2018 World Cup Betting Trends
We passed the one-third mark of the 2018 World Cup. The 23rd game was played when Argentina shockingly was blown out by Croatia on Tuesday. This is a good time, then, to look at what has happened so far and whether any trends have emerged that can point us in the right direction for bets through the rest of the tournament. So, let's look at what has happened to this point so far, and how that compares to the last three editions of this tournament.
Goals: We have seen 51 goals scored through 23 games so far this tournament, an average of 2.2 goals per game. Last year the tournament was averaging three goals per game up to this point, so we are far beyond what we saw then. This year is much closer to what we saw in 2010 in South Africa, when 2.1 goals per game had been scored at this point, and it's not far behind the 2.4 goals we saw in 2006 to this point. Some might worry that the eight goals by the Russians this year had skewed things too much this year. The Dutch had eight goals in their first two games last time around, though, and Argentina had eight in two games in 2006, so this is nothing new.
Draws: North American sports fans struggle with two things about soccer more than anything else - the ridiculous flopping and the ties. A draw feels like kissing your sister - it's just not that satisfying. Luckily, there have only been four draws through 23 games this year - the same number we had seen at this point last time. There were three draws in 2006, but it was 2010 that was the outlier - there had been six draws already by this point. A couple of the draws we have seen this year, though, have been truly stunning - Argentina against Iceland, and Brazil against Switzerland. And while Portugal and Spain played to a draw, you certainly can't complain that the game was boring.
Scoreless teams: In the 23 games we have seen played so far, there have been 14 times that a team has failed to score a goal. Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Peru have all sadly failed to score in both of their games. This is a big jump up from last year when there were 10 games in which a team had been scoreless, and Cameroon was the only team scoreless through two games. This year, though, actually isn't too severe historically - there were 15 scoreless games in 2010 and 17 in 2006.
Games over 2.5 goals: The most typical total in soccer is set at 2.5, so by looking at games that have gone "over" this number compared to those that have gone "under" we can get a quick sense of how balanced offense has been. Nine times we have seen games go over 2.5 so far - well below the 17 over the total that we had seen in the high scoring 2014 tournament. In 2010 and incredible 17 of the 23 games had gone under that total, while 13 had gone under the total in 2006 and 10 had gone over. Don't make the mistake of assuming that the current trend will continue, though. In 2014 the high scoring continued through the round robin, but in the elimination games things tightened up considerably, and just six of the 16 games went over the total. One of those six was the third-place game, which only barely counts as a tournament game.
Wins of at least two goals: Betting the goal line - betting that a team will win by at least two goals - can be a good way to get some value out of heavy favorites. Through 23 games we have seen just five games won by multiple goals - and Russia and Croatia each have two. That is a sharp decline from the nine multi-goal games at this point in 2014. In 2010 there were six games, and there were 10 in 2006, so we have definitely seen more closer games than many years. The flat performances so far by powers like Argentina, Brazil and Germany are certainly factors in that.
Eliminated teams: There are only three groups in which all teams have played two games, so only those groups can have teams already eliminated from elimination round participation with a round robin game left to play. Four teams have already been knocked out, though - Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Peru and Morocco. Last time around there were three teams that had been eliminated - including Spain, which was the defending champion and one of the favorites to win the whole tournament. In 2010 no teams had yet been eliminated, and there were just two in 2006.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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