World Cup Soccer Betting: Looking for Value in ‘To Win’ Wagers

World Cup Soccer Betting:  Looking for Value in ‘To Win’ Wagers

The 2014 World Cup soccer tournament will begin in Brazil in just over a month and be a huge event for not only soccer fans but sports betting enthusiasts and bookmakers. It’s the biggest sporting event in the world and–not surprisingly–almost certainly the biggest betting event as well. While it’s impossible to get an accurate figure on how much money is bet on the World Cup every four years most respected estimates suggest that it is in excess of $100 billion (US).

The World Cup is one of those events like the Champions League soccer final in Europe or the Super Bowl in the US that *everybody* bets. This means that the overwhelming majority of the money in the marketplace won’t be ‘sharp money’ but instead smaller bets from recreational players. These players tend to bet the favorites and/or their home country’s team which leaves prices at the top of the board somewhat lower than they should be. Teams like the host country Brazil, for example, are overbet and thus represents a poor value for the more sophisticated handicapper.

The problem with looking for ‘value’ in the World Cup ‘to win’ futures is that its an event that has been historically unkind to underdogs. There have been 19 World Cup tournaments contested to date with Brazil, Italy and Germany combining to win 12. The remaining winners throughout history are all traditional soccer powerhouses (or in the case of Uruguay were at the time) and include Uruguay (twice), Argentina (twice), France, Germany and Spain. The shortest odds available on a country that has never won the world cup is Belgium at +1850.

So in this case value is relative and these might be the best bets in terms of price to performance:

GERMANY +625: There’s a conventional wisdom that European teams can’t win World Cups held outside of Europe. That may have been true at one point but Spain did just that winning in South Africa in 2010. Germany could reprise that performance with a win in Brazil. The ‘anti Europe’ bias aside, there’s very little weakness on the German roster. They’re currently ranked as the #2 team in the FIFA World Rankings and have as much talent—and as much depth—as any team in the field.

SPAIN +675: Spain is the only other team besides Brazil, Argentina and Germany to be priced at single digit odds. They’re the defending champions but there are a few reservations about their chances in 2014. The first is the sheer difficulty of winning the World Cup in back to back tournaments. This has only been done twice–by Italy in 1934 and 1938 and Brazil in 1958 and 1962. In addition, there is some concern that Spain’s players may be a bit ‘over the hill’. Throw in the aforementioned conventional wisdom about European teams playing outside of Europe and Spain could be undervalued for some very arbitrary reasons. They are the #1 team in the FIFA World Rankings and are worth a shot at this price.