The Only World Cup Betting Guide You'll Ever Need
The FIFA World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world. Soccer is earth's most popular sport, so that should come as no surprise. Every 4 years, the world gathers to watch the greatest players on the planet get together and duke it out for supremacy.
This summer, all eyes will be on Russia, where 31 of the world's best teams - plus Russia - will do battle over the course of a month to find our next world champion. In 2014, more than a billion viewers from around the world tuned in to watch Germany's thrilling 1-0 win over Argentina in the final. In all, the tournament reached 3.2 billion television viewers worldwide.
The 2014 World Cup broke television viewing records in many major markets, including the United States and Germany. This was despite the fact that the games were broadcast in the late-night and early-morning hours in Asia, which is where nearly two-thirds of the world's population call home. It's safe to say we can expect even more viewership this time around.
Obviously, the World Cup is also huge from a betting standpoint. In the United Kingdom, wagers for the 2014 edition topped the £1 billion ($1.8 billion) plateau for the first time ever. The figure would have been even higher had England not embarrassingly bowed out in the group stages.
Because the World Cup draws such heavy viewership, it only makes sense that it's a massive betting event. What better way to supplement your viewing experience than by having some money on the line, right? Online betting has exploded since the 1998 World Cup in France, with tons and tons of money changing hands every 4 years. Obviously, with an event as popular as the World Cup, there is no shortage of options for you, the bettor.
Betting on the World Cup - How to Get Started
If you're new to betting on the World Cup, there are a few differences to note when comparing it to betting on a domestic league like the Premier League or Major League Soccer.
For starters, the tournament's 32 teams are randomly drawn into groups containing 4 teams apiece, much like the UEFA Champions League. Unlike Champions League, however, each team will face the other 3 teams in the group once apiece. In Champions League, each team plays the other 3 teams twice apiece.
The points system is the same, however. If a team wins, it gets 3 points. If it loses, it gets 0, and a draw results in 1 point for each team involved. Once each team has played every other team in its group, the 2 teams with the most points will advance to the knockout stages. The draw is weighted to where there can be no more than 2 European teams in the same group and no more than 1 team per group from each of the other represented confederations.
If 2 (or more) teams finish the group round with the same number of points, there are some tiebreaker scenarios. They are as follows:
- Greatest combined goal difference in all group matches
- Greatest combined number of goals scored in all group matches
If there are still teams tied after those tiebreakers, things get more specific:
- Greatest number of points in head-to-head match between those teams
- Greatest goal difference in head-to-head match between those teams
- Greatest number of goals scored in head-to-head match between those teams
If there are still a couple of teams tied after all of that, then the team that advances is decided rather cruelly by a random draw.
While we obviously never know what exactly is going to happen when the teams hit the pitch, the World Cup is an event typically dominated by the usual suspects . So, when you're reading the odds, you'll see lots of the same names favored at the top. Teams like Germany, Brazil, Argentina, and France typically fare well in the world's biggest event.
You probably also know that there is a wealth of options when it comes to soccer betting in general. Rather than simply having the chance to bet on a game's outcome, there are a number of props and micro bets available, too. You can bet on which team (or player) will be the first to score, or you can bet on the total number of goals to be scored, and so on.
History of the World Cup
The first international soccer match pitting 2 countries against one another went down in 1872 between Scotland and England in Glasgow. The first organized international tournament was called the British Home Championship, which began in 1884. These pre-dated the FIFA World Cup by quite a bit.
FIFA wasn't created until 1904, and soccer wasn't an Olympic sport until 1908. FIFA originally called Olympic soccer "a world football championship for amateurs" and managed the event themselves. Because the Olympic events were so popular, however, FIFA decided to branch out and create a new tourney.
FIFA President Jules Rimet and the FIFA Congress in Amsterdam agreed to stage a new world champion. Because Uruguay had won the previous 2 Olympic events, they decided to reward Uruguay by naming it as the first home country for the new World Cup. The first World Cup took place in 1930, and the home country emerged victorious.
