated Brazilian team that has scored against every one of its opponents. I don’t see a clean sheet for Courtois, and the game’s winner is too dicey for me to call. I’d avoid Courtois unless he’s already in your squad.

Robin Olsen (SWE, 5.0M): Olsen has kept clean sheets in all of Sweden’s games except the Round 2 fixture with Germany, where he shipped two. But nobody in this tournament has been more lethal than Harry Kane, and that’s who Olsen will be up against this time. Olsen is cheap, but I think England scores and probably wins.

Jordan Pickford (ENG, 5.5M): Not a single clean sheet. Not even against Tunisia and Panama. Harry Kane may power The Three Lions to victory over the Swedes, but don’t count on England to keep Sweden out of Pickford’s net.

Poll

Who is your pick for the best remaining goalkeeper option?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Hugo Lloris
    (23 votes)
  • 12%
    Fernando Muslera
    (66 votes)
  • 1%
    Igor Akinfeev
    (8 votes)
  • 51%
    Danijel Subasic
    (280 votes)
  • 10%
    Alisson
    (59 votes)
  • 5%
    Thibaut Courtois
    (27 votes)
  • 3%
    Robin Olsen
    (19 votes)
  • 10%
    Jordan Pickford
    (57 votes)
539 votes total Vote Now

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Defenders

Lucas Hernandez (FRA, 5.0M: He starts, he’s priced attractively, and he’ll face an Uruguayan squad that may be missing Edinson Cavani.

Diego Godin (URU, 5.7M: He’s priced the same as the other Uruguayan defenders that are worth considering, but his class and status as captain make him a lock to start. Kylian Mbappe will be a handful though.

Dejan Lovren (CRO, 5.1M): Croatia have only conceded a goal each to Iceland and Denmark so far. And the Russian fireworks we saw in that side’s first two games seem to be over. I expect Croatia to win this match with a decent chance at a clean sheet, and at his price point Lovren is the best value in the Croatian backline. Plus, I refuse to purchase Domagoj Vidal based simply on his hairstyle.

Fagner (BRA, 5.1M): He has started the last three matches for Brazil, including the Round of 16 meeting with Mexico for which Danilo was available. Since all three of his starts have ended with clean sheets, I expect he’ll continue in the starting 11 for the quarterfinal match against Belgium. Thiago Silva (6.1M) and Miranda (5.6M) are fine choices too and I’d feel fine holding on to either one if I already had them. But for a new purchase, Fagner’s price makes him the best choice.

I had expected Marcelo to play against Mexico, but instead he was preserved. I’m assuming he’ll start against Belgium, but his price tag (6.5M) makes him too expensive for my tastes when Fagner can be acquired for substantially less.

Andreas Granqvist (SWE, 5.2M): The penalty-taking center back has registered 2 goals and 3 clean sheets, and his tally of 31 fantasy points is surpassed only by the red-hot Harry Kane. Plus, he is Sweden’s captain and is therefore nailed-on. A guaranteed starter who takes PKs and costs 5.2M is about as close to a no-brainer as you can get, especially when clean sheets have been so few and far between. If you don’t have him, get him.

Kieran Trippier (ENG, 5.6M): Trippier takes some set pieces and registered an assist against Panama (but then again, so did almost every other English player). He was rested against Belgium and then reinstated for the Round of 16, suggesting that he is Gareth Southgate’s first-choice right back.

Harry Maguire (ENG, 4.9M): Not enough room in the budget for Trippier? Then go with center back Maguire and save 0.7M. The Leicester City big man has been putting in very solid defensive work and has the physicality necessary to get on the end of set piece deliveries.

Poll

Who is your #1 defender for the quarterfinals?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Lucas Hernandez
    (21 votes)
  • 14%
    Diego Godin
    (63 votes)
  • 20%
    Dejan Lovren
    (93 votes)
  • 3%
    Fagner
    (15 votes)
  • 3%
    Marcelo
    (16 votes)
  • 14%
    Andreas Granqvist
    (64 votes)
  • 26%
    Kieran Trippier
    (118 votes)
  • 9%
    Harry Maguire
    (43 votes)
  • 3%
    Other
    (16 votes)
449 votes total Vote Now

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Midfielders

Rodrigo Bentancur (URU, 5.0M): He’s cheap and he starts. If that’s all you need then go ahead and pull the trigger.

