After four long years, the World Cup Finals are back! All eyes will be on Russia for the next month as 32 teams battle to claim the title as best in the world. Since the last World Cup, DFS has really taken off. FanDuel and DraftKings are both offering soccer slates for the entirety of the tournament. Speaking of changes in the DFS soccer world, FanDuel has officially changed their scoring format for soccer. If you have not already checked that out, I highly suggest you do because there are significant changes. The opening game of the World Cup was yesterday; a ?-? game between host country Russia and Saudi Arabia. Friday brings us the first main slate of the tournament with the first game 8:00am ET. It appears most slates for the first 10 days or so will lock at this time in the States so be ready early.
Luis Suarez (Uruguay vs. Egypt, $12,500) – From a fantasy perspective on this slate, Suarez gets the nod as top forward for me. A matchup against a weak Egyptian defense puts Suarez and company in prime position for a fast start to their World Cup campaign. Suarez had a good season with Barcelona, and will be Uruguay’s top striker. Suarez is the top international goal-scorer for Uruguay for a reason, and he should be able to add to his top mark in a weak Group A. Suarez is a name people know in a plus matchup, so expect his ownership to be high. He’s an elite cash play, and is still viable in GPP lobbies. Edinson Cavani ($11,500) is another name to look at for Uruguay in this matchup. He is more of a GPP play than Suarez in my mind, but still cash viable.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Iran vs. Morocco, $7,500) – The key to making money on these World Cup slates is going to be finding those players that your average soccer fan doesn’t know. Jahanbakhsh is that kind of player. He had a big season with AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands scoring 21 goals and adding 12 assists. While attacking is going to be tougher for him with better competition now, he’s still going to be the main producer for Iran. If you roster Jahanbakhsh, the hope is that he gets some shots on goal while adding other peripheral stats. If he scores, you’ll be looking really smart, but Morocco’s defense is respectable. They did not concede in goal in any of their six qualifiers, but they will be facing superior opponents now. Jahanbakhsh is my favorite cheap forward who’ll help you get more studs. If you’re looking to punt deep, check out Karim Ansarifard ($5,000). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a starting forward priced this cheap, but maybe FanDuel did not expect him to start when they made prices. Either way, Ansarifard put together a decent season for Olympiakos this year.
David Silva (Spain vs. Portugal, $10,000) – From a fantasy perspective, there isn’t a whole lot to like from Spain aside from a handful of players including Silva. Silva had five goals and five assists in qualifying, and takes the majority of the set pieces for the team. It’s a big price to pay for Silva, but I like this matchup for him. Unfortunately, he’s another name people will recognize from playing EPL (and stacking Manchester City) all season, so expect him to be chalky. If you’re playing cash games, it’s okay to eat this chalk, but he would not be as good of a choice in GPPs. Isco for $2,000 less makes much more sense for exposure to Spain in GPPs.
Hakim Ziyech (Iran vs. Morocco, $8,500) – Ziyech is another one of those players that you need to know early in the tournament before people figure out who he is and his ownership skyrockets. Ziyech has been a machine for Ajax (Netherlands), leading the league in both shots (4.9) and chances created (4.2) for 2 consecutive seasons. Additionally, Ziyech takes set pieces and penalty kicks for Morocco. This is going to be Ziyech’s best matchup of the group stage and most likely his lowest price as well. Take advantage while you can.
Giorgian de Arrascaeta (Uruguay vs. Egypt, $7,500) – Giorgian de Arrascaeta is the main source of creativity in the midfield for Uruguay. I am projecting a high floor from Arrascaeta in the group stage, so with his affordable price and good matchups, he’ll be a mainstay in my lineups. Arrascaeta is a good place to look if you want to complete a Uruguay stack against a weak Egypt squad.
Diego Godin (Uruguay vs. Egypt, $7,000) – With FanDuel’s new scoring, defenders now receive 5 points for keeping a clean sheet. Godin is one of the better center defenders in this whole tournament, and Uruguay is far and away the best team in their group. Therefore, Godin should be in line for good fantasy performances. On this slate specifically, Uruguay is the clearest bet to keep a clean sheet, giving Uruguay defenders an edge in my opinion. Jose Gimenez ($5,000) is also a viable cash option considering his appeal with a clean sheet likely. Plus, his price will allow you to target some higher priced players.
Morocco defenders – After taking a deeper look at this slate, I believe that three of the four Moroccan defenders are viable plays. First off is Achraf Hakimi ($5,500). Hakimi is a 19-year-old defender who has seen the field several times for Real Madrid this year. His speed and attacking ability as a defender will be extremely useful for Morocco in this tournament and going forward. Hakimi is a strong play on DraftKings since he can score points from his crosses. While crosses don’t count on FanDuel, he’s still a good play for his upside. Also, a matchup with Iran could result in a clean sheet (and an extra five points). Center defenders Medhi Benatia ($4,500) and Romain Saiss ($5,000) are other Moroccan defenders that will gain some interest on this slate. Morocco did not concede a goal in any of their six qualifying games, and could get another one against Iran on Friday. Peripheral stats will be important for these two. Saiss offers slightly more upside but Benatia is the better overall player and he’s cheaper.
If you’re into taking big risks, Rouzbeh Cheshmi ($3,500) is ridiculously cheap on FanDuel for someone who is expected to start the game. Getting a starter for that price is literally unheard of (because $4,000 was the minimum for EPL and UCL). He could be worth a dart if you want some extra salary for studs.
David de Gea (Spain vs. Portugal, $6,500) – With FanDuel’s new GK scoring, the strategy is going to change somewhat. Goalkeepers are now docked 2.5 points per goal they allow compared to 1 point. Plus, goalkeepers now get 7 bonus points for their team winning the game. So, each goalkeeper could obtain up to 17 additional points after the final whistle. With that said, David de Gea is my favorite GPP goalkeeper. Outside of Ronaldo, I think Portugal is largely overrated as a team. I could see Spain keeping a clean sheet in this game, and I also think they’ll win. What’s even better, is that Portugal is good enough where de Gea will be needed to make some saves. All things considered, de Gea is a good cash play with his low floor, but he also has massive upside.
Fernando Muslera (Uruguay vs. Egypt, $5,500) – Muslera is my favorite cash GK for this slate, and in the group stage in general. Uruguay should win all three games in the group stage, and three clean sheets is definitely not out of the question. The only concern with Muslera is probably going to be his lack of saves, but I am not hung up on it. With saves counting as 3 points each, you need about 2 saves to equal a win (7 points). I would rather take a goalkeeper who is in a great spot for a win, than take a riskier GK just for 2 additional saves.
Thanks for reading. Check out my Twitter @vdray5 for any updates or additional information on the slate. Stay tuned for more World Cup content in the coming days.