Because the jaunt from Europe across the Atlantic Ocean was far more daunting in those days, there wasn't a big European delegation at the inaugural World Cup. Only Belgium, Romania, France, and Yugoslavia made the trip. Thirteen nations in all participated, 7 of which came from South America.
The same travel problems faced American nations ahead of the 1934 World Cup, which took place in Italy. In fact, all North and South American teams aside from Brazil and Cuba boycotted the 1938 tournament in France. The 1942 and 1946 World Cups were canceled due to World War II.
In all, the 20 previous editions of the World Cup have been won by just 8 teams. As you may expect, Brazil leads the way with 5 trophies on their ledger. Germany will be looking to tie them this summer, as their 2014 triumph was their fourth. The Germans are tied with Italy, while Argentina and Uruguay have each won it twice. France, England, and Spain have won 1 apiece.
The Netherlands have been runners-up 3 times, most recently in 2010 when Spain came out on top.
2018 World Cup Odds
Things can certainly change between this writing and when the competition begins, but as of now, Germany is among the favorites to win the World Cup for the second time running. According to BetOnline.ag, the Germans are listed at +450, which is slightly worse than favorites Brazil, who find themselves priced at +400.
Complete odds for the 32-team field are as follows, organized based on each of the 8 groups:
- Russia (+4000 to win World Cup)
- Egypt (+15000)
- Saudi Arabia (+75000)
- Uruguay (+3300)
- Iran (+50000)
- Morocco (+25000)
- Spain (+600)
- Portugal (+2500)
- Australia (+40000)
- France (+600)
- Peru (+20000)
- Denmark (+8000)
- Argentina (+900)
- Croatia (+3300)
- Iceland (+20000)
- Nigeria (+15000)
- Brazil (+400)
- Costa Rica (+40000)
- Serbia (+15000)
- Switzerland (+8000)
- Germany (+450)
- South Korea (+50000)
- Mexico (+8000)
- Sweden (+10000)
- Belgium (+1100)
- England (+1600)
- Panama (+75000)
- Tunisia (+50000)
- Colombia (+3300)
- Japan (+25000)
- Poland (+5000)
- Senegal (+15000)
Best World Cup Betting Sites
If you're interested in getting in on the wagering for the World Cup, you're obviously going to want to do so at the safest and most reputable sites on the web. One thing you certainly don't want to do is to put your money and information on a sketchy, untrustworthy site.
One of the primary concerns that new users have when it comes to online betting is the safety. Can you safely put your information out there without it getting stolen? Can you safely enter a credit card number? Depositing money at just any gambling site is an inherent risk, and any bettor would be remiss to not consider safety first.
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Most legitimate gambling sites are safe. You'll have your exceptions to that rule here and there, but generally speaking, they're easy to avoid. Reading reviews from other users is one easy way to figure out whether a site is safe for your perusal.
As you may imagine, all of the top dogs offer plenty of betting options when it comes to the world's biggest soccer tournament.
Popularity of the World Cup Around the World
We've mentioned a number of times that soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and the World Cup is the most popular soccer competition in the world, too. Some in the United States may scoff at the notion that soccer is king, but the sport is also growing exponentially in America, too.
Soccer, called football just about everywhere else, was created in the United Kingdom. As you may imagine, footie is king in the UK to this day. As is the case with the Olympics, the popularity of the World Cup stems from a sense of patriotism. Those from England understandably root hard for their squad of England-born players to conquer the world.
Unlike the Olympics, however, there's just one sport on which to focus at the World Cup. This is not quite the case in the US (and it certainly won't help that the US failed to qualify for Russia 2018), but in some places, kids will skip school and adults will skip work to watch their team at the World Cup.
It certainly helps to have a dog in the fight. As mentioned previously, the 2014 World Cup set new television records in Germany. Of course, a lot of that has to do with the fact that Germany's team stormed their way to a World Cup title that year. In fact, the '14 World Cup Final between the Germans and Argentina drew 34.65 million live viewers in Germany, which accounted for a market share of 86.3 percent. That's the highest single TV event in Germany since television ratings began to be measured. The viewership for the Final eclipsed the previous television record, which happened to be Germany's semi-final rout of Brazil. That match drew 32.57 million sets of eyeballs.