Luka Modric (CRO, 9.1M): He’s cooled off after scoring in the first two games, and missed a spot kick against Denmark that would have prevented the need for a PK shootout. He’s not cheap and he may be off penalty duty now. But he’s the engine that drives Croatia’s offense, and I expect them to dominate Russia convincingly.

Ivan Rakitic (CRO, 8.5M): He looked lively against Denmark, and he’ll save you a little money over Modric.

Coutinho (BRA, 9.2M): His fantasy production was disappointing against Mexico, but he either scored or assisted in each of the Group Stage games. An excellent value at his price, he should probably be in your squad already.

Willian (BRA, 8.4M): He sparkled against Mexico. If you can’t fit Coutinho in, Willian is the alternative of choice in the Brazilian midfield.

Nacer Chadli (BEL, 6.8M): The scorer of the dramatic winning goal against Japan. That should be enough to win him a start against Brazil, and his price is easy on the budget.

Viktor Claessen (SWE, 5.6M): Two assists so far, and he won a penalty in Round 1. And look at that price tag!

Jesse Lingard (ENG, 7.6M): His goal against Panama was stunning, and he is the fantasy points leader among the English midfielders.

Poll

Who is the best midfield choice for the quarterfinals?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Rodrigo Betancur
    (9 votes)
  • 30%
    Luka Modric
    (136 votes)
  • 6%
    Ivan Rakitic
    (31 votes)
  • 41%
    Coutinho
    (186 votes)
  • 6%
    Willian
    (29 votes)
  • 1%
    Nacer Chadli
    (6 votes)
  • 1%
    Viktor Claessen
    (7 votes)
  • 6%
    Jesse Lingard
    (27 votes)
  • 3%
    Other
    (16 votes)
447 votes total Vote Now

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Strikers

Kylian Mbappe (FRA, 9.0M): Mbappe turned in what may be the the performance of the tournament against Argentina. Uruguay’s defense is good, but can anyone deal with Mbappe right now?

Antoine Griezmann (FRA, 10.0M): His only goals have come from the spot. But he is the PK taker, and Mbappe will create havoc in Uruguay’s box. I have Griezmann and will hold, but if I were looking to buy a French forward I’d probably choose the less-expensive teenaged speedster.

Luis Suarez (URU, 10.5): With Edinson Cavani looking doubtful with a calf issue, Luis Suarez will shoulder more of the responsibility for Uruguay’s attack. He already has 2 goals and an assist to his credit, but much of his productivity was a result of his chemistry with his injured strike partner. Will Cavani’s potential absence help or hurt Suarez’s fantasy numbers?

Christhian Stuani (URU, 8.0M): Cavani’s likely deputy. Some reports suggest Cavani could be sidelined for weeks with his injury, so Stuani could be set to start for as long as Uruguay stay alive. If you just can’t come up with the funds for someone like Ivan Perisic and you don’t like bargain-priced Ola Toivonen, then a punt on Stuani might pay off.

Ivan Perisic (CRO, 8.5M): Croatia finished the Group Stage on full points thanks to Perisic’s goal against Iceland in the last minute of regular time. Like his teammate Rakitic, he has an eye for goal and is not afraid to shoot, and his matchup with Russia looks tasty. Perisic is probably the best bang-for-your-buck value among fantasy forwards right now.

Neymar (BRA, 12.0): Sadly it seems that Brazil’s diva forward is almost as good at acting as he is at futbol. No matter — what you care about is fantasy productivity. With GOAT candidates Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi eliminated, Neymar surely sees the rest of this tournament as an opportunity to assert himself as the game’s next legend. That’s bad for Belgium, but good for his fantasy owners.

Eden Hazard (BEL, 10.1M): Belgium’s string-puller has two assists, two goals, and a penalty won. That’s impressive considering he was rested for the Round 3 match against England. The quarterfinal test against Brazil will be difficult, but Hazard will surely be in the middle of whatever success Belgium finds.

Lukaku (BEL, 10.1M): Belgium’s man-mountain netted twice in each of his first two games before picking up a knock and sitting out Round 3. He blanked against Japan but lasted the full 90 minutes, suggesting that he is now fully-fit. He has a tendency to beat up on lesser opponents (Panama and Tunisia), and then to go AWOL against stiffer competition. The competition will get no stiffer than Brazil, so for me your 10.1M would be better spent on Hazard. However, I wouldn’t blame you for holding on to the big striker if he’s already in your squad.

