Our preview of the Group G teams gets up and running with a look at Belgium.
Dominated by a number of Premier League big-hitters, The Red Devils’ progress in the 2018 World Cup will be keenly monitored by Fantasy managers.
Should Belgium make the quarter-finals or beyond, there’s a chance that the domestic minutes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen could be managed in the first Gameweek or two of 2018/19.
Belgium’s campaign gets underway against Panama on Monday, June 18 at 4pm. They square up to Tunisia five days later at 1pm before going head-to-head with England on June 28 at 6pm.
Win their opening two matches, then, and there’s every chance that Martinez could look to rotate his options for the Three Lions fixture if they are already through.
The Road to Qualification
Belgium breezed through their qualifying group, winning nine and drawing one of ten matches.
Up against Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Cyprus and Gibraltar, they arrive in Russia with one of the most potent attacking records around.
Martinez’s men fired 43 goals over those fixtures, joint-top with Germany among all qualifying teams.
They were a little less impressive at the back, though, managing just six clean sheets and conceding on six occasions.
Belgium line up in a 3-4-2-1 formation under Martinez, with Hazard and Dries Mertens tucked in behind lone striker Lukaku.
Yannick Carrasco and Thomas Meunier are tasked with providing the width from wing-back, while De Bruyne sits in a central midfield role in front of the back three.
Martinez’s decision to trial a 3-5-2 against Mexico back in November – with Hazard alongside Lukaku – provoked criticism from the Man City playmaker, though.
After stuttering to a 3-3 draw, Martinez’s decision to revert to 3-4-2-1 has seen his side chalk up clean sheets in all four of their subsequent friendlies.
Most starts: Thibaut Courtois, Jan Vertonghen (10), Toby Alderweireld, Yannick Carrasco (9), Dries Mertens, Thomas Meunier, Axel Witsel (8), Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku (7), Kevin De Bruyne, Marouane Fellaini (6)
Most goals: Romelu Lukaku (11), Eden Hazard (6), Dries Mertens, Thomas Meunier (5), Yannick Carrasco, Christian Benteke (3)
Most assists: Thomas Meunier (8), Dries Mertens (7), Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne (5), Yannick Carrasco (4)
The Key Targets
Top scorer for Martinez’s side in qualifying, Romelu Lukaku found the net on 11 occasions – only Robert Lewandowski (16) and Cristian Ronaldo (15) were more prolific.
The Man United frontman has continued that form in recent friendlies, producing six goals and two assists in his last five non-competitive matches for Belgium.
A cost of £7.9m in Fantasy iTeam makes him the most expensive Belgian in the game and with more efforts on goal than any team-mate in qualifying, he also looks a handy captain option across the Fantasy games.
It’s worth noting that although one of those 11 qualifying goals arrived via the penalty spot (in a 9-0 win over Gibraltar), it was taken when Eden Hazard was already subbed off.
The Chelsea man is expected to continue as number one for spot-kicks and is priced a little cheaper at £7.3m in Fantasy iTeam. However in the FIFA McDonald’s game, he’s listed as a striker and comes in at £10.0m along with Lukaku.
Replicating his domestic in a pairing behind the lone striker, Hazard was second to Lukaku for goals (six) and also chipped in with five assists in eight outings over qualifying.
The winger has bagged two goals and a pair of assists in his last four friendlies, including a midweek strike in the 3-0 win over Egypt.
Sitting alongside Hazard in a central support berth, Dries Mertens has been in outstanding form for club and country.
Bagging 18 goals and six assists in 38 Serie A outings, the Napoli star played a part in more of Belgium’s efforts than Hazard (12 to 11) in qualifying, thanks to five goals and seven assists.
Listed as a midfielder, Mertens comes in at £7.2m in Fantasy iTeam but he’s a £9.0-priced forward in the McDonald’s game.
Kevin De Bruyne (£7.4m) is their priciest midfielder in Fantasy iTeam, with a cost of £10.0m in McDonald’s. He matched Hazard’s five assists but failed to find the net, a sign that his qualities have, at times, been stifled by Martinez’s approach.
Judging by his qualifying output, Thomas Meunier has the potential to be one of the best defender options across the Fantasy games.
The right wing-back produced more assists (eight) than any team-mate and also found the net five times.
Priced at £6.1m in Fantasy iTeam and £6.0m in McDonald’s, the PSG man has disappointed in recent friendlies, though, drawing blanks in each of his last five.
The Long Shots
Unlike Meunier, left wing-back Yannick Carrasco is listed as a midfielder in Fantasy iTeam (£7.0m) and McDonald’s (£6.5m).
While three goals and four assists may see him overlooked, it’s worth noting that he was second only to Lukaku for goal attempts in qualifying.
Despite heading into the tournament with doubts over the fitness of Vincent Kompany, the Belgium backline looks a good shout for clean sheets in their first two matches.
Having scored twice in qualifying, Jan Vertonghen (£6.3m in Fantasy iTeam, £6.0 in McDonald’s) was the only other defender aside from Meunier to find the net and is a secure pick under Martinez.
Fantasy Football Scout is supporting Fantasy iTeam, a free World Cup game available on a number of mobile devices, including iPhone, iPad, iPodTouch and Android. We have an official Fantasy Football Scout League open to UK users only, with a £1000 of Amazon vouchers to give out, split between the top three performers. There’s also the small matter of £10k worth of prizes available in the main competitions: Overall World Championship and Manager of the Gameround.
Click here for details and here to sign up.
Our League name is Fantasy Football Scout and the pin is 1887.
Please note, users must be over 18 and based in the UK to join our league.
World Cup Data
We’re delighted to offer World Cup data as an early addition to our regular season offering to help those playing Fantasy games over the summer.
We’ve secured Opta data, not only for the tournament itself, which begins on June 14 but also from the Qualifying Rounds for Europe and South America and for international friendlies involving the participating nations. This includes all the matches played right up to the tournament kick-off.
Just to stress, this World Cup offering comes packaged with the regular Fantasy Football Scout membership.
Check out this new trailer previewing the World Cup content below…