A lifelong Birmingham City fan, Tom relocated to Germany for five years after graduating from university, where his interest in the Bundesliga developed. He began writing about and betting on German football for FST in 2016. He's also an avid fantasy football player and closely follows the Premier League and European competitions.
Thursday marks the beginning of this summer’s footballing frenzy in Russia, and how do you go about making the greatest show on Earth even greater? With fantasy football, of course!
Not got time to do all the research though? Free Super Tips has you covered.
All the obvious favourites – Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Jordan Henderson… – are among the top selected players heading into the tournament, but who are some of the other stars worth investing in?
Our focus begins on the group stages: Which forwards face the weakest defenses? Which midfielders are pulling all the strings? Which defenders have that important balance of attacking and defensive potential? And which goalkeepers have the best odds of keeping clean sheets?
Read on below to see our World Cup fantasy football tips.
Edinson Cavani (Uruguay)
Uruguay aren’t up there with the likes of Brazil in terms of how far they’re expected to progress in the 2018 World Cup, but in the case of Edinson Cavani and the Golden Boot, it’s all about the group stages. Group A is arguably the easiest group of the tournament, with Uruguay favourites to win theirs against Saudi Arabia, Egypt and hosts Russia.
During the South American qualifiers, Cavani scored ten goals for “La Celeste”, and in total the PSG striker has 42 goals in 100 appearances for his country. He does have to contend with fellow striker Luis Suarez for goals, but with the Barcelona forward being the villain at the past two World Cups, Cavani is clearly the less volatile choice.
Read More: World Cup 2018 Golden Boot Predictions
Gabriel Jesus (Brazil)
Gabriel Jesus is another player that had a hugely successful qualifying campaign, tallying seven goals and five assists across nine starts – more than any other Brazil player. His performances on the international stage have firmly established him as the first-choice striker for coach Tite and make him the latest player looking for legendary status as a Brazilian “Number 9”.
Jesus shouldn’t lack for chances either, with names like Neymar, Coutinho and Willian backing him up in attack. Against opposition like Costa Rica, Serbia and Switzerland in Group E, a talented and versatile forward such as Jesus should be capable of banging in a few and making his mark in his first ever World Cup. Expect the 21-year-old to get off to a flying start in Russia.
Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)
Romelu Lukaku already has 36 goals and 69 appearances for Belgium under his belt at the age of 24 – not a bad record by any means! However, his recent numbers are even more impressive. Lukaku has scored a massive 13 goals over his last nine outings for Belgium and goes into the tournament off the back of his highest scoring club campaign ever with 26 goals for Manchester United.
Belgium are another team which a huge amount of attacking talent that should yield many chances in the final third – as it did en route to Russia (43 goals scored). Lukaku and Belgium have the potential to cause Group G all sorts of problems, and though England may prove tough opposition, the likes of Panama and Tunisia should struggle to keep the towering striker at bay.
Julen Lopetegui has had two years to mould Spain’s players into his own style of play, and that style just so happens to be similar to that of their dominant era from a decade back. Unlike Vicente del Bosque’s ‘false nine’ system though, Lopetegui has favoured playing a striker for the most part. However, Spain’s reliance on their midfield talent – of which they have an abundance – is still evident.
It makes sense why Spain play this way too – it’s difficult to leave such quality out. Versatile players such as David Silva, Andres Iniesta, and Isco are perfect candidates for a free moving role in midfield. Isco is the player that catches our eye for fantasy football, having become an integral part of Spain’s squad. He’s bagged seven goals in his last eight matches for them, including a hat trick against Argentina back in March, so should prove dangerous against weaker opposition like Morocco and Iran in Group B.
Philippe Coutinho (Brazil)
Brazil head coach Tite has masterminded a revolution since taking over the national team in 2016, setting up a steady defense to compliment Brazil’s outrageous attacking options. In Neymar, Philippe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus, Willian, and Paulinho, Brazil have arguably the best offensive options in Russia and it doesn’t take a genius to see why they’re favourites for the tournament.
Group E looks pretty straightforward with Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia all potential cannon fodder, and Coutinho looks the second most important player creatively after Neymar – though with the latter not long back from injury, he could prove even more important! Coutinho is in top form going into the tournament, with eight goals across his last nine outings for club and country, and his ability from set pieces should see him involved there somehow too.
