With the Thursday night kick-off looming, how’s your FIFA World Cup Fantasy team looking? For this article, I’ll be doing a quick prediction as to how each group will pan out and round it off with my top expensive and cheap picks in relative to other options listed in the same position. (For example, a 6.5m defender would be expensive, while an 8.0m forward would be considered cheap)
Group A: 1. Uruguay 2. Russia 3. Egypt 4. Saudi Arabia
It really is a toss-up between Russia and Egypt for the second spot. However, despite Russia’s poor form leading up to the tournament, coupled with some key injuries, I can see Russia rising to the occasion, with the backing of the home crowd crucial for them to do just enough to pip Egypt to the second spot. Egypt should have Mohamed Salah back, but he might not be able to perform at full capacity. Barring a massive collapse, Uruguay should top the table comfortably.
Top expensive pick: Edinson Cavani, Uruguay (forward, 9.5m)
Top cheap pick: Fedor Smolov, Russia (forward, 8.0m)
Group B: 1. Spain 2. Morocco 3. Portugal 4. Iran
Spain play Portugal first, arguably the toughest matchup of the group, and I can see Spain dispatching Portugal comfortably. The second round will then become a must-win for Portugal. Morocco will also look at this match as a must-win, given they face Spain in their final match, and between the two, Portugal are more liable to make mistakes. As such, I can see Morocco having just enough quality to knock out the reigning Euro champions.
Top expensive pick: Isco, Spain (8.5m)
Top cheap pick: Achraf Hakimi, Morocco (4.5m)
Group C: 1. France 2. Peru 3. Denmark 4. Australia
France have too much quality all round, while Peru have received a boost thanks to the availability of captain Paolo Guerrero. Denmark have Christian Erikssen, but no one else of similar skill and value. Australia will finish bottom, but will probably give a good fight.
Top expensive pick: Antoinne Griezmann, France (forward, 10m)
Top cheap pick: Pedro Gallese, Peru (goalkeeper, 4.5m)
Group D: 1. Argentina 2. Iceland 3. Croatia 4. Nigeria
Argentina are a confusing team at the moment, but as long as Lionel Messi is available, he should do enough to get them through the group stages. I’ve also tipped Iceland to follow up their Euro achievements with another surprise, fending off both Croatia and Nigeria in a very tricky group that is likely to go down the wire.
Top expensive pick: Lionel Messi, Argentina (forward, 12m)
Top cheap pick: K. Arnason, Iceland (defender, 5.0m)
Group E: 1. Brazil 2. Switzerland 3. Serbia 4. Costa Rica
Brazil are running red-hot, and their only real setback in their preparations has been the injury to Dani Alves. Nevertheless, they should be able to finish as champions of Group E easily. It’s hard to call for the rest of the contenders as I feel they’re of relatively equal quality, and any of them could finish in the no 2 spot for Group E.
Top expensive pick: Neymar, Brazil (forward, 12m)
Top cheap pick: Adam Ljajic, Serbia (midfielder, 6.5m)
Group F: 1. Germany 2. Mexico 3. Sweden 4. South Korea
While I still expect Germany to make it past the group stages at the top, Mexico and Sweden could really make it tough for them. South Korea are destined to finish at rock bottom, but unfortunately Germany only face them in the third Group F game, making the Joachim Low’s players less attractive than they could have been.
Top expensive pick: Joshua Kimmich, Germany (defender, 6.5m)
Top cheap pick: Emil Forsberg, Sweden (midfielder, 7.5m)
Group G: 1. England 2. Belgium 3. Tunisia 4. Panama
I expect Tunisia to give a scare, but there should be enough quality for both England and Belgium to be on six points by the time they face each other in the final group match. I put England on top, but it’s quite likely by virtue of goal difference.
Top expensive pick: Harry Kane, England (forward, 11m)
Top cheap pick: Wahbi Khazri, Tunisia (forward, 6.5m)
Group H: 1. Poland 2. Columbia 3. Senegal 4. Japan
Poland and Columbia will face each other in the second round, making it tricky fantasy-wise. Japan are in danger of being the punching bag for the other three teams, who have very strong attacks. And while I expect Poland to top the group thanks to their firepower, their defense isn’t solid either. Group H could be this World Cup edition’s all-round goal fest location.
Top expensive pick: James Rodriguez, Columbia (midfielder, 9m)
Top cheap pick: Sadio Mane, Senegal (forward, 8.5m)