Neymar (Mexico vs. Brazil, $12,500) – My writeup on Neymar is going to be very similar to other times I’ve written about him. He’s one of the most explosive players (real life and fantasy) in this tournament which gives him a high ceiling, plus he gives himself a high floor with his shot rate and ability to collect peripheral stats. For example, he’s got one goal to his name in the World Cup in a 41.6 FDP game against Costa Rica, but he still scored 34 FDP and 23.3 FDP in his non-goal games. Yes, he’s expensive and yes, he’ll be high-owned, but I will have at least one lineup with him no doubt.
Romelu Lukaku (Japan vs. Belgium, $11,500) – After sitting out in Belgium’s final group stage game with a leg injury, Lukaku is set to return to Belgium’s starting lineup as they take on Japan in the round of 16. Belgium was an offensive juggernaut with Lukaku on the field scoring 8 goals in 4 games, half of which were scored by Lukaku himself. Japan was not expected to advance from their group and they’re one of the weaker teams left in the tournament. Lukaku’s size and strength is going to cause major issues for their defenders, and with the form he’s been in lately, he’s my top forward option on the slate. Dries Mertens ($9,500) is a cheap way to get extra exposure to Belgium’s attack, and can be used as a GPP play.
Hirving Lozano (Mexico vs. Brazil, $7,500) – I’m still slightly surprised that Lozano’s price has stayed as low as it is, and with many top studs that I want on this slate, I will be using Lozano in several lineups as a great value forward. Lozano has been the most dangerous of the three Mexican forwards on FanDuel, and he is the cheapest. He has at least as much potential of scoring as Carlos Vela ($8,000) and Chicharito ($8,000), and he also does better at getting peripheral stats like shots on goal, tackles, and interceptions. This is not a great matchup for Lozano playing a tight Brazilian defense, but the main draw for me is the affordable price while still getting a very quality player.
Eden Hazard (Japan vs. Belgium, $10,500) – Hazard has been special in this World Cup for Belgium so far with 2 goals, 1 assist, 6 chances created, and 4 shots on goal in just two games since he sat out their third group stage game with a mild calf injury. In another favorable matchup against Japan, Hazard carries a strong floor with similar big-game upside as well. Hazard is at the top of my midfield wish-list in cash games and GPPs. Kevin de Bruyne ($9,000) has yet to really hit his stride in the World Cup after a spectacular season with Manchester City. He does not have a shot on goal yet which has hurt is fantasy value, but he does have 9 chances created and 1 assist in 2 games. His upside and floor are both less than Hazard’s, but so is his price. If you want good exposure to Belgium for cheap-ish, KDB is your guy. Yannick Carrasco ($7,500) is my top Belgian salary-saver on this slate. He’s an acceptable filler in all formats.
Coutinho (Mexico vs. Brazil, $10,000) – Speaking of star midfielders playing well for their country, Coutinho has been really good as the main attacker in Brazil’s midfield. He had 2 goals, 1 assist, 5 shots on goal, and 10 chances created in his three group stage games. With similar numbers and form as Hazard, it’s tough to differential the two on this slate. I do like Hazard’s matchup more, but to say Coutinho’s matchup is bad would be wrong after Mexico’s defense was poor against a weaker Swedish team. Coutinho is going to be a top option for many people as he is viable in all formats. My sneaky Brazil play on this slate is Willian ($8,000). He had a really good season with Chelsea this year, but hasn’t showed up to Russia yet. His price had dropped a lot lower than you would’ve expected prior to the beginning of the tournament. He’ll be a low-owned GPP midfield option.
Takashi Inui (Japan vs. Belgium, $6,500) – With the quality of FWD/MID players on this slate, I am targeting defenders as my value plays, but anyone looking for deeper value in the midfield should look at Inui. Inui had a decent season in La Liga this year, and he’s shown us something in the World Cup so far with 1 goal, 1 assist, 1 chance created, 2 shots on goal, and 7 tackles. Obviously, these stats aren’t incredible, but for $6,500 Inui is someone that has shown ability to be productive fantasy-wise. He’ll be the first place I look for value under $7,000 at FWD/MID.
Thomas Meunier (Japan vs. Belgium, $6,000) – I am not usually a proponent of paying up for defenders, and I’ll be sticking hard to that strategy on this slate with the lack of stud defenders. However, if you have enough cash leftover, Meunier would be my first option. Meunier let me down in Belgium’s first game against Panama but bounced back very nicely with a 25.8 FDP performance. It’s reasonable to think that Meunier can hit that 20+ mark again in this game. Japan will likely sit pretty defensively, allowing Meunier to join the attack up the field. He has the most upside out of any of the top-priced defenders, but I’ll be reserving him for GPPs only.
Maya Yoshida (Japan vs. Belgium, $5,500) – On FanDuel, it is usually a winning strategy to play cheaper defenders on an underdog team, and that is exactly what Yoshida is. Japan will most likely sit in defensively and Belgium should control possession. This generally bodes well for defenders like Yoshida picking up defensive peripheral stats. Yoshida has a solid floor in this game and his affordable price makes him one of my priority cash defenders. Yuto Nagatomo ($5,000) has some solid upside and I like Gen Shoji ($5,000) some as well, but I much prefer saving $1,000 and rostering Hiroki Sakai ($4,000) as a value defender.
Filipe Luis (Mexico vs. Brazil, $4,500) – Not a normal starter for Brazil, Luis was thrown into his first World Cup game in Russia after Marcelo’s first half injury. He did well though getting up to 14.5 FDP in limited time. Luis looks good to draw the start in this one with Marcelo not fit to start. He’s a really good defender in club play for Atletico Madrid. He stuffs the stats sheet with defensive peripheral stats and uses his speed and fitness to push up the field on the attack. On paper, he’s the best value play on the whole slate on FanDuel.
Thibaut Courtois (Japan vs. Belgium, $6,000) – Courtois is the safest option for a clean sheet and a win on this slate, so obviously I am prioritizing him on FanDuel. He only needs 3 saves to eclipse 4x. Japan has only scored 2 goals in the run of play against a full-strength team (2 goals against a 10-man Colombian team, one of which was a PK). The Belgium defense should be able to handle what Japan throws at them, making Courtois my favorite GK on the slate.
Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico vs. Brazil, $4,500) – Ochoa has been a save monster in the World Cup so far with 17 saves. Playing against an attacking machine like Brazil, Ochoa should lead the GKs in this slate on saves, but a clean sheet and a win aren’t super likely. However, if Mexico can pull off a scoreless upset, Ochoa will have a massive fantasy day.