World Cup Betting Trends
by Trevor Whenham - 6/20/2014
With the win by Colombia over Ivory Coast, we have now seen 21 World Cup games, so we are officially a third of the way through the action (there are technically 64 games, but the third-place game is stupid and pointless and I don't count it). This is a good time, then, to look at what has happened so far and to examine how it compares to what happened in 2010 and 2006. Are there trends that stand out? Or is this just a typical World Cup? Let's take a look:
Goals: If it seems like this has been a particularly offensive tournament so far, that is because it really has. Through 21 games this year there have been 63 goals scored - an impressive average of three per game. That is almost a full goal per game more than the 45 that were scored per game in 2010. The 51 goals in 2006 was closer to what we have seen this year than in 2010, but still a long way from current levels. It is hard to believe that the goals will keep coming in the bulk supply that they have so far, but it sure has been fun to watch.
Draws: Casual soccer fans will complain about two things about the sport - a lack of goals and a lot of ties. Neither has been the case this year. Through 21 games we have seen just three draws. That is the same as we saw in 2006, but it's just half of the six draws that we saw in 2010 at this point. What stands out this year is that one of those draws - Mexico and Brazil - was truly a shock, and the other two haven't been as unexpected but had a clear favorite. Meanwhile, some games that seemed very even - Spain and Netherlands stands out above all - really haven't proven to be.
Scoreless teams: 21 games played means that 42 teams have played individual games (obviously several teams have played two, but there have been 42 individual team game events). Of those, 10 teams have been held scoreless in their games - including unfortunate Cameroon who have managed it twice already. As you would expect given the large number of goals this year, this is well behind what we have seen in past years. There had been 15 scoreless teams through 21 games in 2010 and two more than that in 2006.
Games over 2.5 goals: We can't easily go back to look at how teams fared against betting totals through 21 games, but we can estimate. Typically the total sits at 2.5 goals in most World Cup games. Through 21 games this year we have, incredibly, seen 16 that have gone "over" that total. The easiest path to profits this year has been, it turns out, to just bet the over blindly. The opposite was true in 2010 - 15 of the first 21 games in that tournament featured fewer than 2.5 goals. 2006 also showed a slight edge for the "under," but it basically split the difference - 12 games went under and nine went over. Given the disproportionate performance this year it's hard to believe that it will continue at the same rate. For comparison's sake, in 2010 36 of the 63 games wound up staying under 2.5 goals. That's still a solid majority, but it's far less of one than we saw through 21 games. In the first elimination round, six of the eight games went over the total.
Wins of at least two goals: The goal line (betting a favorite to win by at least two goals) is an attractive way to get better prices on heavy favorites in World Cup betting. It has fared well this year, too. So far there have been nine teams that have won by at least two goals through 21 games - though Chile and Costa Rica certainly weren't favored in their biggest wins. In 2010 we saw just six games with a two-goal gap through 21 games. 2006 proved to be even more lopsided than this year, with 10 games won by a wider margin.
Eliminated teams: There are only two groups in which all four teams have played two games, so there are only a maximum of four teams that could already be eliminated from the second round. This year there are already three that might as well go home - Cameroon, Australia, and, impossibly, Spain - the team that entered the tournament as not only the strong favorite to win their group but also the fourth choice to win the whole tournament. By contrast, in 2010 there were no teams that were out of contention at this point. 2006 saw two teams that were eliminated, but needless to say neither one was a defending World Cup champion.
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