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Monday is the first full day of World Cup matches with three games on the schedule from Group A and Group B. In addition to Qatar and Ecuador’s match on Sunday, this slate will bring all eight teams in those two groups through their first World Cup contest.
There are two powerhouses from the top eight in the World Cup rankings in play with the Netherlands and England both making their debuts as heavy favorites to advance from their groups. The 16th-ranked United States will also play its first match against a strong squad from Wales that ranks 19th in the world coming into this tournament.
Inside our soccer Player Models, you’ll find median and value projections, along with our Lineup Builder and Lineup Optimizer. The Lineup Builder is great for those of you that like to hand-build your teams — or you can utilize the Lineup Optimizer to effortlessly create up to 300 lineups.
Now, let’s get into the slate!
World Cup Forward DFS Picks
Top Play: Harry Kane, $10,200
Not surprisingly, Kane has the highest projections among the forwards on this slate. England’s captain comes in with great form after scoring 12 goals in 15 games for Tottenham in the Premier League so far this season. He has the best odds in the entire tournament for the Golden Boot (top goal scorer), and he won that honor in the last World Cup in Russia, scoring six goals.
He’s still just 29 years old, but this is probably his final World Cup in his prime, so look for him to do all he can to bring the Three Lions to glory. Kane comes with a big price tag, but if he delivers his usual star performance, it’ll be worth building around him if you can save some salary at other spots to spend on the star.
Top Value: Vincent Janssen, $7,100
Janssen brings the second-highest projected points per $1,000 salary of all the forwards on this slate. Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal said that Janssen will start this match for the Oranje against Senegal since Memphis Depay is not fit enough to be in the starting XI. Earlier in his career, Janssen took a lot of heat for leaving Tottenham to play for Monterrey in Mexico.
Recently, though, he regained his national team spot and also returned to European play in June of this year. He has found success with nine goals in 17 games playing in Belgium for Royal Antwerp. In this spot start, he has a lot of value potential in an important match against Senegal.
World Cup Midfielder DFS Picks
Top Play: Cody Gakpo, $9,100
In the midfield, the top two projections belong to Gakpo of the Netherlands and Christian Pulisic of the United States. I’m not convinced of the U.S. offense in their matchup against Wales (highlighted below), so I think the 23-year-old rising Dutch midfielder brings the better ceiling.
Playing in the top tier of his native Netherlands, Gakpo has been outstanding for PSV Eindhoven this season, producing 13 goals and 17 assists in just 24 games. He does most of his work on the wing and serves up nice crosses from set pieces and in open play. With big, tall targets coming forward from defense and in the middle, Gakpo should be able to create with ease against Senegal. In his most recent internationals, Gakpo was used as the ten in the Dutch’s 5-3-2 formation.
With that setup, he has two goals and an assist in his last three contests.
Top Value: Ismaila Sarr, $5,000
While I love the Netherlands’ overall upside for the tournament, Senegal is no pushover in this contest. They won the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year but suffered a big loss with the injury to Sadio Mané. The 24-year-old Sarr will be one of several players asked to help fill in for Mané’s absence. He currently plays his club football at Watford in the English Football League Championship (the second-highest league in England).
Like Gakpo, Sarr spends lots of time on the wing but also brings plenty of versatility and could fill in at forward as well. In his 16 club matches this season, he has scored six goals to go with four assists for Watford. Since he’s expected to be a key part of their set pieces as well, there’s plenty of potential value in Sarr, who is projected for 2.3 Points per $1,000 salary, the highest mark of any midfielder on the slate.
World Cup Defender DFS Picks
Top Play: Kieran Trippier, $7,300
In the Group Stage games, it’s important to try and grab defenders and goalkeepers with good chances of putting up clean sheets (no goals allowed). On this slate, the stack that makes the most sense is from England (more details under their keeper below). Trippier has the highest projection on the slate, just edging out teammate Luke Shaw. To complete your England defensive stack, you could also consider value plays John Stones and Harry Maguire.
Trippier is the team’s right fullback and is regularly among the most selected options in Premier League fantasy due to his ability to get involved in the offense for Newcastle United. As a set-piece specialist and an above-average crosser in open play, he’ll regularly get involved in the attack in addition to hopefully giving a clean sheet in this matchup. In his 21 games over the past two seasons, he has scored three goals for Newcastle United and has seven clean sheets in 15 contests so far this season.
Top Value: Antonee Robinson, $4,800
Robinson plays a similar role to Trippier in the American offense, moving up the outside and contributing offensively in addition to playing solid defense. He played in 13-of-14 qualifying games for the U.S., compiling three assists and two goals. He plays for Fulham in the Premier League but has not scored yet this season in 13 appearances.
“Jedi” was able to return from a high ankle sprain sustained in September and has looked fit in his recent league play. He and the American defenders will have to contend with Gareth Bale in this matchup against Wales, but due to his good offensive potential, Robinson offers the second-highest projected points per salary of any defender on the slate.
World Cup Goalie DFS Picks
Top Play: Jordan Pickford, $5,900
According to the Vegas odds, Pickford has the best odds for a clean sheet on this slate, with Iran actually -185 to score under 0.5 goals. He has the highest projected and the highest salary among the six projected starters. Pickford is in his second World Cup as England’s top goalkeeper and helped the squad to a fourth-place finish in Russia in 2018. The Everton keeper has matured since then and now has a calmer temperament to go with his elite raw talent.
When in top form, Pickford has proven to be a great international player, including becoming the first goalkeeper ever to keep clean sheets in the first five games of the European Championship last summer and also setting the English record for most consecutive scoreless minutes by a goalkeeper. In 11 games this season, he has two clean sheets in the Premier League.
Top Value: Wayne Hennessey, $4,300
The projections line up perfectly with the salary structure, so value can be a little tricky to pinpoint on this slate. The United States has had its offensive issues, though, scoring in just one of their past seven matches against teams in the Word Cup field. The Americans “tuned up” for the tournament with a pair of friendlies but were soundly defeated 2-0 by Japan and played to an uninspiring 0-0 draw with Saudi Arabia. These two teams also played to a 0-0 draw in their last head-to-head meeting in 2020.
Hennessey is expected to get the nod as Wales opens their World Cup campaign after stepping up with a huge performance in their playoff final win over Ukraine. In that win that secured Wales’ first World Cup bid since 1958, Hennessey made nine saves and kept a clean sheet in rainy conditions. Recently, though, Hennessey hasn’t been playing many club games for Nottingham Forest this season, but the 106-cap 35-year-old is still expected to get the start in this contest and could end up being a great value play if he can continue the United States’ offensive struggles.
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