World Cup Betting Advice: Group Stage to Elimination Round Differences
by Trevor Whenham - 6/24/2014
As we move into a whole new phase at the World Cup - out of the round robin and into the elimination rounds - things change in significant ways for bettors. Those bettors who understand the differences, and the opportunities they can present, are in a much better position to thrive than those who treat all World Cup games essentially the same regardless of when they are played. Here are five of the most significant differences:
Fewer mismatches: In the first round of the tournament we always see plenty of mismatches. There are some regions that are weaker in general - like Africa or Asia right now, for example - and some teams within stronger regions that don't measure up to the strongest of teams. In a lot of cases, then, it is relatively easy to look at first-round matchups and have confidence about which team will win. That doesn't always lead to profits if you can't find the value, but at least it is a good starting point. In order to play in the second round, though, a team has to finish in the top two of their group. It is very rare that a team flukes into such a position, so teams that make it into the second round at least have something positive going for them. It doesn't mean that you won't have clear differences in quality - especially if one of the stronger first-place teams is matched up against one of the weaker second-place teams. In general, though, teams are more evenly-matched, and that means that people with better handicapping skills are going to be rewarded more often.
Teams are in form: It can be very tough for teams to be in form and playing all on the same page early in the tournament. The players play all over the globe, practice time is limited before the tournament, and it can be a long time since teams have played truly meaningful games. If a team has an injury late in the lead-up to the tournament that forces them to change their lineup then the issues can be compounded. Some teams just need some full-speed game time to find their form, so they can become a much different - and improved - team as things go along. By the time the elimination rounds come along teams have worked the kinks out and are ready to play closer to their potential than they were early on in many cases.
More public betting attention: With each advancing round of the tournament, more of the public wakes up and starts to pay attention. There are also fewer games to choose from, so betting volume is focused on fewer games. Combine those factors and you have a whole lot more dumb public money on games in the later rounds than you do in the round robin and more in the semifinals than the round of 16. The more money that is bet, and the more of that money that doesn't come from sharp bettors, the more you need to be aware of how the public is likely to bet and what impact that could have on the search for value.
Full effort assured: In the round robin - especially in the third game of the round robin - you can never be entirely sure of how teams are going to play. They might be willing to settle for a draw, or at least more willing to draw than to risk a serious injury or setback. It is not uncommon, then, to see a team perform at a different level than you were hoping for when you decided to bet on them. In the elimination rounds, though, teams cannot afford to be saving themselves for the future. Unless they win the game, there is no future. In the preliminary rounds you have to be part handicapper and part psychologist, trying to peer into the heads of the teams to predict what to expect from them. In that sense, then, handicapping becomes simpler in the elimination rounds.
No draws: The biggest problem a lot of casual fans have with the preliminary rounds of the World Cup - and with soccer in general - is that games can end in a tie. It just doesn't seem right. In the elimination rounds, though, there is sure to be a winner. Games can end in unsatisfying ways - penalty kicks just don't seem like the way to determine such an important outcome - but at least they end with a winner. For bettors, that simplifies things because you don't have to consider the possibility that neither team will win. It means, though, that the payoffs for picking the winner correctly isn't as good as it would be in the preliminary rounds, and that you no longer have the option of betting on the draw. So, there are good things and bad things about not having draws, but what matters is that you have to consider what the impact of the difference is and what it means for you as a bettor.
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