8:00 a.m: Egypt v. Uruguay
11:00 a.m: Morocco v. Iran
2:00 p.m: Spain v. Portugal
Luis Suarez, URU v. EGY ($10,000): The decision whether or not to roster Suarez will be the biggest factor in lineup construction for Friday's three-game slate. The Uruguay attacker is coming off an excellent season for Barcelona, scoring 25 goals and assisting 12 more, and he's a huge part of the attack for his national team. He doesn't take many corners (he took a scattered few during World Cup qualifying), but he's likely to take all direct free kicks and penalties. Uruguay come in as the biggest favorites on the slate and have the highest implied goal total, so theoretically the upside is there for Suarez. Unfortunately, one of his teammates is Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani, who just won the Golden Boot in Ligue 1 for the second consecutive season, scoring 35 and 28 goals, respectively. The duo form one of the best strike forces in the World Cup, which is great for the team and not as great for fantasy players hoping their goals against Egypt on Friday flow through Suarez. His shot volume and ability to draw fouls against an Egypt side that figures to be playing very defensively should allow for a decent floor, but Suarez will have to score to pay off his high price. Then again, he comes in with the best anytime goal scorer odds among players on the slate, including Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo ($11,500), who will get plenty of people rostering him because of who he is but his price is just way too high with Portugal underdogs against a Spanish side that has the third-best odds to win the entire tournament.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh, IRN v. MRC ($6,200): Jahanbakhsh has his own solid scoring pedigree, as he led the Eredivisie (the top league in the Netherlands) with 21 goals this season while also finishing with the third-most assists (12). Averaging 4.5 shots, including 2.0 on goal, 5.1 crosses, 2.5 chances created, 2.1 fouls suffered and 2.2 tackles won per 90 minutes for AZ Alkmaar, Jahanbakhsh plays a similar role for Iran in that he'll be responsible for most set pieces and will be the creative force behind their attack. The Iran-Morocco match isn't expected to be that high scoring, but it's worth noting that this game will be each team's best chance to get a win because they'll be playing Portugal and Spain in their other matches. Jahanbakhsh would be in consideration if his price was $8,000, so we should happily take the discount.
Goncalo Guedes, POR v. ESP ($5,400): Guedes shouldn't sniff a cash lineup, but he makes for a very interesting GPP option on a slate with tournaments the size of which we've never seen, both in guaranteed dollar amounts and number of players. His spot in the starting XI isn't a given, and playing in the late game does us no favors, but he's been in really good form and he'd be a bold pick against the best team in the group. He scored two goals on three shots in a friendly against Algeria last week, and he took four shots and drew four fouls against Belgium a few days before that. He'll likely be very low owned, especially with Portugal as underdogs, but there's definitely a case for Guedes to get some GPP consideration.
Hakim Ziyech, MRC v. IRN ($8,700): Ziyech is arguably the best cash-game play on the slate, as his salary isn't prohibitively high and he takes all set pieces for a favored side. It also doesn't hurt that he was one of the best players in the Netherlands this season, averaging 4.9 shots, including 1.4 on goal, 10.1 crosses and 4.2 chances created per 90 minutes (he finished with nine goals and a league-best 15 assists). Similar to Jahanbakhsh, this match for Ziyech will be the easiest one he has in the entire tournament (assuming Spain and Portugal advance out of the group stage), and even if the match doesn't turn out to be high scoring, there should be plenty of peripheral points to go around. Ziyech is a strong cash-game play, but teammate Younes Belhanda ($4,300) makes for a great GPP option because of his solid attacking upside, plus his much lower salary allows you to spend up elsewhere.
Georgian de Arrascaeta, URU v. EGY ($7,100): de Arrascaeta's basis for being a cash-game staple is that he is likely to get most corners for the biggest favorite on the slate. While Suarez and Cavani are known entities because they play in two of the bigger leagues in Europe, de Arrascaeta plies his trade in Brazil for Cruzeiro. The Brasileiro is still a very tough league, and de Arrascaeta has been playing very well in limited appearances this season, averaging 4.7 shots, including 1.3 on goal, 6.0 crosses, 3.1 fouls drawn and 3.4 chances created per 90 minutes, which are pretty ridiculous returns if he can come close to those in a Uruguay shirt. His shots probably won't be as high because of the strikers in front of him, but there's still plenty of floor and upside. Before I finish with de Arrascaeta, I should note that it's possible Carlos Sanchez ($8,000) starts instead, and while he could be on set pieces as well, his open-play value doesn't come close to what de Arrascaeta can provide.
Nahitan Nandez, URU v. EGY ($3,800): There are a few different ways to pay down at midfielder, if you're so inclined, with Nandez joining Rodrigo Bentancur ($3,700) and Matias Vecino ($4,300) as central midfielders on the biggest favorite who may be able to move up in the attack while still providing a decent floor from tackles won and fouls drawn. Another possibility in this range is a player like Egypt's Abdallah El Said ($4,200), who could be taking all of their set pieces if Mohamed Salah doesn't play. A monopoly of set pieces sounds great, but El Said will be taking them for the biggest underdog on the slate, so you'll be locking in 100 percent of the two or three corners they take. Morocco's Nabir Dirar ($4,300) would be an interesting option if he starts at full-back, though that is looking less and less likely as he finishes up his recovery from injury. Teammate Amine Harit ($4,000) could draw some attention playing on the opposite wing of Ziyech, but he doesn't have much propensity to cross and anything he does likely takes away from Ziyech.
Achraf Hakimi, MRC v. IRN ($5,300): Known as "the guy on Morocco who plays for Real Madrid," Hakimi is a prototypical attacking fullback who likes to cross and is playing for a favored side. Pairing Hakimi with Ziyech isn't a problem because there should be plenty of peripheral points to be had and there aren't a ton of defenders worth paying up for anyway. If you're fading Suarez for two cheaper forwards, you should have more than enough money to roster Hakimi, who could end up with the highest floor among defenders on the slate.
Martin Caceres, URU v. EGY ($4,100): Caceres primarily plays as a center-back for Lazio in Serie A, though he did have a few appearances as a right-back and a left-back this past season, which gave him opportunities to cross more and take a few more shots. It remains unclear who will be the starting fullbacks for Uruguay, but Caceres represents the cheapest of a group that includes Guillermo Varela ($4,900), Maxi Pereira ($4,600) and Gaston Silva ($5,100). Given that Uruguay are expected to have plenty of possession, Caceres, or whoever starts, should be able to move up into the attack, and the clean sheet bonus is absolutely in play.
Ramin Rezaeian, IRN v. MRC ($4,300): Rezaeian is another cheap fullback, and in a match where Iran will be doing everything they can to get three points, there's certainly a case to be made that Rezaeian could be active in the attack. His upside isn't going to be that high -- he is an Iranian defender, after all -- but the cheaper salary and somewhat favorable opponent make him worth the relatively small risk.
Rui Patricio, POR v. ESP ($4,100): Paying up for Uruguay's Fernando Muslera ($5,600) makes a lot of sense because of their high win and clean sheet odds, but I'm not overly optimistic about his save upside against an Egypt team likely playing without Salah. The Morocco-Iran match should be close and could have lots of saves in it because each team will be fighting for the win, but I find myself siding with Patricio if only because I don't anticipate rostering many (any?) Spanish players in cash. Spain are decently favored over Portugal, but when two really good teams face off against each other, including one that isn't an all-out attacking side like Portugal, I tend to think it'll be a grinding match with few fireworks. Given Spain's plethora of attacking players, Patricio should see plenty of shots come his way, and I'm willing to bet that he stops enough of them to pay off a salary that's the second-lowest among the position.