2014 FIFA World Cup Betting Guide: 5 Things to Know

Daniel Fitzgerald@@skiponsportsContributor IIJanuary 2, 2014

2014 FIFA World Cup Betting Guide: 5 Things to Know

0 of 5

    Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images

    2014 is finally upon us, which means that a World Cup year is finally upon us. As the year moves on, fans will begin to look not just to the conclusion of the 2013/2014 club competitions, but also each nation's preparations for the biggest tournament of all in June.
    As such, it's time to start assessing team and player form with the World Cup betting market in mind. Every World Cup throws up some surprises, which creates opportunities for the astute gambler. Here is your guide to understanding each major betting market, and where the best value lies.
    Note: all odds are sourced from Bovada.lv, unless noted otherwise.

Outright Winner

1 of 5

    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    Going into any World Cup, there are only four or five teams that are truly capable of winning it. Some outsiders may perform credibly, exceed expectations, or knock off one of the superpowers, but winning the whole thing is another matter entirely.
    So, straight away, you can eliminate the vast majority of teams from consideration. This time around, I see only four real contenders (and it is the four favorites): Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Spain. Hence, finding a good bet is less about spotting hidden gems ignored by most punters, and more about finding a good price for a good team.
    World Cup betting markets are too heavily influenced by form in the World Cup qualifiers. While qualifiers are a good way of assessing a team's general strengths and weaknesses, there's a huge difference between winning eight games over a period of roughly two years and winning seven games over the course of one month.
    Some teams also have easier paths to qualification than others, which can make a team look much stronger than it is. This rules out fringe options like Belgium and Colombia: both teams qualified well but are relatively untested at the World Cup level, having failed to qualify for the last few tournaments.
    On the flip side of this principle, France and England were probably a little too unimpressive in qualifying to warrant a wager.
    In my opinion, the value is with Spain (7/1) and Germany (11/2). Both are good teams with good tournament pedigree, but they've been given slightly longer odds because they've both drawn tougher groups.
    Brazil are worthy favorites, but you're not going to find much value for them at 10/3, particularly when some punters are attaching the sentimental and erroneous concept of 'home field advantage'. 
    Argentina (9/2) are worth looking at if you can find them at 5/1 or higher.
    Finally, the Netherlands and Italy are worthy outsiders at 25/1 (again, tough groupings have seen their odds inflate), but don't bet the house.

Group Winners

2 of 5

    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    It's a World Cup: some highly fancied team is going to stumble in the group stages. Your best chance of finding value on group winners is to look at weak groups with no clear favorite, or look for dark horse teams that may surprise one of the superpowers.
    Few people will give Chile much attention in Group B, which also features the Netherlands and Spain, but they're good value at 4/1. The tournament pedigree of the Dutch is in question after their disastrous Euro 2012, and this Spanish team has been known to start tournaments slowly (indeed, they lost their first game in the 2010 Cup to Switzerland). And if playing in South America does indeed prove to be a little more difficult for the European teams, as some are suggesting, Chile will have an advantage.
    And while France is the favorite to take out Group E, Switzerland is the top seed and didn't lose a game in qualifying (admittedly, in a weak group). They're solid value at 11/4.
    Greece also represents a rare opportunity where a European team is considered the worst in its group. With Colombia, Ivory Coast and Japan also making up Group C, truthfully anyone could come out of that one. Greece is good value at 10/1, though Japan are also worth a look at 5/1.

Top Goalscorer (Golden Boot)

3 of 5

    Look at the Golden Boot winners from previous tournaments. Apart from Ronaldo in 2002, do you see anyone there who was undisputedly the most potent striker in the world at that time? The World Cup represents such a small sample size of games compared to a league season, that anybody who has one good game (or two) can end up top of the pile.
    One game against one weak opponent can make all the difference, so look at teams which have softer opponents in the group stage (e.g. Honduras in Group E, or Iran in Group F) for someone to rack up a hat trick. As the likes of Oleg Salenko in 1994 have shown (see video), you don't even need to be on a team which advances well into the knockout phase to be top scorer at the end of the tournament.
    But it certainly helps. The best bets in this market are someone who is on a team that is likely to advance to at least the quarter finals (which makes Luis Suarez and Cristiano Ronaldo less attractive bets, considering their tough groups), someone who is guaranteed to make the starting line-up, and someone who is frequently entrusted with taking penalties or free kicks.
    There's also value in looking at 'the second striker'; the guy who plays alongside a highly rated striker, and therefore gets less attention from defenders. For example, Edinson Cavani may not be as well-publicised as Luis Suarez, but he's likely to have plenty of chances created for him by the Liverpool striker, and he's good value at 28/1 compared to Suarez's 12/1.
    However, the most important thing with this market is to wait until the tournament is about to begin before placing a bet. You might get a great price on Neymar in March, but what if he's ruled out of the tournament by an injury in May? Form and injuries are your guide here.
    Best value bets (today):
    Mario Balotelli 33/1
    Karim Benzema 33/1
    Mario Gomez 40/1
    Franck Ribery 50/1
    Alexis Sanchez 66/1
    Edin Dzeko 80/1
    Mario Mandzukic 125/1 (Skybet)

Stage of Elimination

4 of 5

    Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

    Draw up a bracket. Hey, draw up several brackets, and try to map out each and every result, and how it will lead every team through the tournament. You might think Brazil won't win the whole thing, but at what point will they stumble?
    The draw makes all the difference; they may fall in the second round against a Spanish team which failed to win their group after falling into second on goal difference. Or it could be against the Germans in the semis. Map it all out, every scenario.
    It's when you do that that you realize that there's more to just a 'good draw' than the group you're placed in. Brazil, for example, might have one of the softer groups, but a bracket reveals they're likely to face Holland, Italy and Germany before they've even made the final.
    In my brackets, the value bets are as follows:
    Argentina to be eliminated in the semis: 4/1
    Brazil to lose in the final: 13/2
    Germany to be eliminated in the semi finals: 7/2
    Netherlands to be eliminated in the semi finals: 10/1
    Italy to be eliminated in the quarter finals: 10/3
    Portugal to be eliminated in the quarter finals: 4/1
    Spain to lose in the final: 8/1
    Uruguay to be eliminated in the quarter finals: 7/2

Special Bets

5 of 5

    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    These are mostly for fun, rather than serious betting. English bookmakers like to offer novelty bets sometimes because it's good publicity; as in 2002, when they offered odds on whether David Beckham would be sent off against Argentina as he was in 1998.
    They're mostly based on superstition, but if you're going to pick one, look at the 8/1 being offered by Skybet on England being eliminated in a penalty shootout. It's always a remote chance and mostly based on superstition…except England really do seem to have a knack for crashing out of major tournaments on penalties: Italia 90, Euro 96, France 98, Euro 2004, Germany 2006, Euro 2012.
    One of the other more interesting betting markets on offer by bwin is 'Will there be a new winner of the World Cup?', which is currently paying 7/2 for 'yes'. Effectively, this means you're betting on Belgium, Colombia, the Netherlands or Portugal (or Australia) to finally take it all the way.
    Not great odds really.

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!