Yannick Carrasco (Belgium)
Belgium are on an unbelievable run, unbeaten in nineteen matches (W14 D5). What’s even more impressive is that the Red Devils have scored a whopping 64 goals over this streak, with Carrasco having contributed 5 of these – just one behind Eden Hazard (6) in European qualifying. It’s not only goals that the former-Monaco and Atletico Madrid winger has in his locker though.
Carrasco is also renowned for assists – just one behind Kevin De Bruyne (5) in European qualifying. He is tasked with providing width on the wing, and should the 24-year-old continues to link up well with Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku on the left hand side, he should improve on these numbers. Expect Belgium to prove themselves a dominant force in the 2018 World Cup, especially against the likes of Tunisia and Panama in Group G.
Joshua Kimmich (Germany)
Germany’s Joshua Kimmich is often described as a “Swiss Army knife of a player” due to his ability to play in multiple positions. Despite starting his career in midfield, the 23-year-old is now utilised as a right-back by club (Bayern Munich) and country. How does this help? He’s proficient in both offensive and defensive duties.
Kimmich tallied up two goals and nine assists in ten matches for Germany during the European qualification stages. He gets forward a lot under Joachim Löw’s system and with goalkeeper Manuel Neuer between the sticks he’s likely to keep a few clean sheets too. Expect the 23-year-old to play a vital role in helping to unlock Mexican, Swedish and South Korean defenses during the group stages.
Read More: Can Germany win back-to-back World Cups?
Kieran Trippier (England)
England’s raiding full-back earned plaudits for his Man of the Match performance against Nigeria last week, sealing his place in Gareth Southgate’s starting eleven in the process. The Three Lions have come on leaps and bounds at the back since their last major international tournament, suggesting that an English defender is worthy of inclusion in a fantasy back-line.
As a defender that likes to get forward, a player like Trippier comes with the potential of assists in attack and is a cheaper alternative to someone like Kyle Walker, who is less likely to push forward from his role in the back three. He also has experience with, and an understanding of, danger man Harry Kane from their time at Spurs together, so the duo could prove particularly dangerous in favourable Group G matches against Tunisia and Panama.
Ricardo Rodriguez (Switzerland)
You may be noticing a theme here. Left-back Ricardo Rodriguez is another defender that frequently finds himself involved in action in the opposition half. He might have had a tricky season domestically at AC Milan, but he’s still a key man on the international stage. Given his form, he should fancy himself to help out in either of the group games against Costa Rica or Serbia.
Rodriguez not only netted in BOTH of Switzerland’s pre-World Cup friendlies, but he also scored against Latvia and Northern Ireland in qualifying. Importantly, his goal against Japan last week showed that he’s still on penalty duties, something that’s well worth considering for fantasy football. He’s also been known to bang in a free kick in his time too, though he may have to share those responsibilities with fellow left-footers Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka.
Read More: World Cup Group E Analysis
Jose Gimenez (Uruguay)
As mentioned before, Uruguay were handed a favourable draw with Egypt, Russia and Saudi Arabia to manoeuvre in Group A. And with clean sheets in five of their last seven matches, it’s tough to see Uruguay conceding that many goals against such weak opposition, particularly with the ever solid center back Diego Godin of Atletico Madrid marshaling the back line.
As an Atletico player himself, Jose Gimenez already has plenty of history with Godin, but is a cheaper way into the Uruguayan defense. He should be looking to get a couple of clean sheets from these favourable fixtures, and his aerial threat from corners, as he showed with a headed goal in the 3-0 win over Uzbekistan last week, means he also has reasonable attacking potential too.
Jordan Pickford (England)
Everton’s number 1 looks set to start for the Three Lions after being given the go ahead by England boss Gareth Southgate. Jordan Pickford has been praised on his shot stopping in the past and will be positioned behind an England defense that conceded just three goals across ten games in European qualifying – the joint best record with 2010 World Cup winners Spain.
His ball distribution is another factor that makes him dangerous. Pickford has the ability to put defenses on the back foot straight from his hands, so even has some potential to pick up an assist if he can find someone like Raheem Sterling or Jamie Vardy on the counter. Gareth Southgate will, of course, also be hoping for clean sheets against Tunisia and Panama in Group G too.
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