World Cup Handicapping: Betting Challenges for Third-Place Game
by Trevor Whenham - 7/9/2014
As I write this we are just a few hours removed from Brazil's semifinal debacle. Time has not made it make any more sense - that was the strangest game I have ever seen. Among many other things to ponder coming out of that game, this 7-1 result forces us to think about the third-place game even more than usual.
There is nothing in sports that I think is more pointless and unnecessary than the third-place game in the World Cup. It just doesn't make sense. No one remembers or cares who finishes third or fourth - any more than they care about the sixth- or ninth-place team. The idea of forcing the semifinal losers to play another game is absolutely ridiculous. My clear preference is to pretend that the game doesn't exist - never mind bet on it. I know that some people do want to bet on it, though - World Cup action is World Cup action, I guess. If that is the case for you then here are five things to keep in mind when handicapping the silliest of games:
Public attention can be regional: There are two different factors to consider here. First, some parts of the world just aren't going to care about the game. For example, unless a North American team were in the game it is very likely that few on that continent would pay nearly as much attention to the game as other games. It just doesn't fit with the sports mentality of the fans and bettors. Second, this game is definitely going to be far more interesting to bettors with a vested interest in the game -- fans of teams or individual players - than it is to most bettors. Those two factors mean that if you are going to bet on the game you need to be even more aware than usual of who will be betting on the game and how that will impact how the lines are set and how they move. If you aren't on top of that then it can be too easy to make a bet that doesn't offer any value.
Team motivation is a real challenge: A lot of teams don't care about this game any more than I do - especially if they had expectations to be in the bigger game. That means that it can be very tough to determine how teams can be expected to play. Brazil is an obvious example. Coming off the most crushing and lopsided loss in their international history, will they come out strong to salvage their pride, or will they play just as poorly as they did against the Germans? It's a very tough thing to determine.
You don't want to limit your betting ability for the final: This is rarely a great game to bet on. The final is almost always a better game to bet on. It would be ridiculous to make a bet on the third-place game that limited your ability to bet on the championship game if you lost. In other words, don't go blowing your bankroll on a lousy game unless you feel like you have a nice edge. Manage your desire for action so you can keep having action.
Teams coming off a loss: This is the only game in the elimination round in which the teams are both coming off a loss. In many cases it's the first time that they have lost all tournament. This is a particularly unique situation because they lost their chances at a title, but we can draw some sense of how they will react to the setback from looking at how they have dealt with adversity in the tournament. If they have lost then how did they come out in their next game? Were they hungry or frustrated? If they didn't lose, then you could learn from how they dealt with falling behind in a game or from losing a player to a red card or an injury.
Public attitude of teams: You can learn a lot about how a team is feeling heading into a game by how they - particularly their coach, but any players who comment as well - are acting in the media leading up to the game. In retrospect, we could get a sense that Brazil probably wasn't in the best place because they were more concerned about how unfair the Thiago Silva suspension was than they were about Germany. If teams heading into this game are more focused on where they aren't and what they aren't playing for then they are on the game at hand then they could be in real trouble.
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