3 key questions Euro 2016 fantasy football managers cannot afford to ignore
All regular fantasy football players will know that set-pieces can be the key to their success.
But it’s not just about goals and assists these days, since shots on target and crosses are also contributing to scoring in many fantasy football formats, so free-kicks, corners and penalties can all be important sources of points, helping you to climb up the leaderboards and compete for those big cash prizes.
Euro 2016 fantasy football teams should therefore include at least one set-piece specialist, if not two or three, otherwise you are risking falling behind your rivals in the race for success.
Some of the best free-kick takers on the planet will be taking part in the European Championship over the course of the next month, but how do you decide which ones to put in your team? Here is our guide to three of the most important set-piece specialists playing at Euro 2016 this summer and three vital questions that need answering.
Will Harry Kane be first choice for England on free-kicks and corners?
Harry Kane is far from the most obvious selection when looking at Euro 2016 set-piece specialists and the striker has been a surprise choice on free-kick and corner duties for England of late.
Many eyebrows were raised among fans and the media alike when Kane lined up to take corners in England’s first warm-up game for the tournament, but he has continued to take the responsibility. Coach Roy Hodgson has defended his decision to have Kane on set-piece duty, insisting the Tottenham man is the right choice, despite not taking free-kicks or corners for Spurs.
“I don’t need to apologise for Kane taking a corner, especially if you’ve got a player with his quality striking a ball, and no one else in the team who comes up to that level of striking a ball,” Hodgson told reporters.
Kane is one of England’s biggest aerial threats and most reliable goalscorers, scoring five goals from his 12 appearances for the national team, so on the surface it makes little sense for him to be over free-kicks and corners, rather than being in the penalty area.
But the player himself is happy to get the job and has been working on his crosses and shots in training. “The manager asked me to take them. We’ve been doing some work on them in training and he’s been happy with the delivery. We’ve been trying different things,” Kane said.
It looks like the 22-year-old hotshot will be a firm fixture on set-piece duty throughout Euro 2016.
Is Ricardo Rodríguez the pick of the Euro 2016 defenders when it comes to set-piece duties?
Defenders who take set-pieces for their side can be like gold dust, so if there is one playing at international level they absolutely have to be worth considering for your fantasy football teams.
Switzerland international Ricardo Rodríguez is considered to be one of the best left-backs in Europe – and he is also a huge threat from set-pieces.
Not only does he take free-kicks and corners, Rodríguez is reliable from 12 yards too, scoring 14 of the 16 penalties he has taken so far in his career. Most recently, Rodríguez scored against Real Madrid in this season’s 2-0 Champions League win. However, he has missed on one of the two occasions he has stepped up to take a spot-kick while wearing Switzerland colours.
With a wand of a left foot, the defender, who has been linked with a move to Arsenal to join up with his international team-mate Granit Xhaka, could be a great bargain selection for a Euro 2016 fantasy football team this summer.
Part of the Switzerland team that triumphed at the 2009 under-17 World Cup, Rodríguez is already closing in on a half-century of international caps despite being just 23.
Switzerland do not have the hardest of groups at Euro 2016 – they face Albania and Romania, as well as hosts France – so there is a good chance Rodríguez and his colleagues make it through to the knock-out stage of the competition.
With Rodríguez’s contract reportedly having a buyout clause that comes into effect this year, set at around 30 million euros, the left-back could put himself firmly in the shop window at the Euros, a possibility that was raised in a fascinating article on WhoScored recently.
Will Dimitri Payet start ahead of Anthony Martial or Antoine Griezmann?
Perhaps the most famous set-piece specialist at Euro 2016 will be France’s Dimitri Payet, who has shown off his range of staggering free-kicks in his debut season at West Ham United.
Payet missed a couple of months of the season as a result of injury, but he won a place in the PFA Barclays Premier League Team of the Year due to his 12 assists and nine goals.
However, unlike Kane and Rodríguez, Payet is not yet certain to be a guaranteed starter for his country throughout the tournament, making him a risky selection for daily fantasy football teams.
Despite impressing in warm-up games, scoring a trademark free-kick to seal a late 3-2 win against Cameroon, Payet is battling with Anthony Martial and Antoine Griezmann to feature in the France attack at Euro 2016.
Payet has to force his way into the France team first, then, but if he does get into Didier Deschamps’ starting XI during the competition he could rapidly become a must-pick fantasy football player this summer.