SOCCER

FanDuel World Cup Single-Game Helper: Qatar vs. Ecuador (11/20/22)

Ecuador and Qatar open the 2022 World Cup on Sunday, and Michael Estrada is in a good spot to do some damage. Who are the other best plays for the single-game slate on FanDuel?

The 2022 World Cup kicks off on Sunday at 11 a.m. EST with a match between Qatar, the host nation, and Ecuador.

FanDuel is offering single-game contests for the matchup. In single-game contests, the scoring settings are the same as FanDuel's normal soccer offerings, but roster requirements are different. You have $50 to work with, and you need to roster four forwards/midfielders -- one in a captain slot, where the player's points are multiplied by 1.5 -- along with a defender. Goalies are not part of the player pool.

All World Cup odds come from FanDuel Sportsbook and FoxBet, and they may change after the article is published.

Quick Match Overview

On paper, Ecuador are the better side. They got fourth in the very difficult CONMEBOL qualifying, getting draws with both Argentina and Brazil -- two of the best sides in the world -- in two of their last four qualifying matches. Our nERD-based rankings have Ecuador 21st in the field while Qatar is ranked 3rd-worst and should be one of the tourney's weakest squads.

With that said, Ecuador is priced as just a +130 favorite, according to the World Cup odds at FanDuel Sportsbook, but there's a chance oddsmakers have given Qatar too much credit for its home-field advantage. Our model sees Ecuador winning by a score of 1.54-0.87.

Then again, we've seen through the years -- including host Russia beating Spain in the Round of 16 at the previous World Cup before losing on penalties to Croatia, the eventual runner-up -- how big of an advantage hosting can be. With Qatar playing in its first-ever World Cup match, the environment figures to be special on Sunday.

In truth, I'm not sure what to expect from Qatar. All of their players ply their trade off the radar in Qatar's domestic league. This team won seven of their eight matches in a weak qualifying group, drawing the other and racking up a +17 goal differential. But there was no pressure on them as their World Cup ticket was already punched due to hosting.

The match is just +166 to go over 2.5 goals, and with two underwhelming attacks, goals might be really hard to come by, which could result in a low-scoring slate. Ecuador have played in five friendlies since qualifying, and they scored just two goals in those matches while conceding none. During qualification, they permitted only 19 goals in 18 matches.

If Ecuador want to get out of a group that contains Senegal and the Netherlands, they'll almost surely need to take all three points from this match.

Captain Choices

Enner Valencia ($14), Ecuador

Ecuador are the better side, and I'll treat them as such. As I said in the intro, Ecuador being just a +130 favorite might be a result of oddsmakers putting too much weight on Qatar's home-field advantage. Our projections have Ecuador winning 1.54-0.87.

Valencia and the next guy are in their own tier as the best captain options. I'd assume they'll account for a large chunk of the MVP draft percentage.

Valencia -- who will likely start as a winger in a 4-3-3 -- comes into the event in good form. He's scored 13 goals and tallied four assists in 11 starts for Turkish power Fenerbah├že. In qualifying with Ecuador, Valencia netted four goals and an assist, with the four goals ranking second on the team. He also took a team-high two penalties in qualifying, and if he is on pens in the World Cup, that'll be a big plus in his corner.

He's +220 to score, the best odds in the match, and Valencia checks a lot of boxes.

Michael Estrada ($15), Ecuador

Estrada was Ecuador's leading scorer in qualifying, bagging six goals and adding two assists in 11 starts. He's usually deployed in a number-nine role, and he should find himself on the end of a few chances.

His +350 anytime goal odds are the second-best on Ecuador, although they're a ways behind Valencia's.

Given those odds as well as Valencia being $1 lower in salary, if the masses roster just one of Estrada and Valencia, I'm guessing it'll likely be Valencia. I'd also expect Valencia to be more popular as an MVP. That makes Estrada a fun pivot in the multiplier spot.

Almoez Ali ($11), Qatar

Ali is one of the main men for Qatar and should be lined up at center-forward. In qualifying, he poured in a team-leading six goals and chipped in with two assists. Ali also took one penalty, scoring it, and he took a penalty in Qatar's most recent tune-up friendly -- which makes me think he'll have that role on Sunday.

