Here’s Rob Reid with his fantasy World Cup semi final tips article as he updates us on his team and transfers after reviewing the quarters
fantasy World Cup semi final tips – Rob Reid updates us on his team
You can also see the Geeks teams for the semi’s as well
Another round has come and gone and we’re getting down to the wire now. With the remaining South American contenders eliminated, The World Cup will definitely remain in Europe for a fourth tournament and all of the four remaining nations will fancy their chances. Let’s start by having a look at what happened in the quarters.
It proved a tricky round for my team with a fairly average score of 40 points leading to a small drop in overall rank from 3827th to 7244th. I got 3 of the 4 results correct, but my decision to back Brazil and replace my 2 Belgians proved somewhat costly. Things were going ok after the France game with Griezmann returning a goal and an assist, but it quickly went pear-shaped in the evening as Belgium surprisingly eliminated the favourites with only Coutinho providing an assist as a consolation. This also eliminated 3 of my squad members to add to the 2 Uruguayans I lost in the earlier game.
This left me in a tenuous position on Saturday. It started ok with a clean sheet from Pickford, though I was kicking myself at not including Harry Maguire who had been in my drafts up until I made my final transfer calls. The game I was worried about though was the evening match – and I was really sweating by the end as a Russia win would have seen me unable to field 11 in the semis. Thankfully Croatia came through the shoot-out giving me 6 players through, which with the 5 transfers available for the semis will allow me to pick a full 11. Phew! I have to confess though, I was sad to see Russia go out. The tournament is always better when the hosts perform well and their team showed real grit and courage. They can certainly leave with their heads held high.
The good news is that all the remaining players now have a guaranteed 2 games left. The bad news is that the nations that get beaten in the semis will probably utilise their other squad members in the 3rd/4th play-off possibly with the exception of anyone who’s chasing the Golden Boot. Therefore, I want to try and get 6 players through to the final for gametime security. I’ll then make late transfers for the last round as the deadline is the kick-off for the 3rd/4th play-off so we’ll at least see those teams and be able to move squad members who might have been rotated in or out as necessary.
So at this stage, anyone can win matches and both games are very tight calls.
Tuesday – France vs Belgium
Both teams scored impressive wins against strong opposition in their quarters and have tons of quality going forward. France are the slight favourites with the bookies and will fancy their chances of getting to their third World Cup Final. They have world class talent up front in Mbappe and Griezmann but I’m still not overly sold on their defence who have looked vulnerable against teams who are willing to attack. They were actually strangely quiet going forward against Uruguay, with the South Americans having a higher xG score (1.01 vs 0.46) though this may reflect them scoring early and sitting in.
Belgium were outstanding in the first half against Brazil, but it was real backs to the wall stuff in the second with Brazil missing several big chances, Belgium being very lucky not to concede a penalty and Courtois making a great save from Neymar right at the death. This was reflected in the relative xG scores (Brazil 2.87 vs Belgium 0.46.) Indeed Belgium only registered 1 meaningful attempt in the second half. They’ve also been dealt a blow with Thomas Meunier suspended for the semi-final after picking up his second yellow of the tournament. They are however the highest scorers in the competition and only Brazil in 2002 have got to the semi-finals having scored more goals than the Belgians tally of 14 with the tournament in this format.
It’s a tough one to call, but I fancy the Belgians here even though they’re underdogs with the bookies. It could be a tight low-scoring game despite the talent on show; an early goal would be useful if we’re looking for an open game.
Bookies Odds – Win – France 20/13, Belgium 11/5. To qualify – France 8/11, Belgium – evens. Clean Sheet – France 15/8, Belgium 23/10
Wednesday – Croatia vs England
Croatia looked great in the group stages but have had to battle their way through the knockouts. That being said, the teams they’ve faced in the last 2 games have set up to contain which doesn’t suit Croatia’s style which is more geared to counter attacking. They may be more comfortable playing a team who will have a go at them. Much will depend on the vaunted centre midfielder partnership of Modric and Rakitic who have looked a bit out of sorts in the knockouts. They will look for more from Mandzukic who has drifted in and out of matches so far but can pop up with a goal at any time. They’ve also been dealt a blow in the build-up with an injury to attacking right-back Sime Vrsaljko which will see him miss the game.
England were clinical in dispatching Sweden in the 1/4s and seem to be growing into the tournament as it progresses. There is still an argument that they are still yet to face a real quality side and Croatia will surely offer more than Colombia or Sweden. England are a massive threat at set-pieces though and they do have some genuine pace going forward. Croatia must find a way to nullify the threats of Kane, Stones and Maguire at set plays with the delivery provided by Trippier and Young key here. England have also been boosted by the news that their squad will be fully fit, despite concerns to the fitness of Jordan Henderson and he will be key in nullifying the threat of Modric and Rakitic.
It’s another tricky shout, but I fancy England to sneak through here. I suspect the extra minutes Croatia have played may start to add up, especially should this one go to extra-time, which it may well do.
Bookies Odds – Win – Croatia 23/10, England 13/10. To qualify – Croatia 6/5, England 8/13. Clean Sheet – Croatia 21/10, England 29/20
Semi-finals tend to be closer, more cagey affairs. Looking back at previous tournaments, there have traditionally been more clean sheets in this round than in the other knockout games (7/16 clean sheets going back to 2002.) Also looking across the board, in this tournament the midfielders are performing worse in terms of scores than the strikers and defenders. Therefore it would make sense to concentrate on a strong front 3 and covering all the bases in defence for my threadbare squad.
Ok so I only have 6 players through thanks to making a bad call on the Brazil vs Belgium game. These players are – Pickford, Lovren, Strinic, Modric, Kane and Griezemann. Strinic is a slight doubt but should be fit – there’s not much I can do about it anyway with only 5 transfers! The good news is that I’ve not really got any budget constraints with Neymar and Coutinho amongst those knocked out. Therefore I’m going to sell the highest value outfield players who have been knocked out, so out go Neymar, Coutinho, Granqvist, Carvajal and Miranda with me deploying a rather unorthodox 5-2-3 formation for the semis with no subs.
I’ll start with defenders and I want to cover each team initially so Umtiti and Vertonghen come in to give France and Belgium coverage. That leaves me one slot where I can double up on England, France or Belgium (I already have double Croatia.) England have the best clean sheet odds so I’m going to double up with Kieran Trippier likely coming in to also give assist threat though I am tempted by the higher ceiling offered by the goal threat of Maguire or Stones.
That leaves one midfield and one forward slot. For midfield, again I have Croatia coverage in Modric so I’m looking at the other games. Pogba is an option for France and Lingard and Alli are the best options for England. Kevin De Bruyne however played a more advanced role against Brazil and I expect him to start there again versus France. He’s in. For the forwards, it’s a straight fight between Lukaku and Hazard of Belgium and Mbappe of France. With me already having Griezmann, I’m going to go with the Belgium option and I’ve favoured Lukaku with Hazard shunted slightly wider in the Brazil match by KDB’s more advanced role.
Captain-wise – I’ll go Lukaku on Tuesday and Kane on Wednesday. I’ve decided that I’m going to save my Maximum Captain chip for the last round. I’m going to make my transfers on Tuesday just prior to kick-off, I’ll post on Twitter if there’s any changes of mind.
Here’s the team with transfers unconfirmed
All the best for the semi-finals folks, whoever you’ve picked.