by Simon Noble - 06/07/2006
The 2006 FIFA World Cup kicks off Friday when Germany plays Costa Rica. The World Cup is the most heavily bet event, dwarfing even the Super Bowl for volume wagered. Between the huge Asian and European public's interest in the World Cup, and the ease of placing bets over the Internet, it's almost guaranteed that many prices on games will be "out of whack". As frequent readers of this column know, this offers sharp players a chance to profit.
Since 1998, the first game of each World Cup has always been played between the #1 and #2 seeds in a group. This ensures that the opening game will be a good match, as hundreds of millions of people across the world tune in (over 1.5 billion watched the last World Cup Final between Germany and Brazil). In the history of the World Cup, no opening game has ever been won by more than 1 goal.
Asian handicap betting is similar to a wager on the point spread in the NFL and Germany is a 1¾ goal favorite over Costa Rica at Pinnacle Sportsbook. You have to look no further than public perception to see why. The European public at large typically disregards teams outside of Europe and South America.
Many people in Europe weren't even aware Costa Rica qualified for the World Cup. The Ticos were actually seeded 18th by an obscure ranking methodology that penalizes them for not playing in the 1998 World Cup eight years ago! Thanks to odds that offer up to 85% better value than other bookmakers, money is pouring in on Germany on our 6 cent Asian handicap lines at Pinnacle Sports Book. However, with $50,000 limits available online at Pinnacle Sportsbetting, the sharps on Costa Rica can't bet enough to keep the line fair, feeling that the Ticos are the right side.
Another area you may see the effect of the "European Square" is on betting to win each group. Just like in North America, public bettors like backing favorites. We're seeing a lot of money wagered on each group favorite to win their respective group and advance to the knockout stage of the tournament. There are a couple factors that make this a potentially losing strategy.
First, underdogs tend to do well in EVERY SPORT in their first game of a season or tournament until the prices become more accurate. Second, these favorites are more concerned with advancing out of the group stage than winning their group. So they may play for a tie to ensure a top-2 finish, or even choose to lose their last match to avoid an unfavorable knockout match-up against a difficult team that may not suit their style of play.
Also in the last World Cup, only 5 out of 8 group favorites won their group. When you have a huge favorite to win a group (greater than -150), look very closely at the second best team. Poland, Croatia, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine all come to mind as teams that might offer exceptional value.
An interesting area for Stateside bettors is Group E - already known as "the group of death" before a ball has even been kicked. Italy is the #1 seed, followed by the United States at #2. The Czech Republic, despite reaching the semi-finals of the European Championships in 2004 and being ranked #2 by FIFA in their November 2005 ratings, has been seeded as the #3 team in the group. The reason for this is that the Czech Republic did not qualify for the 1998 or 2002 World Cup finals, which dropped their World Cup seeding to #16. Rounding out the group is the dark horse Ghana, the powerhouse of Africa built around speed. Without a doubt, this is the most difficult group in the tournament.
Despite being the second seed in group E and generally considered the most talented US team ever, the current market has the United States as an underdog to finish in the top two in its group (and advance to the knockout stage). The "Yes" to advance is trading at +182/-202 at Pinnacle Sportsbook.
Equally murky is the market price on the USA's total group points: Over 3 -118. A win against Ghana with a tie against either the Czech Republic or Italy, would put the U.S. over with 4 group points (3 for a win, 1 for a tie). There may be some value in backing the U.S. on both of these because these markets reflect the dated European prejudice that "the U.S. is not a soccer country." Europe's opinion truly forms the "public side" in soccer and there's always value fading any strong public sentiment.
This year at Pinnacle Sports as well as offering up to 85% better odds on spreads/Asian handicaps, up to 50% better odds on totals, live in-running betting on every game and a huge range of markets available including first goal scorer, half time betting & many more, we'll also be bringing you all the action live at Pinnacle Sportsbook where you'll find live scores, updated stats and the latest odds on the World Cup.
Live, breathe and bet the 2006 World Cup with Pinnacle Sports betting and find a smarter way to bet.
What else are people betting on?
NBA Championship series: Dallas to win (-159)
Dallas initially opened as a -125 favorite to win the championship. There's been high volume betting, with sharps on both sides, but slightly heavier betting on Dallas, which has slowly driven the price up to -159.
ArenaBowl XX: Chicago +2.5 vs. Orlando
Orlando and Chicago were both unlikely entrants to the ArenaBowl. Chicago barely earned a wild-card by winning four of its last five games. Its 7-9 regular-season record being enough to advance, thanks to overall mediocre teams in the American Conference. The Rush defeated Nashville and posted huge upsets over Colorado and San Jose to advance.
Orlando upset the Dallas Desperadoes on the road to advance to a record seventh ArenaBowl. In fifteen seasons, the Predators have been in the playoffs every year and have won six championships.
We opened Orlando as a 1½ point favorite. The early sharps favored Orlando and have driven the line out to -2.5.
Chess: Bacrot (-132) v Kamsky (+122)
Trading on this match-up opened in March, and there's only been interest in Kamsky. Gata Kamsky had a strong showing in the MTel Masters, finishing second behind Veselin Topalov. This upcoming match was originally priced at -147/+137, but underdog money following Kamsky's recent play has pushed that down.