Is Dzagoev the Real Deal? ESPN Euro Manager – Group Stage 2

The opening round of group stage fixtures at Euro 2012 ended with a shocking upset.  Co-host nation Ukraine defeated Sweden 2-1, thanks to a pair of goals from 2004 Ballon d’Or winner Andriy Schevchenko.  The former AC Milan and Chelsea striker joined the tournament’s multi-goal scorers Mario Mandzukic (CRO) and Alan Dzagoev (RUS) in the hunt for the Golden Boot.

I think most people following this year’s tournament had Dutch forward Robin van Persie as one of the favorites to win the award.  Van Persie started on 46.9% of ESPN Euro Manager entires, but failed to deliver as the Netherlands were shutout by Denmark during Group Stage 1.  Unfortunately for RVP things aren’t looking any better; The Oranje face tournament favorite Germany on Wednesday.  I’m sure Dutch Manager Bert van Marwijk plans to keep van Persie in his starting eleven, but fantasy owners should look for other options heading into Group Stage 2 of ESPN Euro Manager.

If you plan on using anyone from Group A, you’ll need to get them on your active roster before the start of their match tomorrow afternoon.  However, keep in mind that one of the benefits being an ESPN Euro Manager is having the ability to make last-minute changes.

The game rewards the fantasy players that are fortunate enough to watch each game and react to tactical changes as they happen.  One such opportunity presented itself on Sunday when Spanish Manager Vincente del Bosque decided to start the game against Italy without a striker on the pitch.  Instead, he started with Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabergas as the center piece of his attacking formation.   I didn’t pull the trigger myslef, but I’m sure there were a few clever Euro Managers out there that capitalized on Del Bosque’s move.

Worst case, active Euro Managers were given a last-minute shot a removing Spanish strikers Fernando Torres or Fernando Llorente from their starting lineups.  If they made their move in time, they had the option of replacing them with any forward that hadn’t yet played during the current scoring period.  I suppose late injury scratches and move’s like Del Bosque’s are the reason for this setting in the game.

Maybe I should have switched to Cesc.  I could have used the extra goal.  I feel like a came away with one of the three 1-1 draws we saw during the opening matches of Euro 2012.  I had some hits during Group Stage 1, but I missed some shots too.  Either way I’m taking another shot at helping you dominate ESPN Euro Manager.

GK – Being a goal keeper is nowhere near as easy as Przemyslaw Tyton made it look in the Poland’s opening round match against Greece, just ask Irish GK Shay Given.

There were 20 goals scored during the 8 opening fixtures of Euro 2012.  Surprisingly the only two teams that failed to score were Portugal and the Netherlands.  The clean sheets and 3+ saves from Manuel Neuer (GER) and Stephan Andersen (DEN) made them the top producing GK’s during Group Stage 1 with 7 points each.

I don’t expect there to be as many goals scored during Group Stage 2, but I do not see very many clean sheet opportunities.  The most likely source for a shutout is Spain’s match vs. Ireland.  Spanish GK Iker Casillas was able to stop everything but a brilliant finish from Italian forward Antonio Di Natale.  His 5 saves were tied for second best during the opening matches.  I expect Casillas to face same number (or fewer) shots on goal (5) that the Irish were able to create against Croatia.

Top 5 GK: *Casillas (ESP), Neuer (GER), Lloris (FRA), Patricio (POR), Cech (CZE)

* Indicates player is in the GoPro Starting 11

GK’s to Avoid: Szczesny (POL) – Red Card Suspension, Stekelenburg (NED) vs. GER

DEF – We only saw two defenders score in Group Stage 1.  The Republic of Ireland’s Sean St. Ledger and England’s Joleon Lescott.  Both were on less than 1% of ESPN Euro Manager entries.

When it comes to defense, I am going to continue to use the approach I presented in 6 Ways to Dominate ESPN Euro Manager.  After watching each of the games, I have a better feel for each teams tactics and approach in the backfield.  Again, at 8 points per goal, I’m going to load up on defenders that have goal scoring potential.  I like what I saw from:

Top 5 Defenders: *Lahm (GER), *Jordi Alba (ESP), *Debuchy (FRA), *Pepe (POR), Zhirkov (RUS)

Defenders to Avoid:  Corluka (CRO) – Corluka was not as involved in the offense as I wanted to see.  He is also a high risk for being carded.  I would also avoid Sean St. Ledger.  I seriously doubt he scores again and I can see Italy scoring 2 or more goals.

MID – Of the 20 goals scored during Group Stage 1, only 7 came from midfielders.  Chances are you can take credit for one of the seven if you started one of the Russians.  Alan Dzagoev netted two goals and is the overall game leader with 15 points.  I honestly didn’t expect much from the 21-year-old after he nearly missed Euro 2012 because of a fractured toe.  I was right about Russia last week, but I was sold on Andrei Arshavin.  He came through with two assists, but this week I want the man scoring all the goals.

In October 2008, Dzagoev became Russia’s youngest ever outfield player at 18 years and 4 months. At age 21, his performance against the Czech Republic was clinical. 3 shots, 2 goals, 64 touches and 84% pass accuracy. Photograph: Getty Images

Top 5 Midfielders: *Iniesta (ESP), *Dzagoev (RUS), *Muller (GER), *Ribery (FRA), Pirlo (ITL)

Midfielders to Avoid:  I wasn’t overly impressed with Ashley Young’s (ENG) performance against France.  The fact that he received a yellow card made his showing all the more disappointing for his ESPN Euro Managers.  It’s nice to see him in a forward role, but I am going to pass on Young this go around.  I also wonder if Arjen Robben (NED) is going to spend the whole tournament throwing his arms in the air and flopping on the ground.  It’s clear that his frustration has gotten the better of him.

FWD – The bar is set at 7.  That is where your forwards need to be if they want a spot in your starting 11.  Two of the three multi goal scorers were starting on less than 0.5% of ESPN Euro Manager entries.  Mario Gomez (GER) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (SWE) were the only forwards on more than 10% of entries that scored 7+ points in Group Stage 1.

Top 5 Forwards: *Gomez (GER), *Ibrahimovic (SWE), Benzema (FRA), Lewandowski (POL), Ronaldo (POR)

Forwards to Avoid:  There is no explanation for Mario Balotelli.  I’d swear he was a WR in the NFL.  For the sake of intelligent conversation I am throwing multi goal scorer Mario Mandzukic (CRO) in to the mix.  Maybe avoid isn’t the proper word here, it’s just that I’d rather use Everton forward Nikica Jelavic (CRO).

My squad is set for Group Stage 2: GoPro City – Starting 11

If you’d like to discuss tactics for ESPN Euro Manager please email me at or find me on Google+ and Twitter @GoProFS24.

Thanks for reading & enjoy the next stage Euro 2012 action!