World Cup Fantasy watchlist: Five players to monitor ahead of Matchday 2

After an eventful start to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, it’s time to re-evaluate our fantasy teams ahead of Matchday 2.

It’s set to be a popular time to wildcard, with the “booster” chip providing in-matchday unlimited transfers allowing managers to select a brand new team for Matchday 2 and Matchday 3.

There are also two free transfers that can still be used in Matchday 1 on Thursday, too, so, here are some suggestions of players to monitor before the deadline passes.


Goalkeeper: Andries Noppert vs Ecuador

One of the main discussion points ahead of the tournament surrounded who would get the nod in goal for Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands squad, with three names in the frame.

However, it was international debutant Andries Noppert who was selected to start his team’s 2-0 win over Senegal ahead of Remko Pasveer and Justin Bijlow, and he put in an impressive performance.

A first clean sheet coming on the world’s biggest stage was a special moment for the Dutchman, with the 28-year-old set to continue as the Netherlands’ No 1 in the tournament.

The Netherlands play Ecuador in Matchday 2 before meeting the hosts Qatar in Matchday 3. As favorites to top the group, clean sheet potential is high for Noppert.

The Heerenveen goalkeeper comes in at a budget-friendly $4.5 million, too, so could be a great enabler long-term if the Netherlands manage to go deep into the tournament.


Defender: Theo Hernandez vs Denmark

The injury woes continued for France during their Matchday 1 victory over Australia, with their first-choice left-back Lucas Hernandez substituted with a serious knee injury.

It has since been confirmed by the French national side that Hernandez has ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and is out for the tournament.

His younger brother Theo Hernandez replaced him on the pitch, earning an assist for the opening goal scored by Adrien Rabiot, demonstrating his potential for attacking returns.

France have now played their more straightforward fixture in Group D against Australia, with match-ups against Tunisia and Denmark still to come.

Theo Hernandez, France


AC Milan full-back Theo Hernandez looks set to be France’s first-choice left-back for the remainder of the World Cup after his brother Lucas was ruled out of the tournament (Photo: Ulrik Pedersen/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Those two sides played out a goalless draw in Matchday 1, so there’s still plenty of clean sheet potential for Hernandez and France in their remaining group game.

It’s a defense set to prosper, with the attack-minded Hernandez priced at a kind of $5.0m, compared to his teammates, with brother Lucas coming in at $0.5 million higher.

France are, of course, the defending world champions, having kept two clean sheets in the group stage and another two on their route to the final back in 2018.


Midfielder: Jude Bellingham vs USA

Jude Bellingham seriously impressed on his World Cup debut, scoring the opening goal for England in their 6-2 defeat of Iran in Matchday 1.

He became the second-youngest England scorer at a World Cup in history at 19 years and 145 days old, behind England legend Michael Owen.

Bellingham was preferred over Manchester City’s Kalvin Phillips, who has missed much of the season through injury in Gareth Southgate’s opening World Cup XI, and encouragingly, Bellingham would have had the assist for his team’s sixth goal if Callum Wilson had finished himself, instead of squaring for Jack Grealish.

The Borussia Dortmund midfielder was also heavily involved in the build-up to Raheem Sterling’s goal and he regularly drifts into the penalty box to put himself in goalscoring positions.

It’s something he regularly provides for his club side Borussia Dortmund, with nine goals and three assists from 22 appearances in all competitions for them this season.

Bellingham could be heavily suited to the advanced fantasy scoring matrix, which awards players for key passes and tackles won.

He made one key pass and won three tackles against Iran. If he continues to be a regular under Southgate, then he could make a mockery of his $7.5 million price tag.


Forward: Olivier Giroud vs Denmark

Olivier Giroud wasn’t even among the top 10 most-selected France players prior to the tournament kick-off — but expect that to change dramatically in the next few days.

Karim Benzema was set to lead the line for France in this tournament but was ruled out on the eve of the opener in Qatar with a thigh injury, which has plagued him for much of this season.

That injury paved the way for Giroud to pick up more minutes and at the time of writing, the 36-year-old is the highest scoring forward in the game so far.

He scored a brace against Australia and should now be a mainstay of the France attack for the remainder of the tournament — all at a budget-friendly $7.5 million.

Olivier Giroud, France


Olivier Giroud is another France player who should benefit from added game time following a teammate’s injury – in this case, Karim Benzema (Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Significantly, he’s cheaper than fellow forwards Kylian Mbappe ($11.0m), Antoine Griezmann ($8.5m) and Ousmane Dembele ($8.0m).

Giroud clearly has the pedigree too in a French shirt and he is now their joint-top goalscorer record alongside the legendary Thierry Henry, with the pair tied on 51 goals.

That achievement is even more remarkable since he failed to score a single goal in France’s successful 2018 World Cup campaign and played 40 minutes during Euro 2020.


Wildcard: Cristiano Ronaldo vs Ghana & Uruguay

Cristiano Ronaldo has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons since the start of the World Cup break after that bridge-burning interview with Piers Morgan.

He’s since had his contract terminated, with Manchester United making him a free agent in the January transfer window, but now is the time for his football to do the talking.

The Portugal star is potentially playing in what will likely be his final World Cup, aged 37 years old, having scored seven goals on football’s biggest stage.

He’s gunning for another record too — to become the only player to score at five consecutive World Cups. It’s something his rival Lionel Messi has failed to achieve just yet.

Given bizarre rules and glitches in the World Cup fantasy game, there may still be time to transfer Ronaldo into your Matchday 1 team on Thursday.

With two free in-matchday transfers, it is possible to sell a high-value player who has played and a forward who hasn’t yet played for a budget player and Cristiano Ronaldo, all while also netting his points against Ghana.

Portugal have their most favorable fixture in Matchday 1 and it would be typical of Ronaldo’s star power for him to score a hat-trick in this fixture.

If that’s not achievable for your own squad, consider a move for Ronaldo in Matchday 2 ahead of their clash with Uruguay, which could be another opportunity for Ronaldo to get himself on the scoresheet.

(Top photos: Getty Images)

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