World Cup Betting Tips
Betting on the point spread is most common in sports like football and basketball. In soccer, however, betting on the spread is a bit trickier. In some cases, you'll have a team favored by 0.5, which means they just have to win by at least one goal for the bet to hit. In those instances, you can probably bet on the spread fairly safely.
Anything above 0.5, however, looks risky. Expecting a team to win is one thing, but expecting a team to win by at least 2 goals is dangerous, especially given just how difficult it is to score goals. Can France beat Saudi Arabia by at least 2? Absolutely. Still, expecting a team to score multiple goals is a dangerous game, so finding another way to attack a game is likely for the best.
Obviously, nailing a parlay is profitable no matter what. While the World Cup is designed to pit the planet's 32 best teams against one another, we know there's still a massive talent discrepancy between the best team in the tournament and the worst.
Just look at some of the matchups we're getting in the group stage. Germany-South Korea? Spain-Iran? Belgium-Tunisia? Strange things tend to happen at the World Cup, but these look like incredibly lopsided matchups on paper. The group stage presents a good opportunity to pick on some of the worst teams in the field. You can string bets involving these heavy favorites together into a parlay before things get more dicey in the knockout rounds.
Attacking favorable odds is a general rule of thumb for betting on any sport, but the World Cup presents an interesting dynamic. Rather than simply playing the odds and making the smart bet, lots of bettors bet with their heart rather than with their head when it comes to the World Cup. This goes back to the whole patriotism aspect. Just look at the 2014 World Cup. Were the United States really going to beat Belgium? Probably not, but the American betting public was so caught up in USMNT fever that the odds were bet down to the point where taking Belgium was almost a no-brainer. In the end, it panned out.
You're not so much betting against the house as you are betting against other bettors. Most casual bettors bet on the outcome they want to see happen rather than the outcome they think is most likely to happen. Taking a more analytical stance is the way to enjoy more long-term success. No viewer wants to watch a game that ends in a draw, so there's almost always value in opting to bet on a game ending with the spoils shared.
If you asked some casual soccer fans on the street which teams have the best chance to win the World Cup, you'd probably hear the same names over and over. Germany, England, France, Brazil, etc. While these are all teams that have enjoyed World Cup glory in the past, letting the past dictate the future doesn't make any sense in this instance.
The World Cup is played once every 4 years, which leads to plenty of roster turnover from one World Cup to the next. Look no further than Spain, who won the Cup in 2010. The Spanish side featured many of the same names in 2014, but that team crashed out in the group stage. Why? Well, most of the key players from the 2010 team got old in a hurry, and the overall talent level wasn't where it was 4 years prior.
Brazil has won 5 World Cups. This means absolutely nothing when it comes to Brazil's chances of winning in 2018, especially because a grand total of zero players on the current Brazil roster have ever won the World Cup before. There's potential value in betting against big-name teams that are going to draw heavy betting interest.
Ranking teams is certainly an inexact science, but keeping tabs on where experts rate certain teams can help you when it comes to deciding where to bet your money. As of this writing, England, one of the aforementioned big-name sides that draws heavy betting interest, are ranked just 16th in the world. Even so, the Three Lions are still considered to be one of the betting favorites to win in Russia.
People are always going to bet in favor of a team like England, even if there isn't much logic to it. Most believe the upcoming England squad is one of the better teams to come out of the UK in recent years, but the overall talent on the roster still pales in comparison to a team like Germany, Brazil, or even France. There's almost no value in betting for England, so betting against a team like that is a sneaky way to potentially make a profit.
We mentioned that there's great potential in betting on the group stages, but don't go all-in at the beginning of the tournament. Managing your bankroll is another general rule of thumb, and it certainly pertains to the World Cup. The deeper we get into the tournament, the more fans are likely to put big money on their national team to win the games.
