World Cup Fantasy Preview: Group F

Much like Group A there is an obvious stand out team in Group F who should qualify with ease and a team everyone expects to finish last. The intrigue in World Cup Group F will be in the competition for second between two really good teams who would give anything for the chance to take on the winners of a not overly impressive Group E in the second round.

 

Argentina

Argentina

Having taken full advantage of Brazil’s absence from qualifying to finish first Argentina will come into this world cup with high expectations and a group of attacking players who could help them meet those expectations. Expect to see them come out with a bold 4-3-3 formation in the group stages with all three of the superb attacking talents in Higuain, Aguero and Messi starting with Di Maria playing a slightly more reserved midfield role and that could see them easily blow teams out of the water in the early stages. However, they have been known to shift to a more defensive 5-3-2 against tougher teams as a midfield three contain Di Maria doesn’t give them a lot of stability and their defence is still inexperienced at the elite level they will come against later in the tournament.

Key Players:

  • Messi: Undoubtedly one of the best players in the world and playing in behind Aguero and Higuan he should get plenty of space and plenty of chances to show he is the best player in the world. He has struggled in previous years at the international level but if he is at his best and with the talent they have around him they could win it all.
  • Mascherano: Often a central defender for Barcelona he will likely anchor the midfield in the group stages and with four attacking minded players in front of him he will need to be at his best with Gago (or whichever CM partners him) to ensure there are no nasty surprises. Will really come into key focus later in the tournament where he can anchor the midfield or if needs be drop back into defense and be the voice of experience.
  • Fernandez: One of the defensive players inexperienced at the top level Fernandez will be key to allowing Argentina to play with flair later in the tournament. If he can prove he is capable of stopping world class attacking players then Argentina’s big worry may well be less of an issue.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Sampdoria), Mariano Andujar (Catania), Agustin Orion (Boca Juniors).

Defenders: Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Federico Fernandez (Napoli), Ezequiel Garay (Benfica), Marcos Rojo (Sporting Lisbon), Hugo Campagnaro (Inter Milan), Martin Demichelis (Manchester City), Jose Basanta (Monterrey).

Midfielders: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Fernando Gago (Boca Juniors), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Ricardo Alvarez (Inter Milan), Augusto Fernandez (Celta Vigo), Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid), Maxi Rodriguez (Newell’s Old Boys), Enzo Perez (Benfica).

Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Rodrigo Palacio (Inter Milan), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Paris St-Germain).

Fantasy Advice:

  • Messi is the only real definite of the front three and whether he is joined by Aguero, Higuain or both he will likely be the top fantasy scorer in this competition
  • Chances are Higuain and Aguero will get to start in the groups and if so both are really safe bets to have in the team
  • I feel like Aguero is the first choice so he should be the first of the two you consider
  • Di Maria will play a slightly more reserved role but could grab a couple of goals and should provide a number of assists. A fairly safe bet in midfield
  • Mascherano will definitely play but he won’t threaten the goal much making him a tough pick in midfield
  • Gago is slated to join Mascherano  but there are a few options so don’t invest too heavily
  • Defensively Zabaleta, Fernandez and Rojo are close to guarantees with either Garay or Basanta alongside them and in this group they could keep a few clean sheets
  • Romero should be the first choice but that is no guarantee. They should keep a clean sheet or two in this group but this defense is susceptible against high class opposition so there is potential for negative points from defenders and goalkeepers later in the tournament.

 

Bosnia-Hercegovina

Bosnia

The only team making their world cup debut thanks to an aggressive approach to qualifying meaning they finished top of their group on goal difference over Greece. They play a 4-4-2 diamond formation with a midfield packed with playmakers which is sure to make them a goal scoring threat but may also leave them vulnerable at the back. They scored 30 goals in qualifying with 18 coming from their strike force and if they are to make the second round they may well have to take the attack to Iran and Nigeria.

Key Players:

  • Dzeko: A man who needs no introduction for Premier League fans. Coming off his best season in England he will be desperate to make sure Bosnia make the most of their world cup debut in Brazil. He will start upfront with Ibisevic and having combined so well in qualifying their manager will hope they can repeat it.
  • Pjanic: One of those playmakers I was on about earlier, Pjanic is capable of providing both assists and goals of his own. For Bosnia to make an impact he will need to have a good tournament
  • Spahic: Their mainstay in the defense in 2013 Spahic will need to be the vocal leader of his defensive unit to allow the playmakers in midfield the chance to produce the goods. If they have any chance of topping the group Spahic’s leadership and defensive ability will need to be at their very best.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Asmir Begovic (Stoke City), Asmir Avdukic (Borac Banja Luka), Jasmin Fejzic (VFR Aalen).

Defenders: Emir Spahic (Bayer Leverkusen), Toni Sunjic (Zorya Lugansk), Sead Kolasinac (Schalke), Ognjen Vranjes (Elazigspor), Ermin Bicakcic (Eintracht Braunschweig), Muhamed Besic (Ferencvaros), Mensur Mujdza (Freiburg).

Midfielders: Miralem Pjanic (Roma), Izet Hajrovic (Galatasaray), Haris Medunjanin (Gaziantepspor), Senad Lulic (Lazio), Anel Hadzic (Sturm), Tino Susic (Hajduk), Sejad Salihovic (Hoffenheim), Zvjezdan Misimovic (Guizhour Renhe), Senijad Ibricic (Erciyesspor), Avdija Vrsaljevic (Hajduk).

Strikers: Vedad Ibisevic (VfB Stuttgart), Edin Dzeko (Manchester City), Edin Visca (Istanbul BB).

