Expert World Cup Betting Help: Elimination Round Trends
Soon the round robin will be over at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and the 16 most deserving teams (at least theoretically) will be in a position where they have to win or go home. This is where the tournament really gets exciting - and fun to handicap. To help you get ready for the elimination rounds, here is a look back at trends that have emerged over the last four editions of the World Cup that could prove helpful. Note that the third-place game is not included in any of these calculations - it's a stupid game, and the next time a team cares about that game will be the first.
Higher-seeded teams in Round of 16
All eight games in the Round of 16 feature a team that finished first in the round robin in one group playing a team that finished second in another group. You would imagine that the first-place teams would have an edge, and for the most part that is indeed true. In fact, in 2014 it took no handicapping skill at all - all eight first-place teams advanced. It's obviously not always that easy or sportsbooks would go broke every four years. But the top seeds have a clear advantage nonetheless. In 2010, seven of the eight top seeds advanced, with the lone exceptions being the American side that fell to Ghana. In 2006 the top seeds went 6-2 - though one of the lower seeds, France, went all the way to the finals. And in 2002 the lower seeds had a strong year, going 4-4 in the Round of 16. None of those four teams won another game, though.
Average goals in Round of 16 vs. Quarterfinals
As the elimination rounds advance, the teams should get better, and the stakes definitely get higher, so you would suspect that games would tighten up a bit. And that has generally been the case. In 2014 there were 2.25 goals per game scored in the first elimination round, and 1.25 in the second round. The gap hasn't been quite as dramatic in other years, but the trend has been the same. In 2010 production fell from 2.75 to 2.5. In 2006 it went from 1.75 to 1.5. And back in 2002 it went from an already slim two goals per game to an anemic 1.25 that was matched in 2014. It's a good bet, then, that we will see less offense in the second set of games than in the first.
Games "over" 2.5 goals
Not all soccer games have a total of 2.5 goals, but it is by far the most common number. It makes sense, then, to use that as a general indicator for offensive strength. Again, my instinct would be to assume that games will get tighter and goals will be in short supply. And in three of the last four editions of the tournament, that was the case. In 2014 just five of the 15 elimination games featured more than 2.5 goals, and that was one more game than in either 2006 or 2002. The outlier was 2010, when nine of the 15 games went over that total. That was the year to be an over bettor.
As defenses get tighter and offenses take fewer risks, it is far from uncommon to see a team fail to score at all in elimination play. There are 15 elimination games, so a total of 30 teams play individual games (obviously teams that win play multiple times). In 2014 there were 10 teams that did not score during their games, including four teams that played in scoreless draws that were only decided by penalty kicks. That number was slightly higher than 2010 (10 games, one scoreless draw) but lower than in 2006 (13 and two scoreless games) and 2002 (12 and one scoreless game).
Games ended by penalty kicks
Ties suck in all sports, but the idea of ending a tie with something as arbitrary as penalty kicks is ridiculous. If you don't like the idea of your betting fate being decided by penalty kicks then 2014 was not the tournament for you - four of the 15 games went as far as possible. That was a bit of an outlier of a year, though - in 2010 and 2002 there were just two games each year that ended that way. If you didn't like 2014 then you really didn't like 2006 - again there were four games ended by penalty kicks, but one of them was the finals.
'Surprise' teams in semifinals
We pay so much attention to Cinderella teams and great storylines early in the tournament, but by the time the tournament is down the final four teams those upstarts are usually nowhere to be seen. So, the lesson is to enjoy those stories for what they are, but don't let your heart overrule your head when we get deep into the tournament.
2014: The final four were Germany, Brazil, Argentina and Netherlands. You couldn't pick a less upstart final group.
2010: Uruguay was more of a surprise team than many, but they still had a superstar player, a history of success, and lots of talent. They didn't come from nowhere, and they only had to bet South Korea and Ghana to get to the semifinals thanks to great seeding luck. The other three teams were the Dutch, Germans and Spanish sides, so again there were few surprises.
2006: Germany, Italy, Portugal and France - again four teams that are consistently ones that are expected to do some damage when they qualify for the tournament.
2002: This was the wild year. Germany playing Brazil in the finals was no surprise. But Brazil had to beat Turkey in the semis, and Germany had to beat a South Korean squad that had somehow already upset Italy and Spain.
The World Cup is the biggest betting event worldwide, and Doc's Sports expert handicappers have been handicapping the matchups for months. They will have winning picks all throughout the tournament, and you can get $60 worth of premium members' picks free .
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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