Amid all the statistics heading into the last two quarterfinal contests of the European Championship in France, one number in particular stood out when looking at the matchups between Germany and Italy and host France and Iceland.
That is the number of wins Die Mannschaft have in eight competitive matches against the Azzurri in World Cup and Euro play. The two sides have played to four draws, but Italy have won the last two _ a 2-0 triumph in the 2006 World Cup semifinals and a 2-1 victory in the 2012 European semis.
Germany, though, did rout Italy 4-1 in a friendly in late March in Munich for its first victory between the teams since 1995.
For Strakarnir Okkar, the record is more bleak with only three draws in 10 competitive matches. Iceland has been outscored 26-7 in those contests, with the most recent pair coming in qualifying for the 2000 Euros. The sides last met in a friendly in 2012 and Les Bleus needed to rally late for a 3-2 victory.
While France is a clear favorite and can ill-afford to overlook Iceland _ just ask England after the tiny Nordic country sent the Three Lions and creators of football packing with a deserved 2-1 victory _ its inability to get out of the blocks quickly and not put away games until late leaves Strakarnir Okkar a definite opportunity to create some anxious moments for Les Bleus and their home fans.
But of these two matches, Saturday’s Germany-Italy contest is the one that requires more focus in picking a lineup for FanXT’s DFS contest because your team performance will hinge on who you believe will win this contest.
For example, if you believe Germany will finally break its duck against Italy and beat them in a competitive match, France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris ($8,380) is a good bet to provide bonus points with a clean sheet versus Iceland, and the play in the midfield would be to pick between German midfielders Toni Kroos and Mesut Ozil (both $10,130) while utilizing Julian Draxler ($8,380) for your FanXT lineup.
But if you’re confident the Azzurri can continue their inspired form and dispatch Germany, then there’s a bargain pick to be had in goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon ($7,130) _ coming off a five-save shutout of Spain _ that allows the selection of French midfielder Paul Pogba ($11,060) and Italy’s Andrea Florenzi ($8,250).
This lineup is to be considered for the July 2 and July 3 quarterfinal matches for the European Championship, using a 4-4-2 formation and $90,000 salary cap as part of FanXT’s DFS contest for the Euros.
Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris, France ($8,380). The Tottenham No. 1 has not allowed a goal in the run of play through four matches in this tournament, conceding penalties to Romania in group play and Ireland in the previous round. Lloris has made only three saves thus far, and it would be surprising if he matched that total against Iceland. This pick, though, carries a slight risk since two members of France’s spine _ defender Adil Rami and midfielder N’Golo Kante _ are both sitting out with yellow card suspensions.
Defenders: Patrice Evra ($7,130) and Bacary Sagna ($7,440). In sticking with France’s outside backs, the hedge is both of them will have the space to go forward on the flank given how well Iceland fill the middle in two compact banks of four. Sagna likely will be the busier of the two defensively in containing Birkir Bjarnason.
Leonardo Bonucci, Italy ($8,880). In picking the Juventus defender, the hedge is that this will be a one-goal contest that could conceivably go to extra time or be decided by penalties. Bonucci is going to have additional play-maker responsibilities with influential midfielders Andrea Candreva and Daniele De Rossi likely sidelined for this match with injuries.
Jonas Hector, Germany ($7,690). The outside back from 1. FC Koin continues to be a mainstay on Germany’s left side and has pumped in a team-leading 27 crosses thus far. While none of them have yet to give him an assist, expect more of the same from Hector in what should be a cagey affair with Italy.
Midfielders: Mesut Ozil OR Toni Kroos, Germany ($10,130). When picked to select between these two Mannschaft midfielders, it’s always about deciding between style and substance. Ozil’s flair could make for that extra something Germany needs to break down an always-stubborn defense, though missing his penalty attempt against Slovakia did not endear himself to many DFS players. Kroos is always going to be the more direct player and he is still the primary option on taking corner kicks. This is as close to a coin flip as you can get when creating lineups.
Julian Draxler, Germany ($8,380). Selecting the attacking Wolfsburg winger is simply riding the hot hand at a good value price. Draxler had a goal and an assist in the romp past Slovakia and the 22-year-old has been steady since manager Joachim Low inserted him into the starting lineup in Germany’s second match in France.
Emanuele Giaccherini, Italy ($7,250). While there are more expensive options in the Italian midfield (see Alessandro Florenzi), Giaccherini has been a tireless rover for Antonio Conte as the Azzurri have arguably already surpassed expectations by reaching the quarterfinals. The Bologna striker secured Italy’s upset of Spain with a well-taken volley, and he should get more touches in the midfield if De Rossi is unable to play.
Gylfi Sigurdsson, Iceland ($7,690). Once more unto the breach with Sigurdsson, Iceland’s top playmaker. Without Kante to hound him in the midfield and Rami in central defense lurking in front of the box, this may be a match where the Swansea City star could find spaces to maneuver and do more than win 50-50 balls in the air. And even with all his work winning balls, Sigurdsson is still Iceland’s leader in shots (9) and shots on goal (5).
Forwards: Dimitri Payet, France ($8,440). Still the best value option among Les Bleus at this point, Payet remains the fulcrum on which all things on offense flow through for France. The West Ham striker linked up well with Antoine Griezmann against Ireland in the round of 16, combining for seven shots on frame and 14 overall. Payet has yet to have a bad match in this tournament, and with Iceland expected to be compact defensively, he’s definitely going to get looks on goal.
Mario Gomez, Germany ($7,750). Similar in ways to both Draxler and Payet, Gomez rounds out this starting XI for his recent strong finishing and cap-friendly salary. He has scored in both games since his insertion into Germany’s starting lineup, finding the form that helped him score 28 goals in 38 overall appearances for Turkish side Besiktas this past season. As is usually the case with Die Mannschaft, they appear to be hitting their peak form at the right time, and Gomez is definitely one such player.
By Chris Altruda (@AlTruda73)