The countdown to next month’s Euro 2012 kick-off on Friday June 8 edges ever closer and many of us battle-hardened Fantasy managers are bracing ourselves for a busy summer. While plenty are snapping up the option of Fantasy League’s free-to-play Pro auction game, the McDonald’s game run by Uefa remains a popular option.
The vast majority will be more than familiar with its basic principles. Introduced in the summer of 2010 for the World Cup in South Africa, it quickly underwent a number of tweaks before that tournament started and virtually works under the same principles as Uefa’s official Champions League game. Here are some pointers for those Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers who might be unfamiliar with its machinations…
To begin with, you must select a squad of 15 players; similar to FPL this must consist of two goalkeepers, five defenders, five midfielders and three forwards. In the group stages, only two players from any given team are allowed but, as the tournament progresses, this increases to four players per team in the Quarter Finals, six in the Semis and eight in the Final.
In terms of formation, the game is more adaptable than FPL. Similar to the Champions League game, it affords Fantasy managers the chance to play as few as two defenders in their starting XI, with a 2-5-3 system, for example, allowing us to get the maximum out of our chosen attacking assets.
Budget-wise, Fantasy managers start with 100 Euros but player values can fluctuate according to their popularity – again, this is very familiar ground for your regular FPL player. After the group stages, Fantasy manager is handed an extra 5.0 Euros to spend.
The McDonald’s game very much favours those who prefer a hands-on approach. If any of your initial starting XI fail to flourish, you can simply bench them and draft in a sub for the next game in the round; those who drop to the bench, however, will score zero points. It’s a stick or twist scenario. It’s also worth noting that we’re likely to get a heads-up on the lineups from the early kick-offs each day, affording Fantasy managers the chance to hold fire until the teams are announced before subbing out any under-performers.
With regards to captains, you could, theoretically, hand four different players the armband in any of the group stage rounds, though by removing the armband from any player, you will lose their double points. The above scenarios only apply if the player in question is not sent off, however; any player who receives a red card cannot be subbed out of your starting XI – the situation can be all the more frustrating if your captain happens to be the man dismissed.
The ability to switch armbands from one day to the next not only makes the matches more entertaining from a viewing perspective, it also underlines the fact that a balance is required by Fantasy managers in order to take advantage of the rule. A strong captain choice from Groups A through to D is an essential part of the planning, then.
Looking at the current ownership levels of each team, it seems Tomas Rosicky and Robert Lewandowski are the main men for the armband for day one; with 21% and 20% respectively, they are the top-owned attacking players from Group A. In Group B, there are three main candidates; Robin Van Persie (34%), Cristiano Ronaldo (32%) and Mesut Ozil (26%), while Group C has two stand-outs, Nikica Jelavic (32%) and Andres Iniesta (27%). Last but not least, Group D’s most popular attacking assets and likely armband contenders are Zlatan Ibrahimovic (27%) and Karim Benzema (15%). With a couple of weeks until the tournament starts, though, there’s plenty of time for others to emerge, as the upcoming friendlies give us more of an indication over various team’s starting line-ups.
A full list of the rules are here but, rather than labour over each and every one, it’s fair to say that many of the basic principles of the FPL game are applied. Keepers and defenders pick up six points for a clean sheet and more than 60 minutes on the pitch, midfielders receive five points for scoring a goal, while forwards pick up just four – you know how it works..
There are, however, a handful of rules unfamiliar to FPL managers. A player will earn an extra point if he is brought down for a penalty, regardless of whether the spot-kick is converted. Similarly, any player who brings down an opponent and causes a penalty is a point worse off for doing so.
Defenders are likely to prosper from the recovered balls rule; for every five recovered balls (the total of clearances completed and gaining possession tackles) a player earns an extra point. On the whole, centre-halves tend to make far more clearances than full-backs per game – obviously, the more defending a team has to do, the more chance their players have of benefitting from this rule. A viable tactic is to grab a couple of cut-price centre-halves; while they may fail to pick up clean sheets, these players are budget-friendly and can pick up extra points in much the same way as keepers prosper from an extra point per three saves.