Fantasy Advice:

  • Dzeko and Ibisevic will both play and are both worth considering as they could make the second round and they will likely score a few in the group even if they don’t
  • The midfield is likely to be Pjanic, Medunjanin, Lulic and Misimovic who are all capable of grabbing the odd goals
  • Defensively the only definite is Spahic with Bicakcic likely to join him but beyond that they have used a few different guys
  • Begovic will start in goal but they aren’t the most defensively sound so I wouldn’t put too much stock in him especially as they will likely be going no further to the second round if that far at all.

 

Iran

Iran

This is a team that frankly I know very little about because they only have one player that I had even heard about before looking into the world cup, and if I’m honest they aren’t a team that you need to worry about too much for fantasy or real purposes. They qualified top of their final stage group which is something going for them but they rode their defence against weaker opposition that they will face in this tournament. One name you may recognise is form Manchester United assistant Carlos Queiroz who is currently their manager having been sacked by Portugal.

Key Players:

  • Ghoochannejhad: Burst onto the international scene with 6 goals in 6 games last year and could be a decent bet to cause some problems in the groups for defenses who take Iran too likely. Currently plays for Charlton so the standard he will face in the world cup may be just a touch better.
  • Nekounam: Their captain and all round footballing hero. His experience and leadership will be needed if they are to get anything out of their excursion to Brazil.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Daniel Davari (Eintracht Braunschweig), Alireza Haghighi (Sporting Covilha, on loan from Rubin Kazan), Rahman Ahmadi (Sepahan).

Defenders: Hossein Mahini (Persepolis), Steven Beitashour (Vancouver Whitecaps), Pejman Montazeri (Umm Salal), Jalal Hosseini (Persepolis), Amir-Hossein Sadeghi (Esteghlal), Ahmad Alenemeh (Naft), Hashem Beikzadeh (Esteghlal), Mehrdad Pouladi (Persepolis).

Midfielders: Javad Nekounam (Kuwait SC), Andranik Teymourian (Esteghlal), Reza Haghighi (Persepolis), Ghasem Haddadifar (Zob Ahan), Bakhtiar Rahmani (Foolad), Ehsan Hajsafi (Sepahan).

Forwards: Ashkan Dejagah (Fulham), Masoud Shojaei (Las Palmas), Alireza Jahanbakhsh (NEC Nijmegen), Reza Ghoochannejhad (Charlton), Karim Ansarifard (Tractor Saz, on loan from Persepolis), Khosro Heydari (Esteghlal).

Fantasy Advice:

  • Ghoochannejhad has the potential to grab a goal or two if you’re really really desperate.
  • Not much else to say here as I don’t see them scoring many and probably conceding a fair few.

 

Nigeria

Nigeria

A team that have undergone a huge transformation in the last four years having failed to qualify for the African Cup of Nations in 2012 and then bouncing back to win it in 2013. They made a good showing in the confederations cup and qualified with ease going unbeaten throughout their campaign. A team full of young exciting players with a good mix of experience means they have a real chance of ruining the Bosnian chances of making the last 16.

Key Players:

  • Emenike: Having scored 8 in 8 in 2013 Emenike will be the man that Nigeria look to provide them the goals required to launch them through the 2014 group stage. An energetic striker he will be looking to show himself off in Football’s greatest showroom
  • Moses: A familiar name to Premier League fans Moses is one of the best players that Africa has right now. His pace caused all sorts of problems in the African cup of nations and during qualifying. They really missed him during the confederations co when he was injured and if he is fully flying he could drag them into the group stages.
  • Mikel: Another familiar name Mikel has a wealth of experience that Nigeria will require to slow down the fearsome attacking forces of Argentina and Bosnia. He will need everything he has learned over the years in the Premier League is he is to help Nigeria make the knockouts.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama (Lille), Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be’er Sheva), Chigozie Agbim (Gombe United).

Defenders: Elderson Echiejile (Monaco), Efe Ambrose (Celtic), Godfrey Oboabona (Rizespor), Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves), Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough), Juwon Oshaniwa (Ashdod), Joseph Yobo (Norwich, on loan from Fenerbahce), Kunle Odunlami (Sunshine Stars).

Midfielders: John Mikel Obi (Chelsea), Ramon Azeez (Almeria), Ogenyi Onazi (Lazio), Reuben Gabriel (Waasland-Beveren), Michael Babatunde (Volyn Lutsk).

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow), Shola Ameobi (Newcastle), Emmanuel Emenike (Fenerbahce), Michael Uchebo (Cercle Brugge), Peter Odemwingie (Stoke), Victor Moses (Liverpool, on loan from Chelsea), Uche Nwofor (Heerenveen).

Fantasy Advice:

  • Emenike will likely start and could be a threat for 2 or 3 goals and maybe a couple more if they do make the knockouts.
  • Mikel and Onazi should anchor the midfield but neither are big goal threats.
  • Mba and Moses are bigger goal threats from midfield and both should be considered but the Midfield position is stacked with talent as far as fantasy football is concerned
  • Defensively I cannot see there being much value here with two really good teams in Bosnia and Argentina. Even a good game against Iran may not offset the negative points possible from the other two games
  • As for Enyeama, the same as I said for the defense goes

 

Overview

As I said in the introduction, this group has a clear number 1 and 4 in Argentina and Iran but the competition for the second knockout place could be a really intriguing one. Bosnia and Nigeria are both good exciting teams who could be potential banana skins for whoever finishes top of Group E.

PREDICTION: 1st Argentina, 2nd Bosnia, 3rd Nigeria, 4th Iran

 

World Cup posters courtesy of Christiano Siqueria and ESPN

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>