There is a clear line of demarcation among the favorites and underdogs for the second day of round of 16 matchups at the European Championships on Sunday in France. It starts with the host country as Les Bleus face Ireland, which is out to avenge Thierry Henry’s notorious handball that helped eliminate The Boys in Green in their 2009 playoff for a spot in the 2010 World Cup.
From there it’s reigning World Cup champion Germany playing Slovakia, a team that has proven difficult to break down in its last two matches after being upended by Wales in its Euro opener. The last match pits Belgium, having righted itself after being outclassed by Italy to start its French expedition opposite Hungary, which stunned many by claiming top honors in a group that included Portugal and Austria.
Each goalkeeper for the favored sides _ Hugo Lloris for France, Manuel Neuer for Germany and Thiabut Courtois for Belgium _ carry hefty price tags that will force FanXT DFS players in this contest to juggle midfielders and forwards while looking for those bargains on defense who can provide clean sheet bonus points. While the temptation is there to maybe pick one of those underdog keepers who can potentially help their team stay in touching distance for a match and rack up some points with high save counts, is it really worth the risk if one of these juggernauts find their stride and put up three or four goals?
Thus, the plan for this formation was to work in tandem with the favorites in terms of picking a back line and finding one or two who have the potential to add points offensively. Those four selections are also going to prove important in terms of cap flexibility to be able to add superstars up front.
This is a lineup for the European Championship matches in the round of 16 for June 26, using a 4-4-2 formation and $90,000 salary cap as part of FanXT’s rules for this DFS contest.
Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris, France ($8,380). The Spurs man is the choice because he’s the cheapest of the trio among Neuer and Courtois. Additionally, with Ireland expected to sit back and let France enjoy possession means Lloris shouldn’t be overly taxed between the sticks as he seeks a third straight shutout.
Defenders: Bacary Sagna ($7,440) and Patrice Evra ($7,130), France. The bookends of Les Bleus’ defense continue to be high-value picks on the back line that provide cap flexibility. In the case of Evra, he should again find opportunities to press forward and help in attack. Sagna does not do that as much from the right side for France, but he could bomb the flank every now and again to keep Ireland honest.
Jonas Hector, Germany ($7,690). Despite winning their group, Die Mannschaft has really yet to get out of third gear as they head into the knockout round. Hector has been effective in finding space on the left flank and has pumped in a team-high 20 crosses. With Slovakia likely to flood the midfield and play on the counter, Hector again should have the ability to wreak havoc on the wing and potentially land an assist if Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze or Toni Kroos latch onto one of those crosses.
Thomas Vermaelen, Belgium ($7,250). While Vermaelen is a central defender, this is a case of picking a low-cost defender who has a good chance of getting bonus points for a clean sheet. Hungary could cause some problems _ the Magyars scored six goals in group play _ but Vermaelen and company tightened up hard after that defeat to Italy, conceding just five shots on target in their two shutout victories.
Midfielders: Vladimir Weiss, Slovakia ($7,190). Slovakia’s scoring chances against Germany are very likely going to come on the counter, and Weiss remains a low-cost, high-value pick who will get plenty of touches and perhaps a few in the final third. Weiss and Marek Hamsik need to both play the matches of their lives to give Slovakia any chance of springing a colossal upset of the reigning World Cup champion.
Mesut Ozil, Germany ($10,130). In picking Ozil over compatriots Toni Kroos ($10,130) and Mario Gotze ($9,920), the hedge is that with Slovakia likely to flood the midfield and likely defend in two banks of four, Die Mannschaft is going to need that certain something extra in the final third if they go direct, and that means Ozil’s playmaking skills are what will make the difference here. The Arsenal midfielder has an assist to his credit and is third with 15 crosses, but his vision in the middle of the park likely will be the decisive factor in this match.
Axel Witsel, Belgium ($8,750). With a goal against Ireland and two solid games after losing to Italy, the Standard Liege midfielder has quietly found pockets of space that teammates Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne have created in Belgium’s attack. That should continue to happen against Hungary, which is coming off a 3-3 draw against a Portugal side that was nowhere near as diverse offensively as the Red Devils.
N’Golo Kante, France ($8,250). Picking the tireless Leicester City midfielder is equal parts salary cap flexibility and the belief he may be able to provide a killer ball that creates a scoring chance. Kante showed plenty of that potential in the tournament opener against Romania, and he’s well-rested for this match after sitting out the scoreless draw versus Switzerland that capped group play for Les Bleus. France should own a monopoly on possession, and that means Kante could be a sleeper pick for an assist against Ireland.
Forwards: Dimitri Payet, France ($8,440). Easily the best player for the hosts, Payet is also well-rested after making a cameo against the Swiss. The West Ham star has delivered a whopping 32 crosses and 11 corner kicks in addition to his two goals and one assist. Payet and Paul Pogba should be able to make Ireland’s back line chase its tail and create plenty of scoring chances for himself and others.
Romelu Lukaku, Belgium ($9,190). With Belgium facing the upstart Magyars, this contest features an intriguing matchup of the 23-year-old Everton striker against 40-year-old Hungary goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly. Lukaku had an efficient game trying to build off his brace against Ireland and put two of his four shots on target. With the wealth of attacking options, Belgium should control the pace of the match, and intelligent runs similar to the ones he made against Ireland that led to his goals will be needed against a Hungary side that can be exploited defensively.
By Chris Altruda (@AlTruda73 on Twitter)