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Stag's Take - World Cup

Sunday, June 10, 2018


Stag’s Take - World Cup


It’s less than a month since the Premier League season concluded on May 13. After a brief hiatus, I’m back to give round by round Fantasy Football tips on the World Cup kicking off in Russia on Thursday.

 

Rather than stubbornly try to look through every group and pick out players who may score you one goal in encounters with vastly superior opposition, what I aim to do with this article is examine the rules of this fantasy game, which differ from the Official Premier League game. This format also has a smattering of chips, a transfer policy that allow for multiple reshuffles of your squad, and in-round substitutions – plenty to consider, I’ll do my best!

 

 

Squad Structure

 

As per the usual Fantasy Premier League format, you select 15 players, broken down the same way. In the World Cup game, wingers like Mo Salah, Eden Hazard, and Raheem Sterling are classed as forwards, which has created a dearth of options in midfield. Thankfully, the addition of the 5-2-3 formation liberates managers inclined to try and mirror an hourglass with their squad. As we’ll see later in this article, follow this strategy at your peril as substitutions give everyone a second chance to recover from their blanks whilst you’re hoping for a miracle goal from this game’s Tom Carroll, Carlos Sanchez of Colombia, a 4.5 priced midfielder with 17% ownership (at time of writing).

 

As per the usual game, your Round One squad’s value is capped at $100.00 however that will grow to $105.00 for the knockout phases. Fear not, you’ll be able to enjoy that extra dosh as you please too, as the three group rounds where you have just one transfer are followed by a chance to refit your squad with unlimited transfers ahead of the knockout stages. Beyond that, you get three, five, and five transfers in the following rounds to remove players whose World Cups have come to an end.

 

One could gripe that this model removes an element of the “skill” or “challenge” posed by a fantasy game in a cup tournament. That said, three transfers after the Round of 16 would do little to patch up a team who has haemorrhaged eight or nine players to elimination. Thus, I definitely agree with the gradually increasing free transfer limit. What I don’t like is the extra Wildcard chip which acts as a complete “Get out of jail free” card for a manager who gets their knockout predictions completely wrong. Cup competitions are heartless, they don’t give a backdoor to participants – the fantasy game shouldn’t either. I’ll touch upon chip strategy properly deeper in this article, and expand upon my favoured wildcard strategy if it isn’t obvious enough already from that zealous aside.

 

 

Substitutions

 

Subs are by far and away the biggest game changer in the World Cup game. All of your fifteen matter.

 

Instead of picking your round squad based on the standard mix of form and fixtures, you need to pick chronologically, benching your players who star in the later games in a given round. Sift through blankers and swap your captaincy too as you need – move the armband every day if you have to to accumulate the maximum points your motley crew can deliver you. Cue the day you’re relying on your last player, a budget enabler suddenly endowed with your captaincy, after you picked the wrong player in a given day three times in a row – multiple more days of torment with a MNF captain-esque conclusion!


Rotating defenders and ‘keepers are one of FPL Folk’s favourite concepts. In the fantasy World Cup format, you can add extra zest to that by swapping them in the round. Beware of selecting a rotating pair who play in the same day though, as a player who has played can’t be summoned from your bench!

 

 

Boosters (Chips)

 

Coupled with the aforementioned Wildcard, the seven round World Cup fantasy game comes with a Bench Boost and what the FIFA overlords call “Maximum Captain”. The Max Cap chip is essentially a chip which removes the captaincy conundrum from your considerations for a round, as your top scorer’s points are doubled. Bench Boost does exactly what it says on the tin.

 

As I alluded to earlier, the Wildcard should be preserved for an occasion in the knockout rounds when a large percentage of your fifteen crash out in the same round. It seems ludicrous to use it in the group stages when you need to plan for just three rounds when you build your Round One side, have substitutes in-play, and have unlimited transfers for the transition to the knockout phase.

 

For me, the Max Cap should be used in the group stages of the tournament. You have a squad populated by a more diverse selection of players than you will later in the tournament, so you have more coverage of quality players playing in the games where there’s a frequent gulf in class. I’ve done a subjective analysis of the group fixtures and concluded that Round One is the best time to use the chip.

 

The fixtures:

 

France v Australia

 

Argentina v Iceland

 

Croatia v Nigeria

 

Belgium v Panama

 

Colombia v Japan

 

Some of you may feel that other rounds come with more lopsided fixtures. The second best for me was the third week, but I wouldn’t want to be hedging my bets on top teams when they could set out a second team to rest players following two progression securing wins. How else do you think Ireland were able to beat Italy at Euro 2016? Of course, the first round comes with uncertainties in squad selection and with form a mystery – there is no ideal.

 

 

I’ll save bench boost for a knockout round, when we are more certain of the starting elevens of the remaining teams – you’re less likely to see one of your players benched then and you can even prepare for it with a wildcard. My feeling as it stands is that the first knockout round where in-form sides are rewarded with easier fixtures by design, but fantasy managers have the luxury of unlimited transfers to tee up for the games.

 

 

Scoring

 

The FIFA-notable international fast food chain people behind this game have developed a good scoring addition which is not currently present in Fantasy Premier League. They’ve introduced a two point reward for earning a penalty, irrespective of whether it is scored. Unfortunately, that does mean that a player won’t get the three point assist for a conversion from the spot.  This marginally improves the points potential of the likes of Dele Alli, but shouldn’t be a huge factor in your selection by any means.

 

 

Price Changes

 

It’s worth noting that price knowledge built up in the group round of this tournament will be null and void come the Round of 16. To quote the official rule set: “Original player prices will remain the same until the group stage (Round 3). Upon completion of the group stage, player prices will change depending on performances.” How much will they vary? Time will tell – just worth being aware of.

 

 

World Cups are filled with shocks, drama, and the slow onset of fatigue, injuries, and suspensions. The World Cup fantasy game is a very hands-on version of fantasy football, where you need to be aware of fixtures and results day by day. Squad predictions will prove awry, goals will come from unexpected places, and England will probably lose on penalties. Enjoy the month of football, it's magical.

 

 

FPL Stag has just returned to Ireland after a semester studying abroad in Spain, whom he has adopted for the tournament in Russia. He produces weekly content on the Official Premier League fantasy football game throughout the season for Rotoworld.

 

 






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