While the matchups tend to get juicier as the competition goes on, the latter stages of the tourney also tend to bring more inexperienced, casual bettors into the mix. This is especially true if you have a famous-but-not-that-great team like England or Mexico still around. It's also recommended to go bigger in the latter stages of the tournament than you might in the group round, especially because a juggernaut like Germany may take it easy in the third game of the group stage if they have already secured advancement into the next round.
Just because the World Cup is usually won by a household team like Germany or Brazil doesn't mean we won't see some upsets along the way. It obviously isn't recommended to bet against teams like that, but there are some valuable underdogs that can be found in the early rounds.
Look no further than 2014, when teams like England, Portugal, Spain, and Italy were beaten in the group stage. While it's tough to peg which team will falter early on, a team like Mexico might be vulnerable in 2018. El Tri is trapped in Group F with Germany, Sweden, and South Korea. South Korea looks like a clear also-ran in this group, but facing Germany and Sweden isn't an easy task for Mexico.
Futures bets can be rewarding, but placing a bet on a team so far ahead of time comes with a great deal of risk. For one, most of these national teams don't spend a ton of time playing alongside one another. They'll spend plenty of time training in advance of the competition, but there's no real telling how a team will gel until we see it out there in live game action.
A team like Brazil looks like a solid bet right now, but we need look no further back than 4 years to see why going all-in on a futures bet is risky. The Brazilians were heavy favorites playing the World Cup in their home country, but we know what happened there. The Brazilians were absolutely steamrolled by the Germans in the semi-final.
If betting, limiting your action to game-by-game bets or in-game props looks preferred over futures.
It's easy to overlook, but weather conditions always play a huge role in the way a game is played. If a game is taking place on a 70-degree sunny day, then there's little, if any, concern. However, if it's 40 degrees and the game is being played in driving rain, you can expect scoring to be quite a bit more difficult. There's also a greater margin of error for goalkeepers working with a potentially slick ball.
The World Cup is taking place in Russia, where we know the weather isn't always overly favorable. There is always potential for rain and cold conditions, even in the summertime. Be sure to check out the forecast before placing a bet on an upcoming match.
If your pregame bet isn't going according to plan, don't forget that you can always place a new wager while a game is still going on. Live bets offer an even more exciting way to immerse yourself in the game, and they afford you the chance to potentially hedge if your initial bet looks like it's going up in flames.
What Happened in the Past?
As mentioned often, there were plenty of decorated teams that struggled to find the mark at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Big-name sides like Spain, Croatia, Ivory Coast, Portugal, Italy, England, Ghana, and Russia failed to advance beyond the group stage.
The United States finished second in Group G behind Germany, only to falter in the knockout stages against Belgium. Argentina, led by Lionel Messi, cruised to a perfect 3-0 record in Group F before beating Belgium and the Netherlands to advance to the final, where they were beaten in extra time by Germany.
There are a number of high-profile teams missing out on the 2018 festivities, including the USA, Italy, the Netherlands, Chile, and Ghana.
Back in 2010, Spain was triumphant down in South Africa when they toppled the Netherlands in the final.
France was arguably the most disappointing side at the competition, finishing bottom of Group A with just a single point. The team's players essentially revolted against head coach Raymond Domenech, as they refused to train after the team decided to send home star striker Nicolas Anelka, who got into a verbal altercation with Domenech during half-time of the team's prior defeat to Mexico.
Each of the last 2 World Cup Finals have ended 1-0, with the winning goal being scored in extra time. Andres Iniesta provided the Cup-winning strike for Spain in 2010, while Mario Gotze scored the winner for Germany in 2014.
Greatest World Cup Matches of All Time
With an event as storied as the World Cup, it only makes sense that some matches stand out over others in terms of everlasting greatness. Few will remember a game that took place in 1950, but we'd be remiss to ignore the decisive match between Uruguay and Brazil.
