EURO 2020 Fantasy Football: The Scout squad for the quarter-finals
Thursday, 1 July 2021
With the quarter-finals looking too close to call, the Scout is forced to make some difficult decisions in the 15-man squad for the last-eight games.
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As we reach the business end of UEFA EURO 2020, picking a Fantasy squad gets harder and harder. Not only in terms of the value of the squad – with a host of premium assets still involved, budgeting is ever more difficult – but also in terms of predicting which sides will win the games, and which Fantasy assets will deliver as a result. The Scout's squad for the quarter-finals is therefore a mix of the teams still involved, although England feature particularly prominently.
Clean sheets could be at a premium among the quarter-finalists, only four of whom kept clean sheets in the round of 16. Although Gianluigi Donnarumma has picked up 20 points to date, his first concession of the tournament against Austria means he is now behind Thibaut Courtois (22 points), but with Belgium and Italy meeting in the last eight, there's a good chance neither goalkeeper will be adding significantly to their total. Instead, the clear selection from Friday's games is Unai Simón (€5.2m), who did ship three goals last time out but managed two shut-outs in the group stage and is well placed for another against Switzerland.
Saturday's nomination is altogether more straightforward, with England having posted four clean sheets from four matches and facing Ukraine in Rome. Jordan Pickford (€5.7m) is the highest-scoring goalkeeper on the game with 25 points, including seven in the round of 16, and goes to the Olimpico chasing his seventh successive clean sheet; he has not conceded on international duty for 606 minutes.
England's defensive strength means two of their players are also included among the five at the back. Harry Maguire (€5.5m) sat out the first two matches through injury, but has featured throughout the last two and is sure to be in the starting line-up in Rome. John Stones, Kyle Walker and Luke Shaw are obvious contenders to join him, but budget constraints mean Kieran Trippier (€5.1m) makes the cut instead; the right-back is more of a gamble as he could miss out should Gareth Southgate rejig his team, although with Oleksandr Zinchenko a key attacking threat for Ukraine, England may well opt to stick with wing-backs.
Spain should keep faith with Eric García (€4.5m) at the back against the Swiss, with the centre-half having gone off with his side 3-1 up against Croatia; those late defensive lapses in his absence mean he is likely to retain his place in the starting XI. That's good news for budget-conscious Fantasy managers, as is the ongoing presence of Giovanni Di Lorenzo (€5.2m) in the Italy team; he has only one clean sheet from his three outings to date, but the Azzurri's strength in defensive areas means he's still a worthwhile inclusion.
Defence is rounded out by another budget choice, Joakim Mæhle (€4.7m) of Denmark. Given licence to get forward, the wing-back has picked up 20 of his 23 Fantasy points in his last two appearances and may be a pivotal figure at both ends against the Czech Republic.
With Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne a major injury doubt for the tie against Italy, perhaps the obvious place to turn is Raheem Sterling (€9.6m), who has scored three of England's four goals to date; with 15 goals in his last 20 internationals, finding a more in-form midfielder than Sterling would be a challenge. Federico Chiesa (€7.0m) came off the bench to break the deadlock in Italy's last-16 win over Austria, which is likely to earn him a starting role for the quarter-final – and the fact that may well be as part of a front three only increases his appeal.
The same positional bonus applies to Ferran Torres (€8.1m), who has picked up 16 of his 20 points in his last two outings thanks to two goals and one assist. Likely to join Torres up front in Spain's 4-3-3 against Switzerland is Pablo Sarabia (€6.7m), who is outscoring his team-mate by 23 points to 20 and has supplied two goals and two assists in the last two games as Spain have struck five in each.
Completing the midfield five is another player who hit his stride on Matchdays 3 and 4, Mikkel Damsgaard (€6.1m). The Denmark man followed his eight points against Russia with another six versus Wales thanks to a goal and an assist respectively, and with the Danes having scored four goals in each of those two matches Damsgaard should get chances to add to that tally against the Czechs.
The last-16 eliminations of France, Portugal and the Dutch made it farewell to Fantasy favourites Kylian Mbappé (plus Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann), Cristiano Ronaldo and Memphis Depay, although thankfully for the 57% of managers who have him in their squads, Romelu Lukaku (€11.3m) is still involved. The Belgium striker has alternated big scores with small at this tournament and, having harvested only two points in the round of 16, will be hoping that pattern continues against Italy, even allowing for the possible absences of De Bruyne and Eden Hazard.
Lukaku is actually the second-highest scorer among Fantasy forwards on 20 points, seven behind Patrik Schick (€8.6m), who will seek to add to his four goals when his Czech Republic side take on Denmark. The most expensive Fantasy player remaining, England's Harry Kane (€11.5m), is playing catch-up in the scoring race but, having belatedly opened his EURO finals account against Germany, will bid to make up for lost time against Ukraine.