Not nearly as craze-inducing as its men’s tournament, FIFA’s Women’s World Cup offers us another summer-time flag-waving opportunity, and it starts in just a few days. Unlike last year’s tourney, I (in America) have a team involved. And it’s not just any team — the USA holds the cup from four years ago.
World Cup Fantasy
This being a fantasy footie blog, I started a month ago searching high and low to find a fantasy format like what we played last year. I even wrote to FIFA, ESPN and Fox Sports. ESPN wrote back that they’re out this year. FIFA wrote back that their fantasy game would return for the women, but I haven’t seen it yet; I’ll post an update if I learn anything.
What I did find is a game out of Australia called “ShePlays”. I’ve registered and created a team (Alehouse WAGs); please join me! I don’t see mini-leagues yet — but stay tuned for an update soon! For now, everyone will be in one (hopefully big) global battle royale. If you’re interested in joining the fun, here are the rules:
Looking it over, the squad building looks very similar to last year’s official game for the men. However, it does not appear that we will be allowed to make any management moves (bench swaps or captain re-assignments) between match-days within a round.
Intriguingly, the points system is a bit more elaborate than the Spartan goals / assists / clean-sheets of last year’s official fantasy. I see points awarded for elements of link-up play that could produce fantasy gold from anywhere on the pitch (OK, maybe not gold, but silver maybe?).
I do not see any “chips”, so we will be forced to pay precious victory points to make more than our allotted free transfers. The only sandbox time I see is right now, before round 1 of the group stage. I’ve saved a team and gone on churning as I discover more intel on who stars for whom, so it seems we have unlimited transfers before the first kickoff.
Tactics will need to adapt, but that’s not my forte. Anyone have suggestions? My only thought now is to find possible starters (easier said than done) on teams that are unlikely to be knocked out (expensive). Women tagged as “team captain” in news articles catch my attention...
There are only six groups (instead of the men’s eight). FIFA has a bigger budget for write-ups than I have, so here’s their link:
Entering play, the top-10 ranked teams by group:
- A: France (#4)
- B: Germany (#2)
- C: Australia (#6)
- ... Brazil (#10)
- D: England (#3)
- ... Japan (#7)
- E: Canada (#5)
- ... Netherlands (#8)
- F: USA (#1)
- ... Sweden (#9)
Tops in four groups is a strong showing from English-speaking countries, so I hope for some interest from our English-reading audience. Get in here and start waving your flag! (And then please tell us who’s likely to start for your nation).
With four of six 3rd-place teams advancing on points, there is no “group of death” as we see in the men’s tournament. The closest I can see is group A where France, S.Korea and Norway are ranked #4, #11 & #12. Expect #38 Nigeria to suffer accordingly. However, if Nigeria pulls an upset win, then a highly ranked team could crash out (with headlines chasing them home).
#53-ranked Jamaica is the lowest-ranked nation in the tournament, so expect group-C to sort itself (or be upended by a Jamaican surprise). The most notable absentees are #17 Denmark and #18 Switzerland.
A group stage will select 16 teams to populate brackets of the knockout stages. As in the men’s tourney, the group stage has each team play three rounds, once against each of the other three teams in the same group. The top two from each group advance, plus four more wildcards. I guess you could call it “finding the minnows”.
With the brackets loaded, the knockout stage proceeds in single-elimination form until four teams are left. Then the semis separate the finalists from the 3rd-place contestants. The four teams thus rearranged, the last round then awards the hardware. The final will be on July 7th.
Continuing NMA Coverage
You’re probably expecting me to flog a litany of article types designed to fill a quota of daily publishing, but alas, we don’t have the big all-hands-on-deck push like last year. Instead, all we got is me, and I’m just the blog’s proofreader, not an expert in fantasy format tactics, and certainly not an expert on player picks.
Like many of you, I am seeing most of these player names for the first time. In fact, I’m using the fantasy game to inform my watching of the tournament. And even if I knew the players, you wouldn’t want my picks. I’m a perennial mid-pack fantasy player even in the EPL where I’ve been playing various fantasy formats since the 1999-2000 season. (Has it really been 20 seasons already?)
So this tournament will be more of a self-serve, self-help Never Manage Alone where I try to write an article per week to stimulate discussion. The information will have to come from gentle readers like you, especially those outside the US who care enough about your own nation’s team to study it in more detail than the rest of us and then tell us whom to watch. Feel free to brag and “wave the flag” a little — all in good fun of course.
If/when FIFA (or Fox Sports) launches a fantasy game, or when ShePlays adds a mini-league feature, I’ll create an NMA League and post an update with a link to join it. Until then, I hope some of you will join the ShePlays fantasy site and then post a comment here telling us what your team name is. Even if you don’t do fantasy footie, I hope you’ll join the community discussion :)
Will you be watching? Is your nation represented in this year’s tournament? Have you joined the fantasy game I found? Do you know any other squad-building points-based fantasy format? Do you know which players are likely to start (for any nation) after all of the rotation in the warm-up matches? Please share in the comments below!