The format was different back then, with the winners of each of the 4 groups going into another group stage format to determine the winner. Heading into their final match against Uruguay, Brazil simply needed a draw to be declared World Cup champions. Uruguay, meanwhile, needed to win the game outright in order to win.
Things were looking good for the Brazilians after having disposed of Sweden and Spain by a collective score of 13-2 heading into the showdown with Uruguay. Several local newspapers were so confident that they printed Brazil's victory even before it happened. You know what happens next. Brazil took a 1-0 lead into the second half, only to see Uruguay fire back with 2 goals of their own to ultimately win the game, 2-1. The loss was so brutal that Pele, one of the greatest players to ever live, broke down in tears afterward. Fortunately for Pele, he would go on to win 3 of the next 5 World Cups with Brazil.
Let's not forget another tragic Brazil defeat that took place in 1982. This Brazil side is commonly thought to be the best team to not win a World Cup. They were thwarted by Italy, who got a hat trick from Paolo Rossi to counter Brazil's goals from Socrates and Falcao. The match's pace was dictated by the Italians throughout, and Italy would go on to win the tournament in the end.
Argentina has won the World Cup once, in 1986, when they were led by the great Diego Maradona. The Argentines faced England in the quarter-final round at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Maradona scored 2 of the most infamous goals in the tournament's history - both within 4 minutes of each other.
The first was the "Hand of God" goal. A skewed clearance off the foot of English defender Steve Hodge cut in the air toward Maradona, who had continued a run toward goal. England keeper Peter Shilton came out to attempt to clear the miscue, but the ball deflected off of the outstretched arm of Maradona and into the goal. The referees inexplicably missed the blatant hand ball, and the goal stood.
The second goal was a doozy, and it has earned the name "The Goal of the Century." Maradona took the ball in his own half of the field and proceeded to run 60 yards through an array of England defenders before a move that left Shilton on his rear end. Maradona then calmly tucked the ball into the net, securing a 2-0 win for his side.
Coming into the 1954 World Cup, Hungary looked like an unbeatable world power. The Hungarians entered the 1954 World Cup Final against West Germany on a 32-game unbeaten run that included an Olympic gold medal in 1952.
The result looked like a sure thing, especially once Hungary jumped out to a 2-0 lead after just 8 minutes of play. However, West Germany showed great resolve and fought back to tie the game at 2-2 heading into halftime. The teams remained deadlocked throughout the second 45 minutes before a late goal from West Germany's Helmut Rahn clinched the victory and brought down Hungary.
The game is known as the "Miracle of Bern" due to the Germans' dramatic comeback against a heavily-favored Hungarian side that took place in Bern, Switzerland. The win was the first World Cup title for Germany, which has gone on to win 3 others since. Hungary's second-place finish in '54 remains the country's best World Cup result thus far, and they were also runners-up in 1938.
The 1954 World Cup is additionally the only World Cup thus far that has pitted a pair of Central European sides against one another in the Final.
Few had Romania pegged to do much of anything in the 1994 World Cup in the United States, but the Romanians went on to raise plenty of eyebrows during their run to the tournament's quarter-final.
The most noteworthy game was the Romanians' shocking 3-2 win over a powerhouse Argentina side. Romania stormed its way through the group stage before ousting a former winner in Argentina in the knockout stages. An unfortunate result in a penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw in regular time at the hands of Sweden in the next round kept Romania from further glory.
FIFA World Cup Records
The FIFA World Cup hasn't really been around that long. The world's most prestigious soccer tournament has been played every 4 years starting in 1930, which makes the 2018 version in Russia the 21st ever. The tournament was on hiatus during the World War II years, so there was a gap between 1938 and 1950.
Still, some noteworthy records have been set along the way. What are some of the more impressive records in the books?
Records were made to be broken, and it will be interesting to see how long some of the more prestigious records stand. Will Klose eventually lose his goalscoring record to fellow German Thomas Muller? Will Joachim Low stay with Germany long enough to break Schon's long-held records? Will a new keeper rise up and set a mark for clean sheets? Most importantly, how long will Brazil reign supreme atop the list of World Cup winners?