In this week’s Backpage, football journalist and FIFA gamer Darren Cross reveals his strongest line-ups and tactics for the teams in Group C…
Current world champions and defending Euro champs Spain are the headline team in Group C, but Italy, Ireland and Croatia also have something to offer for the FIFA player looking to compete in the online or offline version of the tournament.
This week we’ll look at how I set those teams up to be as strong as possible, starting with…
Chances are you’ve probably played as Spain already, as they’re one of the most popular teams in the game. Their squad is so strong that you can head straight into matches without having to mess about with formations and line-ups, but if you do take a minute to make just a few key changes then you can improve them even further.
Spain are one of the few teams that I don’t mind using a single striker formation with, because they’ve got top-quality midfielders, excellent wingers and a lone frontman that can score goals, so I stick with their default 4-3-3(4). It’s worth noting though that, if the idea of playing one up front really doesn’t appeal to you, Spain do have David Villa on the bench and he makes a great partner for Llorente.
Personally I don’t bring Villa in as – at the time of writing – it’s still unclear whether or not he’ll recover from injury in time for the tournament. To me there’s no point getting used to using Spain with Villa, only to find that he’s no longer available once the final squads are announced and the game updates. For now though he’s there and still one of the best strikers in the game, so if you want to use him then go for 4-1-2-1-2.
Okay, on to the line-up.
Casillas and most of the back four keep their places. The only change I make here is to bring in Alba at left-back at the expense of Arbeloa. Arbeloa is taller and stronger than Alba, but the Valencia star is much quicker and far better on the ball.
Busquets also comes out of the team and I move Xavi back to RCM alongside Alonso. Busquets is a bit better at winning the ball back than both of them, but Alonso and Xavi are much more effective in possession and either one can be the playmaker. As well as Busquets you also have Fabregas on the bench, so you’re definitely well covered in the CM department.
Ahead of Xavi and Alonso is Iniesta in the CAM position. He’s a ridiculously good dribbler and – with a Vision of 93 and a Short Pass of 95 – he’s not too bad at finding his team-mates. Either side of him I go with David Silva at LW and I bring in Jesus Navas to play as the RW. Navas is very quick, an excellent dribbler and has a Crossing stat of 87, which is vital for this role as I use my wingers to whip the ball into the box as much as possible. Silva just takes the LW position over Mata, as – although Mata is quicker and ever-so-slightly better at dribbling and crossing – Silva feels more responsive, is a better passer and can be a threat from range so he’s more versatile. Mata is a great impact sub when Silva tires though, which he will as he only has 68 for Stamina. Talking of subs, you’ve also got Santi Cazorla on the bench and he can come in to play on the left, right or through the centre.
There’s just one more change to make, and that’s to drop Negredo and give Llorente a starting role at ST. At 6ft 5in and with a Heading Acc of 93, target men don’t come much better than Fernando Llorente. He also has incredible Strength and the Power Header trait, which explains why I like to cross the ball so much with Silva and Navas. Although there’s only a point between them in the Overall ratings, I feel Llorente is far more effective but Negredo can be a useful sub. One thing in his favour is that he’s left-footed, so you might take your opponent by surprise if he isn’t really paying attention.
Here’s my line-up…
The default starting formation for Italy is a very narrow 4-3-1-2, which probably explains why there are hardly any wingers in the squad. If you like to play with wide players and go for crosses, don’t start a campaign as the Italians.
I change to the narrow 4-1-2-1-2(2) because I’m more familiar with that and I prefer having two strikers up there, rather than one leading with one just behind.
Other than the formation, there are only three more changes to make before you have what I consider to be the strongest possible line-up – one in defence, midfield and attack.
At the back I drop Balzaretti and bring in Criscito, who is quicker, stronger and considerably taller, but the rest of the back four are okay and should be a match for most forward lines.
In midfield I keep De Rossi at CDM and Pirlo at RCM, but I bring Giovinco back to play as the LCM. He’s much faster and a better dribbler than Marchisio, plus you don’t really want him in the box anyway as he has a paltry 65 for Finishing. De Rossi is of course the destroyer while Pirlo is the creator and free-kick master – make sure he’s taking any set pieces around the box.
In the CAM role I stick with Cassano. Like Villa for Spain, Cassano has also been struggling with injury but word is that he will make the squad. Cassano’s not the quickest but he’s lethal with the ball at his feet thanks to his passing and dribbling abilities.
Up front I stick with Balotelli as the RS. He’s got a horrible Balance stat of just 45 so he can feel a bit unresponsive at times, but he’s quick, strong, a good dribbler and a powerful finisher. Next to him I go with Pazzini, who’s quicker and a better finisher than both Gilardino and Osvaldo. He’s also brilliant in the air for a relatively small striker, not that you’re going to be whipping that many crosses in but you never know.