The assists rule slightly differs from FPL, though. The quote below is taken directly from the Uefa site, highlighting just how more intricate it is in comparison to the more straightforward FPL rules. Finishing from a cross is advantageous, as opposed to a through ball, for example, if the scorer still has to beat an opponent. Rebounded efforts also don’t count as assists, as a goalkeeper save or strike off the woodwork is deemed as a new passage of play.
An assist is awarded when the goalscorer receives the ball directly from a team-mate (including the goalkeeper) and scores without having to take the ball past an opponent. If the pass takes a small deflection which does not change the direction of the ball, it will still be given. No assists are awarded for own goals or penalties. Live assists are provisional and will be reviewed within 24 hours of the match.
Fantasy managers are afforded one transfer at the end of each Group stage round to freshen up their squads – make any more changes and it’ll cost you three points per alteration. Similarly to FPL, you get 50% of any profit made, so if you buy someone for 5.0 and sell for 5.2, you get 5.1 in return.
After the deadline for Round 3 passes, Fantasy managers can then make an unlimited number of changes prior to the Quarter Finals kicking off. A further eight are afforded for the Semi Finals, followed by four more for the Final.
McDonalds have made the game more intriguing by throwing in an extra wildcard, to be played any time during the tournament. Essentially, though, this is best wielded during the Group stages, as we can start our squads from scratch after that point anyway.
This is a nice little twist and, looking at many of the comments on site, people are divided as to when it’s best utilised. Some are intent on using it after Round 1, focusing their initial squad selection on the first batch of fixtures before selecting a more rounded set of players thereafter. In addition, this could also be a good time to monitor any price rises or falls and benefit accordingly.
Others are set on deploying the wildcard prior to Round 3 as, by then, some teams are likely to have already qualified. There’s the theory that those sides that have already made it through may well be more susceptible to rotation than others – many Fantasy managers could transfer out players from those teams and ship in assets from sides who have to go all-out for wins in order to progress, safe in the knowledge they can draft their favourites back in prior to the knock-out stages.
It’s also worth pointing out that as soon as the Round 3 transfer deadline closes, Fantasy managers should immediately focus their thoughts on the unlimited transfers for the Quarter Finals and draft in those players they have in mind for the final eight, in order to avoid being caught out by price hikes. As the top two from each group become clearer, it’s simple enough to restructure your squad on a daily basis, culling those assets who unfortunately miss the cut and are heading for a flight back home.
As the final 23 man squads start to roll out, a clearer picture begins to emerge of our options for the upcoming tournament. In order to balance the budgets, Fantasy managers are scouring the market for those cut-price alternatives that can afford us the chance to embellish our squads with big-name captaincy picks.
Once all the squads are released over the next few days, we plan to analyse those cheaper squad-fillers in further details but, for now, here’s a look at the top five most popular budget players in the McDonald’s game per position. Goalkeepers and defenders are from 4.5 or under, while midfielders and forwards are priced from 5.5 or less:
Goalkeepers: Lindegaard (DEN) 4.0, 31.9%. Given (IRL) 4.5, 9.8%. Tzorvas (GRE) 4.0, 7.5%. Isaksson (SWE) 4.5, 3.3%. Sorensen (DEN) 4.5, 1.6%.
Defenders: M Olsson (SWE) 4.0, 46.5%. Strinic (CRO) 4.0, 19.3%. K Papadopoulos (GRE) 4.5, 15.9%. Jodlowiec (POL) 4.0, 6.3%. J Olsson (SWE) 4.0, 3.7%.
Midfield: Polanski (POL) 4.0, 34.4%. Andrews (IRL) 4.0, 13.6%. De Jong (HOL) 5.0, 12.4%. M’Vila (FRA) 5.5, 11.5%. McGeady (IRL) 5.5, 4.2%.
Forwards: Jelavic (CRO) 5.0, 32.3%. Pedersen (DEN) 4.0, 7%. Samaras (GRE) 5.0, 2%. Doyle (IRL) 5.5, 1%. Long (IRL) 5.0, 1%.
Finally, a reminder that our coverage for the tournament will also feature updates of the official Scout League, as we keep you abreast of the main protagonists as the action unfolds. If you haven’t joined already, the code is 638-996. Good luck to one and all!