Top 10 betting tidbits for the 2018 FIFA World Cup

11 June 2018

World Cup 2018

World Cup 2018 (photo by Max Pixel)

The 2018 World Cup begins Thursday when host Russia takes on Saudi Arabia.

Being played for the first time in Eastern Europe, the World Cup pits 32 nations from all over the world against each other in a total of 64 matches across a dozen stadiums located in 11 different cities. The final match will be played on 16 July in Moscow, and as usual, the worldwide betting action is expected to be hot and heavy.

There are a ton of things to consider when betting on the World Cup, which has been played every four years since 1930 (except 1942 and 1946, because of World War II). Not only that, there are different ways you can bet on the event. You can start with the basic pick on who will win it all and go all the way down to proposition bets, like how many cards will be given to players, or how many corner kicks are taken.

Using the wide array of wagers available from our friends at bet365 Sportsbook & Racebook, here are 10 things to consider before placing your bets on the 2018 World Cup.

10. The favorites
There are two teams that lead the rest of the pack for the best odds to win the 2018 World Cup. Brazil is listed at 4-to-1 and Germany at 9-to-2 at bet365 Sportsbook & Racebook.

Between these two, I would go with Brazil, and here's why. Germany seems to have a tougher group. It has to face Mexico and Sweden in the group stage, and neither of those teams should be overlooked. This isn’t to hint at the thought of Germany not making it out of group stage, because it most likely will, barring something crazy. However, it does seem the Germans will face a much more competitive set of opening games than Brazil, which can lead to player fatigue and injury.

France was on a short list of teams to consider to win the World Cup at 13-to-2, but after a sloppy performance in an international friendly match against the U.S., that quickly went out the window. France played what seemed to be the roster headed to Russia against a young and new American roster that did not qualify for the 2018 tournament. The result of that match was a 1-1 draw.

9. Easiest group to pick
There are usually a couple surprise teams that fight their way out of the group stage and into the knockout round. On the other hand, there are groups that people don’t hesitate to pick to win or make it out of their group. Group B is a solid group to look at, with Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Iran. Both Portugal and Spain are in the top 10 for international rankings, according to FIFA. It may not be clear which of the two will win Group B, but it is probably the easiest group to pick the two teams that will advance. Iran and Morocco are going to have to play nearly flawlessly to give the other two a run for their money.


8. Most difficult group to pick
Group C may be the most puzzling when trying to determine both the winner and who will make it through the group stage. France, Australia, Peru and Denmark will be fighting for the two spots in Group C. France is one of the favorites in the entire tournament, which gives me a reason to want to pick them. However, after Saturday’s performance against the U.S., I have my doubts. Also, Peru and Denmark are in the top 15 in the FIFA rankings, making them rather respected opponents. Australia may be the lowest ranked of the four, but in a group where ties can be very common, you can’t count them out either.


7. Golden Ball odds
The Golden Ball award goes to the player of the tournament. The favorite, at 8-to-1, seems to be the best choice. Junior Neymar, Brazilian forward, is the favorite and a solid pick. His Brazilian team is in Group E with Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia. Costa Rica and Switzerland are worthy opponents. However, with the strength of Brazil, Neymar will have the opportunity to put up some big numbers in the group stage, along with setting his team up for a good draw in the group stage.

The reason to pick Neymar shouldn’t just be because of his individual talent. His teammates work so well together and get him involved in great areas to succeed and put the ball in the back of the net. Neymar gives the same back to his teammates. He does what is best for his team to get the result they want: a win.


6. Golden Boot odds
Neymar is also the favorite to take home the Golden Boot of the 2018 World Cup at 9-to-1, which is given to the tournament’s top goal scorer. There is someone else that looks to be the better pick and was bound to be mentioned: The legendary Lionel Messi of Argentina is 10-to-1 odds to win this award.

The Argentine offense runs through Messi and he makes the decisions, which usually lead to great scoring chances. In his group, he will face Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria. These three teams are not very strong compared to Argentina. Messi will be able to have space to create, which is very dangerous from a defensive point of view. Expect Messi to be scoring a lot in the group stage and continuing his goal scoring in the later rounds as well.

