2018 World Cup: Round 1

At the conclusion of Monday’s World Cup games, I felt more like Leo Messi, rather than Christiano Ronaldo, as my overall rank plummeted 400k. Bad decisions? Poor player selection? Or the ultimate factor, luck? Round 1 ends today and three hours later Round 2 begins. For me, the decision was made prior to kick off, as I activated my Wild Card during the Russia v Saudi Arabia match for Round 2. The Bench Boost was also activated for the first round.

Round 1 appeared to be heading in a positive direction, until a 90+4 minute goal by Iran that sunk Morocco and my defense, as I had defenders, Achraf Hakimi, Medhi Benatia and goalkeeper, Monir El Kajoui. A total of 18 points quickly faded to just 6 points, which reduced any chance of a strong start. Sadly, I had two Russian defenders (Smolnikov and Ignashevich) starting until a last minute change before kickoff. My remaining defenders, Guillermo Varela (URU) and Thomas Meunier (BEL) each picked up clean sheets, with the Belgian given a yellow card, still finished on a combined 11 points.

While James Rodriguez plays today, Christian Eriksen (6 points) has equaled the combined points of Timo Werner, Neymar and Edison Cavani, all of whom had no attacking returns. Not sure any fantasy manager expected many of the big guns to be shut out like they were. That can’t be said for the likes of Ronaldo, scoring the goal of the tournament on a free kick to pick up a hat trick against Spain in their 3-3 draw. Not to be outdone, Diego Costa was in excellent form picking up a brace. However, I didn’t consider either player because of that round one match up. Starting a 5-2-3 formation left me with Cheikhou Kouyate (SEN), Yoshimar Yotun (PER) and Carlos Sanchez (COL) on the bench. Senegal and Columbia play today and Yotun didn’t return for Peru.

Up front was dismal as noted Uruguay had a hard fought 1-0 win over a stingy Egypt team. Cavani hit the bar and Luis Suarez missed a sitter or it could have been a different story for La Celeste. Germany looked absolutely terrible playing Mexico, who come into the game with a solid defensive plan and executed the counter attack to precision. The score should have been 2-0, but Chicarito wasn’t able to pull the trigger in a 2-on-1. Mexico has been my surprise team of the tournament, take nothing away from the blue collar players who make up the Icelandic squad.

Not sure what to make of Brazil, as they entered the tournament with high expectations but a 1-1 draw with Switzerland and I have dialed my expectations back and don’t favor Neymar in the next round. Defensive, I have also moved off the Brazilian defenders in round one fearing they would not keep a clean sheet and I was rewarded moving Miranda.

As I write this, Carlos Sanchez of Columbia was just sent off with a red card, a hand ball in the box on Japan’s first attack that resulted in a 1-0 score on a spot kick. Chalk up a -3 point for Sanchez. That Messi feeling continues.

Looking ahead, I feel confident my squad will rebound in Round 2. With the Wild Card activated, I clean house of 14 players and move in a different direction. Based on action in Round 1 I am playing match ups for next round. Spain and Uruguay dominate my team with three players from each nation, while I double up on Portugal and Mexico. As an American, I say ‘VIVA MEXICO! One Brazilian fills that final starting spot. As for my bench, I have gone with all budget players, none of which I intend to us.

Again, basing my Round 2 starting XI on match ups, you can’t argue with three weak teams of Morocco, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Sure Iran pulled out a last gasp victory, but they won’t be able to handle Spain. Costa and Isco get the starts in my team. For Portugal, they face Morocco and if they can drop 3 on a world class team like Spain, what will they do to Morocco? Ronaldo with another 3-goal performance? Anything is possible. Russia put 5 by the Saudis, but the front line of Uruguay led by Suarez could leave a big mark on the scoreboard.

Bernardo Silva and Philippe Coutinho round out a 3-man midfield, as Brazil faces Costa Rica, as they look to grab an all important 3-points in Round 2. Defensively, I am led by Guillermo Varela, the only carry over from Round 1 and Jose Gimenez of Uruguay against the Saudis, while Hector Moreno and Guillermo Ochoa are introduced as Mexico faces Korea. Gerard Pique rounds out my back four defenders.

The bench, is weak and I understand that. The only player I could potentially start will be Iury Gazinsky of Russia today against Egypt. Emil Hallfredsson, Hiroki Sakai and Francis Uzoho (GK) round out the bench. It’s risky play, but points are needed, which I have attempted to maximize in Round 2. Speaking of maximizing points, I have also activated my Maximum Captain chip.

Good luck to all managers!

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