Ola Toivonen (SWE, 7.0M): He scored in the losing effort against Germany and then registered the assist that lifted Sweden over Switzerland in the Round of 16. He’s cheap and not many will own him, so he could be a clever differential who frees up money in your budget to spend elsewhere.

Raheem Sterling (ENG, 9.0M): Sterling has nothing tangible to show for his efforts so far, but one gets the sense that his fortunes are bound to change. At 9.0M, he represents an inexpensive route into England’s attack if you can’t fit Harry Kane into your side.

Harry Kane (ENG, 11.2M): Kane is the tournament’s leading scorer despite being rested for Round 3. With 6 goals and 2 penalties-won, he is the FIFA game’s overall points leader with a whopping tally of 34. That’s an average of just over 11 points per game, which is equivalent to his price. That’s an extremely difficult ratio to achieve in this platform, which demonstrates quite poignantly just how devastating Kane’s form has been. If he’s not already in your squad, you’re late to the party. But better late than never — find a way to make room.

BTW, is anyone else loving the fact that an English Premier League player is leading all the continental glamor-boys in the race for the 2018 World Cup Golden Boot? After this wonderful World Cup winds down, be sure to stay with us as NMA turns its attention to the upcoming EPL season and its various fantasy platforms. We’ll have everything you need to crush your fantasy rivals!

Poll

Who is your top striker option for the quarterfinals?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Kylian Mbappe
    (103 votes)
  • 6%
    Antoine Griezmann
    (28 votes)
  • 2%
    Luis Suarez
    (11 votes)
  • 0%
    Christhian Stuani
    (1 vote)
  • 4%
    Ivan Perisic
    (18 votes)
  • 12%
    Neymar
    (55 votes)
  • 5%
    Eden Hazard
    (25 votes)
  • 3%
    Lukaku
    (17 votes)
  • 0%
    Ola Toivonen
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Raheem Sterling
    (2 votes)
  • 39%
    Harry Kane
    (174 votes)
  • 0%
    Other
    (3 votes)
439 votes total Vote Now

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Strategy

As the World Cup enters its final rounds, let’s take a moment to talk strategy. Here are some principles that should guide your managerial decisions from here out.

Take the Long View: In the knockout rounds, half of the teams go home after each stage. Depending on your team’s composition, that could result in a large chunks of your roster being eliminated in one fell swoop. Do your best to predict match results so that you can bias your fantasy lineups toward players from teams that are likely to advance. Similarly, try to balance your squad with players from both sides of the bracket, and even all four quadrants. You want to make sure you remain fully represented for each round while minimizing the number of forced transfers you have to make. And remember, you don’t have to end up with a squad filled with finalists. Four teams will play in the last round!

Manage Your Transfers: Unless you are playing your Wildcard chip, your number of free transfers is limited. Use them wisely. For example, say you have Lukaku but would rather have Hazard. Do you really want to burn a transfer to replace a player who is likely to play?

Manage Your Bench: Transfers beyond your free allotment will cost you 4 points each. The chances that your transfer will recover that fee are low, in my opinion. Provided you can still field a strong starting 11, instead of taking a hit to transfer out an eliminated player, consider just parking him harmlessly on your bench. For example, Takashi Inui’s tournament is over, but he may keep a spot on my bench so that I don’t have to spend additional money and a transfer in order to replace him.

Manage Your Chips: There are only 3 free transfers for this round. There are 5 for each of the two following rounds. If you still have the Wildcard chip in your wallet, look at the brackets, look at your squad, and decide when it makes the most sense for you to play it. The time may well be now. Similarly, the Bench Boost makes the most sense when you have 15 players who will all see the pitch — make sure you use it accordingly. Finally, the Maximum Captain chip is a good way to elevate yourself above the pack as the menu of available players narrows and our lineups naturally converge toward similarity. I’ll save that chip until the final round.

Yellow Card Accumulation: Mikael Lustig, Blaise Matuidi, and Casemiro are all suspended for the quarterfinals due to yellow card accumulation. If any of them is in your side, you will want to bench them or get rid. Be aware that the Quarterfinal Round is the last set of games where yellow card accumulation can result in a suspension; every player’s card count is reset to zero once he reaches the semifinals. So if you have players who are carrying a yellow, if they can just get through this round without picking up a second, they will be safe from YCA suspension for the rest of the tournament.

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Whom are you adding? How will you be using your chips? Have you heard any team news? Please tell us in the comments below. Oh, and Happy Birthday America!

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