Also, don't forget about Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal who is listed at 16-to-1. I am not counting him out either, because every soccer fan knows he can score at will.


5. Winning continent
Which continent will have the most success and come away with the title? At bet365, Europe is the heavy favorite at 4-to-11, and South America is the second choice at 2-to-1. The rest of the world is listed at 33-to-1. You may want to play it safe and go with Europe because six of the top eight teams are from Europe. My own choice is Europe for that reason. Argentina and Brazil are the two teams out of those top eight that are not European. Yes, Brazil is the favorite to win it all, but with 75%of the top eight teams being from Europe, it's just too high to overlook.

Not to mention that my sleeper team in this tournament is Belgium (sixth out of the top eight) at 11-to-1, which has some great talent at every position and really likes to counter off of giveaways from other teams.

4. Golden Glove
This award goes to the top performing goalkeeper in the 2018 World Cup. I am not going with the favorite, Manuel Neuer of Germany, in this scenario. Neuer is listed at 7-to-2, but the pick that caught my attention right away is Spain’s David De Gea at 4-to-1. De Gea is a fine goalkeeper who has shown his outstanding skills over the years, which is one reason for this pick.

Another key reason is the style of play that Spain uses. Spain plays possession and wears opponents down. It will choose the smart pass over the pass toward the goal every time. Spain slows the game down, which leads to fewer opportunities for its opponents to create scoring chances. When its opponents are able to create chances, Spain knows how to handle it, including De Gea. His defense, his team’s style and his own talents are the reason to choose him for the Golden Glove.


3. Top team from each continent
We can start with the rest of the world and work our way up to the best teams. Costa Rica is an interesting pick at 10-to-3 to be the best team out of CONCACAF Champions League. It has the speed and skill to tire teams out, with a nice mix of young and experienced talent. For South America, it seems to be more obvious who to take. Brazil is listed at even, with Argentina the next closest team at 15-to-8. I think it would be a safe and smart pick to pick Brazil to be the most successful team from South America in this tournament because of how skillful and deep the 23-man roster is.

The European teams are more difficult to choose from. We’ve talked about the top European teams already, but they are not my pick. Belgium at 8-to-1 is the most intriguing. Most of their players are in the top European leagues for club play and have competed against the best in the world. Belgium’s forwards are not only quick, but have the size to make it nearly impossible to knock them off the ball. It wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone if Belgium makes a very deep run in this year’s tournament.

2. Number of cards given
A more fun bet to consider for the World Cup is the number of yellow and red cards that will be shown throughout the entire tournament. Let’s start with yellow cards. The physicality of some of the teams competing are high. Combine that with the intensity that comes with playing in the biggest stage in the sport, and it’s no shock to fans when they see yellows shown left and right. The odds for this are 7-to-5 for under 225, 7-to-5 for over 235 and 11-to-4 for 225-235. I think there are going to be more than 235 shown in this tournament. It would be tough to predict it going from 225-235, so I am definitely avoiding that.

Red cards are much less common, and that can make them more difficult to predict. The odds are less than 11 shown at 5-to-1, exactly 11 at 15-to-2 and over 11 at 10-to-11. While players are going to be physical and tough on their opponents, they usually do so in an intelligent manner. What I mean by this is that a player wouldn’t want to put his team in a worse position to win. Therefore, under 11 red cards seems to be the smarter pick.

1. Betting handle
The 2014 World Cup in Brazil helped bookmakers turn over £1 billion for the first time in event history, with William Hill Sportsbook & Racebook reporting that more than 7,000 bets were placed per minute during the busiest moments of the tournament. When Germany beat Argentina 1-0 in the final match, a record £11.5 million was wagered on the outcome.

So, with all of the different bets and options to pick from, you may think that the betting handle for the World Cup would increase. But that may not be the case, especially in the U.S.

“We’re expecting the absence of Team USA to cause around a 15% drop in handle from what it would have been, had they been involved,” Jeff Sherman, manager of the renowned SuperBowl at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, told Covers.com.

Other Nevada sportsbooks are expecting a drop by as much as 25%. Throw in that for the first time since 1958, four-time champion Italy will be home for the World Cup and will be the only former winner in the event’s storied history to not be in Russia, and you can see why the overall betting handle may suffer.

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