By Brandon Riff (@CroYoJeans)
The FIFA World Cup is the most watched sporting event in the world. More than 200 nations compete over the course of more than two years to have a chance to play in the final tournament. Leading up to the tournament, there are more than 800 matches played, which leaves substantial opportunity to find profitable wagers. Betting on soccer is very foreign to many people, Americans in particular.
It is not all that different from college basketball in that there are many teams from different regions who may not face each other. During qualifying, countries play other countries in their own regions to determine who advances to the World Cup. This is the equivalent of conference play. Europe and South America have the strongest teams, and these two areas are like the power conferences in college sports. As a result, they get more teams in the final tournament.
The real variation in soccer betting is that there are three outcomes as opposed to two. Games frequently end in draws, which is considered a loss if you bet on a team to win. While there is an additional outcome, it doesn’t necessarily mean that odds of a win are reduced. I don’t think it’s wise to bet on a draw in a particular match, and it’s not really all that fun to root for neither team to win. The reason soccer betting has always been so appealing is that there always seems to be value.
FIFA publishes a ranking system that is used frequently for determining fair qualifying groups. The reality is that the general public uses these rankings to find value in betting lines, and oddsmakers seem to adjust their lines knowing this. FIFA’s rankings system is not bad, but it is very outcomes driven and uses a timeframe that doesn’t always reflect reality.
One of the most overrated teams in this week’s qualifiers is actually the United States. On the road at Antigua and Barbuda, they are massive favorites at -610. Antigua and Barbuda +2 goals is better than even money at +110. The US team hasn’t won a true road game by more than one goal since March 2008. The last time they won a road qualifying game by more than one goal was in 2005. While I predict either a draw or narrow one-goal US victory, getting two goals at +110 is outstanding value.
There are many other games that frequently fall in this realm. Often times, teams are not favored enough. Switzerland is commonly found around -135 in their matchup against Norway. This is the equivalent of saying that on a neutral field in any sport, the two teams that are playing are evenly matched. This is not the case. Switzerland is hosting a Norway team that is not really all that good. The FIFA rankings say that the Swiss are only 11 spots higher than Norway, but they don’t take into account home vs. road games and margin of victory. Switzerland recently dominated Slovenia on the road and won by two goals. Norway escaped Slovenia at home with a goal at the death. The Swiss are by far the better team and this line is far too low.
Knowing where to find value is the true key with soccer betting, and if you have the tools to identify these variances, there is money to be made.
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Note: You can find Brandon’s work, including soccer articles, by visiting his website.