World Cup Expert Betting Advice: Handicapping the Elimination Round
As I write this we are just days away from the end of the round robin at the World Cup and the start of the elimination games, beginning with the Round of 16. There is no question that elimination games are significantly different from a betting perspective than the round robin games are. And the good news is that pretty much every difference means that the elimination games are better - to watch and to bet on - as well. Here are five of the key differences to keep in mind as we shift into the next phase of the tournament:
Mismatches are much less common: In the round robin there are many games that seem as if only one team has a real chance, and a high portion of those games actually turn out that way. The difference between the best teams in the tournament and the worst is a very large gap Even though there are only three round robin games, it is very tough to advance, and it is uncommon for a bad team to fluke into a second-round berth. All the teams that have advanced have already secured at least a win and a draw, and often much more than that. So, the gap between the best teams in the tournament and the worst teams in the elimination rounds, while still huge, is much smaller than earlier in the tournament. Mismatches just aren't that much fun in soccer because you have to bet so much to make just a little while betting on a sport that lends itself to crazy outcomes and unpredictability. In these games with smaller gaps, therefore, the prices are typically more reasonable, and the general feel of betting is better.
Teams are in form: As we said, teams typically have to have at least a win and a draw to advance, and it usually takes more than that. You don't win a single game in the World Cup by accident, so a team that has secured points in multiple games is one that has a combination of talent and form. They have the players who can get things done, and they have been working together well enough to get them done. The hardest part of betting in the round robin - especially early on - is that it is so tough to judge the mindset of teams and how prepared they are for this battle. By now we know - we have immediate and meaningful proof of their readiness. The less you have to guess as a bettor the better, and this knowledge means we can guess less.
The public is paying more attention: Hardcore soccer fans are paying attention throughout the tournament, and casual fans check things out for the biggest of matchups. The round robin can feel like it goes on forever, though, and it is hard to stay engaged and excited throughout if soccer isn't a passion. Once the elimination rounds start, though, the fields are smaller, the number of games is more manageable, and the stakes are much higher for every game. Betting volume on elimination games is up dramatically from the round robin games, and the percentage of bets that are from casual, less-skilled bettors is also significantly higher. Any decent bettor knows that the more dumb money there is on a game the better - and that if you can't spot the dumb money then you should probably look in the mirror.
We should see all they have: It's always tough to know in round robin games just how hard teams are playing. Good teams will let off the accelerator against a bad opponent a bit if they have a tough game coming up, or they just won't care enough to play their best knowing that the outcome isn't that important. Lesser teams might get up more against top opponents than they do against more closely-matched ones. Teams will play harder with their lives on the line and easier if they know they don't have to have a top result. And players can play less or not at all if they have a nagging injury. But in the elimination rounds that is all out the window. These games mean everything, so teams will give everything they have and will do their best to put their best side and their best effort forward. Handicapping world-class soccer is tough enough when you just have to figure out matchups, but when you also have to play amateur psychologist and doctor and try to figure out which teams are ready and how hard they will try then it is even harder.
Death to the hated draw: The hardest thing for North American sports fans to embrace about soccer - aside from the crippling injuries that go away in seconds - is the draw. Games shouldn't end in ties. The draw also makes things tougher for bettors because there are three possible outcomes instead of two. Thankfully, in the elimination rounds the draw is not something we have to deal with. Now, the way they deal with ties that last until the end is far from ideal, but it still provides an outcome, and makes handicapping easier.
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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