Having occupied the summit since as far back as Matchday 6, Zeusch has finally been proven mortal as he scored the lowest of the overall top ten competitors. Meanwhile, Team Pitbull's tenacity appears to be paying off. Pitbull manager bestkolej is now just 20 points behind Zeusch, having gained 28 points on the leader this round. With only two McDonald's FIFA World Cup™ Fantasy matchdays left and not much in the way of points separating the top contenders, every single decision from this point forward could be the difference between winning a trip for two the South Africa 2010 or watching it at home.
European defenders fared the best in the latest qualifiers, occupying nine of the top ten places. While most managers were backing players from high-flying teams, interestingly enough it was defenders from two teams further down their respective qualifying tables that proved the most valuable. Martin Petrov scored a brace in Bulgaria's 6-2 defeat of Georgia while Sweden's Olof Mellberg scored two goals against Albania. Each returned 30 points.
Spain's Gerard Pique proved well worth the ten-unit price tag, returning 25 points, while Raio Piiroja returned the same at a fraction of the cost. The Estonian defender cost only 1.5 units. Servet Cetin (Turkey) and Marko Suler (Slovenia) also finished on 25 points apiece.
Overall, midfielders had a quit midweek and, on average, returned well below their defensive partners. Andrejs Rubins (Latvia) and Kerry Baptiste (Trinidad and Tobago) were the only midfielders to break beyond the 20-point mark. Rubins netted twice against Malta to help Latvia to a third place finish in Europe's Group 2, while Baptiste scored twice for the Soca Warriors to hold Mexico to a 2-2 draw in their backyard. Below them, a long list of decent performers returned 17 points apiece. Impressively, three Portuguese midfielders featured in the 17 club. Nani, Simao and Miguel Veloso all scored against Malta, subsequently earning the Portuguese a play-off place.
Dimitar Berbatov was the man to back in 15. The Manchester United striker scored a hat-trick against Georgia in just inside 35 minutes! Italy's Alberto Gilardino scored what was arguably a more impressive hat-trick in Italy's 3-2 win over Cyprus. Gilardino topped off his hat-trick with a 92nd-minute clincher that flattened Cypriot hopes of stealing a point from the world champions. The hat-trick heroes returned 24 points each.
While an impressive list of goalkeepers kept clean sheets, thus returning 14 points for managers, one man separated himself from the pack. Sweden's Anders Svensson may have conceded a goal against Albania, but he more than made up for it by scoring! Svensson backers earned 23 points, that's 9 points more than his closest rival.
Only six coaches returned maximum fantasy points this matchday as they led their teams to victory against better-ranked opposition. Of the six, Erwin Koeman (Hungary) and Jose Couceiro (Lithuania) deserve special mention. After a heavy 3-0 loss against Portugal, Koeman managed to fire up his team enough to travel to Copenhagen and end Denmark's unbeaten qualification run of nine without a loss. Meanwhile, Couceiro's Lithuania affected the best underdog win, as the team holding the 59th slot in the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking beat Serbia, who are currently ranked 20th worldwide.
Fantasy managers, see you in November for the last two matchdays of McDonald's FIFA World Cup Fantasy. Until then, be sure to try your luck at FIFA World Leagues Predictor, where every week one lucky gamer earns a signed FIFA World Cup winner's jersey.