UEFA European Championship (EURO 2016) is just 3 days away, as national teams playing their final tune up games before France v Romania kick off on June 10. I’ve spent the better part of the last 10 days going over stats and news in order to put together my 15 player fantasy teams in McDonald’ Fantasy Football. What makes this challenge tough is the fact, many don’t watch some of these national players. Outside of the more popular leagues; La Liga, EPL, Serie A, Ligue 1, and the Bundesliga I don’t much thought into just how many leagues and great footballers there are worldwide.
Much like the World Cup, national teams play qualifiers during group play to fill the 24 slots who will vie for the title of best team in Europe. Spain is the current champion, winning the last two competitions in 2008 and 2012, while they are the odds on favorite to hoist the cup, France has won their last two championships on their home soil; World Cup in 1998, the European Championship in 1984 and 2000. World Cup champions, Germany are a top contender as well, but defensively they have been a mess recently, followed by a string of defeats.
The challenge, field a 15 player (2 Goalkeepers,5 Defenders,5 Midfielders,3 Forwards) on a budget of €100 million. There are eight formations for your starting XI. I’ve selected a 3-4-3 formation for this tournament, in hopes the big named strikers fill the back of the nets with goals. This could potentially allow for the big money strikers to shine, but cause roster issues with your remaining budget. Wild cards and the ability to change your line ups after Gameday 1 and Gameday 2 allow some leeway for changes during the group stages.
Using the resources at my disposal, Fantasy Football Geek, Fantasy Football First, Fantasy Football Scout and FPL Bet, as well as current EURO news pieces, I have built, what I feel is a competitive squad ahead of the Friday kick off featuring the host nation, France taking on Romania.
‘Vivo Azzurri’, my current squad for the upcoming championship is pictured above, but not the team I started with. The original line up featured: De Gea, Boateng, Dier, Djourou, Ramos, Alli, Fabergas, Gotze, Giroud, Lewandowski and Muller. It provided me a starting point, nothing more.
First idea I had, fill my squad with 3 players (max from each nation) from Spain, Germany and France, while filling in the remaining slots with budget players. While I didn’t quite get what I wanted in my first attempt, I felt I there were some question marks that I didn’t have answers for. Eric Dier (5.0) and Dele Alli (6.5) are both great buys, but I am not sold on England. The fact Alli is playing behind Rooney in the midfield made me hesitant on keeping him, yet 33% of managers still feel Alli’s place is warranted. Dier is one of those offensive minded defenders for Spurs, coming off a great season. Selected by just 9% of managers, I don’t feel England’s defense is very strong, outside of Joe Hart, which means Dier needs get forward in the attack. It was my hope to find defenders who can get forward, but also have the possibility of a clean sheet or two during the group stage.
The current squad is anchored by three strong midfielders, Alaba, DeBruyne and Pogba with Forsberg (5.5) as the budget starter and Joao Mario (6.0) on the bench. While there has been some unrest in the Belgium camp with KDB, I am keeping the door open for Mario Gotze (9.0), which would save me 1.0 to spend. Looking over the midfield options starting at 7.0 include, Fabergas, Matuidi, Grosicki, Modic and Kroos, as well as a slew of players at 6.5, including the aforementioned Alli. Decisions, decisions…
Defensively, I had thoughts of using De Gea or Neuer, both priced at 6.0, but felt Patricio of POR had better group stage games, allowing me to save 1.0 to use elsewhere on the pitch. Jordi Alba (7.0) is the most expensive defender, who can get forward but also put up clean sheets. Going forward I looked for another attacking defender, initially I had plans for Koscielny (vs ROU, ALB, SWI), but his tendency for yellow cards was a turn off, primarily used on set pieces and corners, I felt more confident in Ricardo Rodriguez at 6.0 (vs ALB, ROU, FRA). At 5.0, Dier reentered the starting XI for his ability to get forward, while Denayer gets the nod for Belgium, although their defense hasn’t been very strong during the qualifiers. Currently I have 5 defenders that all start for their respective nations.
Ah yes, strikers, the centerpiece of any fantasy squad, the transferring out of Lewandowski freed up 3.5 to spend, after downgrading to Mario Mandzukic (8.0), while Giroud and Muller go unchanged. For a moment, I considered looking for a budget forward at 6.0, but felt there was too much uncertainty over their starting status. Nolito was the only name I considered, solely based on the friendlies leading up to start of the tournament.
By potentially making this move, I would change my shift my formation from a 3-4-3 to a 3-5-2, using Giroud and Muller as my strikers and Alaba, DeBruyne, Pogba, Gotze and Forsberg as my starting midfield. Yet there comes a point in preparation where you start to talk yourself out of a strong starting XI, in search of a stronger squad. Currently, I am at that point, looking to improve on a squad before the whistle has blown for the first match, going off qualifiers and friendlies that don’t always tell the full story, full of inflated statistics, as many teams end up playing a “minnow” during qualifying.
So with 2 days remaining before I official set my lineup, I will continue to tweak my lineup, hoping to selection a strong starting XI that will provide me the best opportunity when on the pitch.