So my Italy starting XI looks like this…
CDM: De Rossi
I think Ireland are one of the better 4* teams at the tournament, as they’ve got some decent defenders, wingers and strikers if you’re prepared to tinker with their line-up a little.
They start off with a 4-4-2(1) but they’ve got the right players for the 4-1-2-1-2(1), so I change to this as it’s one of the formations I’m most comfortable with.
Keeper Shay Given is the highest rated player in the squad so he obviously keeps his place in the team, but I do make a couple of changes to the defence. John O’Shea moves over to RCB and I select Seamus Coleman at RB. Coleman brings some much-needed pace to an otherwise sluggish back four, while O’Shea is a better option than St. Ledger as the RCB because he’s a fair bit taller and a better tackler. The powerful Richard Dunne stays at LCB and Ward plays at LB, as he’s the best option there. Stephen Kelly, who’s on the bench, can play in either full-back position so bring him on if Coleman or Ward get tired.
I go with Whelan at CDM. Andrews is slightly better at winning the ball back but Whelan is a stronger passer so he’s good for that deep lying playmaker role.
Then I shift Damien Duff to RM and bring in Stephen Hunt to play as the LM. Duff’s lost a bit of pace and is on his weaker side, but he’s still an excellent dribbler and can pick out a pass. Hunt feels good on the ball and can keep running at players for most of the game, so he’s a useful player to have here. Both players can play on either side, and you also have the option to push Coleman to RM and bring Kelly in at RB, so there’s plenty of choice with Ireland if you find Duff and Hunt aren’t quite working for you.
Ahead of them in CAM is my favourite Ireland player, Aiden McGeady. He’s the fastest player in the squad plus he has 88 for Dribbling and 5* skills. He’s also a really good crosser so – again – if Hunt isn’t working out for you on the left then move McGeady to LM and go for someone else at CAM. Robbie Keane isn’t a bad choice there.
Talking of Keane, I start with him at RS. He’s also lost a bit of pace but he’s still an excellent finisher and a very effective penalty taker, so it’s worth having him on the pitch. Next to Keane at LS I drop Doyle and bring in Long, who’s a lot quicker and just as good a finisher. He does lack the aerial threat of Doyle though, so if you plan on whipping crosses in then consider Long and Doyle as the strike partnership.
So here’s my Ireland line-up in summary…
Croatia aren’t the best 4.5* team at the tournament – that’s Portugal in my opinion – but they can be a fun team to use if you’re looking for a challenge.
Like Ireland, they start with a 4-4-2 but they’ve got all the right players for a 4-1-2-1-2(1) so I change to that straightaway.
Pletikosa is the best keeper in the squad so he keeps the No.1 shirt, then I swap Vida at RB with Corluka at LB. Both are right-footed but Vida is more comfortable on the left than Corluka, who’s a natural right-back.
I drop both of the centre-backs, so Buljat comes in for Schildenfeld at RCB and Lovren starts ahead of Simunic at LCB. Buljat is a little quicker than Schildenfeld and feels a bit more responsive – so I tend to make fewer errors with him – and Lovren is twice as fast as Simunic, who has a woeful 33 for Acceleration and just 27 for Sprint Speed!
In midfield I take Dujmovic out of the CDM position and replace him with Vukojevic, who you’ll find on the bench. Vukojevic is much faster and generally better overall. At RM I go with the versatile Srna, who can also play in the centre of midfield or at right-back. He’s fairly quick and a good passer, but his most useful attributes are his Crossing and Free-Kick abilities. At LM I replace Kranjcar with Pranjic, who feels more responsive. He’s also a better crosser and the left is his natural side.
Of course, my CAM is Luka Modric who is the standout player in the side. Running with the ball feels great thanks to his Agility, Balance and Dribbling stats, and Modric is also a fantastic passer. He’s got a 5* weak foot, too, so don’t be afraid to have a pop at goal with his left if you get the chance.
Up front there are loads of options but I start with Eduardo at RS and Olic at LS. Both Mandzukic and Petric are better finishers but Eduardo is quick and a great dribbler and Olic is left-footed, which can catch players out sometimes. Jelavic is also on the bench and he’s a good striker too, so you’ll be spoilt for choice up front if you go with Croatia.
Here’s my starting XI…
Okay, that’s all for now. Make sure you check out next week’s Backpage when we focus on Group D, featuring England, France, Ukraine and Sweden.
As always, thanks for reading and see you next week.
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