He'll be a vital piece for Qatar and is +230 to score a goal on Sunday, the second-best odds in the match and the top odds for the hosts.

Forwards/Midfielders

Akram Afif ($12), Qatar

Afif is a winger who might be Qatar's best player. Per TransferMarkt's estimation, he owns the top market value on the squad by a wide margin.

He totaled four goals with three assists in just six starts in qualifying. But he came off the bench in Qatar's most recent friendly, so he's not a lock to start. If he does, he needs to be on our radar. His +330 anytime goal odds are the third-best on Qatar.

Moises Caicedo ($10), Ecuador

Caicedo will be the best player on the pitch on Sunday. The 20-year-old midfielder is a top talent. He joined Premier League club Brighton this season, and he's proven to be one of the best young players in the EPL, becoming another success story of Independiente del Valle.

With Brighton, Caicedo is a key piece as a ball-winner who starts attacks, but he isn't utilized in a fantasy-friendly way as he typically plays as a number-six. That puts him too deep to accumulate goals and assists, and as such, he's recorded just one goal and no assists in 14 league starts with Brighton.

For Ecuador, though, he's deployed differently, more in a number-eight role that gives him chances to push forward. As a result, he amassed two goals and four assists in 15 starts in qualifying.

The only blemish for Caicedo in DFS is that he could be super chalky. Not only is the $10 salary easy to like, but he's also a known commodity in a match without many of them, which should drive up his popularity.

Abdulaziz Hatem ($7), Qatar

Hatem is the lowest-salaried expected starter for the midfield/forward spots, and he's expected to be in the number-six position. That's the role I just described Caicedo playing for Brighton, the one that's not great for fantasy. But hear me out.

While Hatem has very little chance to score or assist (he's +1000 to get a goal), the best time to play a defensive midfielder in DFS is when they're a big underdog on a single-game slate as they can put up 10 or so FanDuel points from defensive actions. On a multi-game slate, getting 10ish FanDuel points from a forward/midfield slot will be a drag on your lineup, but on a single-game slate -- especially one where there might be only a goal or two -- those 10 points can be a big help, especially at this salary.

Angel Mena ($7), Ecuador

Mena might start alongside Valencia and Estrada in a front three -- emphasis on might. If he does, he's a smashing value play. Mena is a decent +370 to score and had two goals and three assists in the qualifiers.

Even if Mena doesn't start, you could throw a dart at him in hopes that he comes on as a substitute and makes an impact. Teams will be allowed five subs per game this World Cup, so for single-game slates, using a sub isn't as terrible idea as long as you're confident he will get on at some point.

With Mena, if he doesn't start and Ecuador are leading in the second half, he may not play at all. On the flip side, if he doesn't start and Ecuador are chasing the game, he'll likely be called upon.

Defenders

Pervis Estupinan ($7), Ecuador

Estupinan, a left-back, plays at Brighton with Caicedo. Estupinan is in his first year at the club after coming over from Villarreal and is looking like a solid signing. While he doesn't yet have an assist in the Premier League, he's been more impactful going forward for Ecuador than he's been for Brighton.

He started all but one match in qualifying (17 starts) and scored two goals with four assists. Ecuador usually play a more defensive game and hurt teams on the counter, so it's impressive Estupinan was able to generate those kinds of numbers. In this match, Ecuador might see a lot of the ball, which could give Estupinan ample chances to get forward into dangerous areas.

He's a high-upside option who makes for a great stacking partner with any of Ecuador's front three, particularly Estrada.

Bassam Al Rawl ($4), Qatar

Al Rawl is the lowest-salaried expected starter and will likely be part of Qatar's back-five as one of the three center-backs. His $4 salary is handy if you're trying to jam in Ecuador's stars. Rostering Al Rawl allows you to plug in Valencia, Estrada and Caicedo and still have $7 left over.

If you're using Al Rawl, ideally Qatar end up playing without the ball for much of the game, allowing Al Rawl to produce a good amount of defensive stats, because he'll probably offer very little in the way of attacking juice.