Hive Fantasy World Cup - Game Week 5 (Quarter Finals) Review
It's been a World Cup full of shocks which has made it difficult for fantasy managers to pick high performing teams. Whether those shocks are just a bit of a fluke or whether this represents a more general trend of the chasing pack closing the gap on the elite footballing nations of the world remains to be seen. However, with future tournaments being expanded to 48 teams, it will give plenty more opportunities to sides who in previous decades stood very little chance of even qualifying potentially appearing in the knockout stages and in the same instance making fantasy picks even more challenging.
The other problem that the departure of Brazil and Portugal in particular could lead to for fantasy managers is a lack of options in their squad. Most managers would have assumed they'd being picking players from those squads to appear in the rest of the tournament with just the Semi-Final and Final +3rd/4th playoff stages to come. Instead, a cursory glance down the league table sees most squads reduced to an average of 8 available players. While all managers get a generous 5 free transfers to fill at least some of those gaps, it does suggest that options won't be quite as great as most would have hoped for in the next round.
Pre-tournament favourites Brazil crashed out of World Cup 2022 on penalties as Croatia advanced to a second consecutive semi-final. Brazil largely dominated the match with expected goals of 2.5 but found Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livaković (GK) in inspired form once again as he followed up his performance against Japan with 10 saves in open play and another in the shoot out itself.
Elsewhere, Luka Modric (MID) and Marcelo Brozović (MID) continued to boss the midfield with 106 and 96 completed passes respectively. Most impressive were Modric's 19 progressive passes, by far the the most on either side (next highest 7 progressive passes). With those 2 the beating heart of this Croatian side, they will remain a tough nut to crack.
Despite that dominance in midfield, Croatia only managed expected goals of 0.6 in over 2 hours of football and had to wait until deep into extra time to muster their only shot on goal which ultimately took the game to extra time. Their resilience was admirable but you do have to question whether they might begin to fade after needing extra time in both knockout rounds so far.
One player who should have a little more energy is Mislav Oršić (FWD) who made an impact from the bench again with his 2nd assist of the tournament and might be worth a look at given that Croatia and Argentina could well go the distance again in the semis.
A real blood and thunder fixture between 2 old adversaries that ultimately required penalties to separate them.
Lionel Messi (FWD) continues to provide the only real spark in an otherwise workman like Argentine side. Messi registered 3 key passes, 4 passes into the penalty area and 0.5 expected assists all higher than any other player on the pitch. Being on penalties as well makes the Argentine captain an automatic pick and with many other big nations falling by the wayside, it's beginning to feel like this might just be Messi's year.
Elsewhere, it was Argentina's full-backs who provided plenty of dynamism going forward. **Marcos Acuña **(DEF) completed as many successful dribbles as Messi while on the the right side Nahuel Molina (DEF) registered his first goal for his nation. However, Acuna as well as right-back Montiel will be suspended for the semi against Croatia following their bookings in an ill tempered match which saw a record number of yellow cards for a World Cup fixture. Nicolás Tagliafico (DEF) will provide an able substitute on the left and could well be worth a look.
Considering the ease with which Argentina dominated much of this match, it will be concerning just how much trouble they found themselves in when the Dutch switched from playing a possession based game to just whacking it forward. The Netherlands hit 93 long balls with most of them coming in the 2nd half and Argentina's markedly smaller team had difficulty coping with the physicality. The question is whether Croatia can pose a similar threat?
Morocco continued their incredible run and in doing so became the first African nation to reach the semi-final of a World Cup.
Try as they might, Portugal couldn't find a way past this organised Moroccan defence while in attack, the North Africans managed 1.4 expected goals to the former European champions 0.9 despite the fact that they only managed 27% possession.
Morocco have conceded just once in the whole tournament and that was an own goal! They've now shut out Croatia, Belgium, Spain and Portugal along the way. It's no surprise then that in Achraf Hakimi(DEF), Roman Sais (DEF) and Noussair Mazraoui (DEF) the Moroccans have the 3 highest point scoring defenders left in the competition. There will be those who argue that the French will have too much for this Moroccan defence but then that was the same argument made when they played the Spanish and the Portugese ...
In attack they continue to rely on hitting sides on the break or a little bit of magic from the likes of Ziyech or Boufal. Do I think they'll beat France to make it to the final? No, but it might still be worth having a couple of players for the third place playoff that follows and is likely to be a much bigger match for them than whoever loses in the other semi.
Another World Cup ends for England in penalty heart break! They dominated the reigning champions for large periods of the game, registering expected goals of 2.4 against France's 0.9 and will feel hard done by with a couple of refereeing decisions particularly in the first half which didn't go their way.
For their part, France were clinical if not particularly impressive. Kylian Mbappe (FWD) who has been at the heart of his nations' run to the knockout stages was largely anonymous, managing just 36 touches and expected goal involvement of 0.1. Perhaps more impressive were the other French forwards who stepped up to fill in for Mbappe with Antoine Griezmann (FWD) pulling the strings and laying on 2 assists while Ousmane Dembélé (FWD) also looked creative in registering 0.5 expected assists on top of 3 successful tackles as he also put in a shift defensively.
The real concern for France will be how vulnerable they looked in defence. They gave away 2 penalties and were lucky not to have conceded another, while Dayot Upamecano (DEF) looked a liability at the back with Harry Kane in particular embarrassing the Bayern defender on multiple occasions by turning him at will. France, of course, do have options at centre-back including a couple of players well known to a Premier League audience.
France have now conceded in every single match of World Cup 2022 and given that they come up against the meanest defence in the tournament in their next game, they'd do well not to keep that trend running if they wish to become the first side since 1962 to defend their World Cup title.
Winners game week 5
The pool of players continues to get smaller and smaller but despite that, no one managed to make it beyond the 50 point mark in round 5. Most had undoubtedly banked on positive results for Brazil and Portugal and therefore came away with a below average haul as several largely unfancied players scored the goals at the Quarter Final stage.
The highest scores in round 5 with a Hive account were
The top 2 continue to look pretty secure but with 20 points separating 7 teams below them, the race for third is very much alive!
Great write up as always. With Acuna suspended, I'm down to 7 going into the semis so plenty of work to do when the team news comes out.
Croatia seem to love being the dark horses and just continue to qualify for latter stages of tournaments without any hype at all. Argentina have been far from impressive so far but still go in to this match as odds-on favourites with the bookies. Perhaps they know about the Messi conspiracy - we'll see...
Which conspiracy is that? I've heard a couple in recent days, including that the Qatari authorities want a Messi v Mbappe or PSG v PSG final, hence the terrible refereeing in their respective QF matches
That's the one I've heard and given the standard of refereeing in the respective matches, don't believe it's a theory that I could argue with!
That settles it then, I'll have to write a blog on the matter
And a mighty fine post it is too 👍
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