This article was originally posted here on Neel’s blog.
After this most unique of world cups, I wanted to take a look at the bets I’ve taken throughout and after a long, exhausting month of research and immersion, it’s a way of decompressing it for myself and hopefully a few points of interest that might help out aspiring bettors. It’s an article that no one asked for but just feels important that I write up regardless!
The official stats stand at:
- 239 bets
- 90 wins
- 37% strike rate
- 48.55 points profit
- 18.3% ROI
I was reasonably happy with the results but they only tell part of the story.
Many will be mentioned through the course of this article but while it’s fresh in my head, my outside bet for the Man of the Match in the final was Dembele (16/1), who had a ludicrously bad first half, giving away a penalty and miscontrolling everything in his direction. This led to Deschamps taking him off very early and put me out of my misery.
I was also extremely keen on the Swiss to get through against the Portugese before the Ronaldo news was announced. The brutality of their subsequent annihilation made a mockery of my pre match predictions.
Having lived in Qatar and having watched them in the Asian cup, Gulf Cup, Copa America, and various other friendlies, I thought odds of 6/1 were too big for them to qualify as a host nation. Before anyone laughs, they had won the Asian cup and convincingly beaten Japan, Korea, Saudi Arabia and the UAE (on home soil) on the way. I thought they would rise to the occasion and be more than capable of a shock result. They were absolutely shocking and my biggest disappointment of the tournament by far.
But this actually helped make profit further down the line, with a trade on Ecuador goals in the first half when they looked terrified, and taking stale odds alerted to me by sharp punter and the happiest man in Scotland when England were knocked out, Kieran, on Senegal to win both halves against them (7/1) before some firm’s traders realized how bad they were.
An Iran corner handicap of +5 was comfortably beaten by England (8-0) while they conceded 6 goals!
A special mention will also go to my 0-0/Under 0.5 goals trades which all lost before the half time exit point. Some agonisngly close and some less so. In a tournament with so many goalless first halves, I found the ones that turned into goalfests.
Pre world cup angles
Here is what I wrote on Prop angles pre tournament on sharpsportsbettors . Which of these do you think were more relevant than others in the end?
Although most of these markets won’t be available until closer to kick off, there are some angles and overall themes that the general public aren’t considering.
- Time wasting – This season has seen an increase in yellow cards for goalkeepers for time wasting. Coaches will be well aware that injury time is rarely accurate and it’s a useful tactic to pick out situations where the clock needs to be run down.
- 26 man squads and 5 substitutes available for the first time, means more rotation and players getting less game time and more rest. This creates opportunities to back unders on player prop bets such as total shots, passes and tackles with the extra safety net they may come off early.
- Team news and injuries – with minimal rest before the tournament, players will be likely to pick up knocks. Be alert to the world cup markets if you see a key player injured in their league matches in the run up. Prices will move in as the information becomes widely available, so speed is of the essence.
- Draw bias – In the knockout rounds, keep an eye out for teams that have an additional day’s rest or have won their group already and been able to rest key players. Fitness is definitely becoming an issue, as evidenced by some struggling top sides with players visibly tired from the international break. The punishing world cup schedule will have a bigger impact than the odds suggest. On the flip side, short distances between venues means minimal travel time for players, which if anything makes fitness an even stronger factor.
- Have faith in teams with notoriously slow starts or fortunate breaks. Every world cup has teams who start like a bullet train but are ultimately undone. Others tend to start off slower and build their way into the tournament. Find opportunities to back when the market over-reacts to a poor performance or lucky result.
Outright and group winner bets
I did fancy Argentina as a potential trade on the eve of the tournament but the Saudi Arabia (33/1) result against them definitely shook my faith. At that point there was little point in trading out for a hefty loss so I kept with them and decided to cash out on them on the eve of the final. Ultimately costing a lot of points profit but against a strong French side and how the game unfolded, it was definitely far less stressful!
Denmark (34s), the Dutch (15s), Portugal (19s), Uruguay (48s), Croatia (69s) and Serbia (124s) were my picks to trade on an outright ladder. Denmark were a huge disappointment and I did have a further bet on them to win their group (4s). Several others fell by the wayside but Croatia hit 11s on the eve of the semi final.
Positions on Morocco (Top African team- 4.33) and Croatia (Group F winner- 3.5) were anti Belgium and anti rest of Africa really. It transpired that both were semi finalist but in the wrong order so it wasn’t far off. A handicap +1 for the Canadians against the Belgians also came close. But fine margins were Lukaku’s miss against the Croats which would have knocked them out completely.
A short odds doble on the Dutch and Argentines to win their groups (2.1) came in despite Argentina’s early troubles.
I also took South Korea to qualify in an earlier post on sharpsportsbettors (4.5) as I didn’t see the gap being as big as the odds suggested with Uruguay and Ghana, both with issues with their teams. I noticed Uruguay had a slim differential between their expected goals for and against in South American qualifying (a very good barometer of how they would face decent opponents in a competitive setting). Ghana’s defence had also been incredibly leaky.
In terms of player bets, Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar were my main each way picks at 16/1. Muggy on the surface but generous odds for two freaks of nature and an exceptional player in a very strong Brazil side. Ultimately Messi ran extremely close to get a placed finish but lost out to Mbappe whose odds I felt were too short as I was anti France. Mitrovic was my outsider pick at 66/1 but it wasn’t to be!
Messi of course won the golden ball at 8/1 along with Martinez winning the golden glove, the Argentine goalkeeper at the same odds, which were a nice end to the tournament. My other goalkeeper choice was Kasper Schmiechel at 40/1, which came nowhere near!
A special mention has to go to my friend Jarnel who took Giroud as top serie A scorer on the eve of Benzema being ruled out of the tournament, at 12/1. An inspired bet that I totally ignored to my peril. He also took Mbappe at odds of 4.5 deep into the tournament which worked out extremely well. I’m going to leave the goalscorer betting to him for the Euros!
Man of the match markets
Bookies soon got wind of the process for awarding the man of the match awards had an inherent bias, being voted for by the public and prone to manipulation. What it meant was that previously modelled odds for the ‘big names’ and goalscorers in the team were out of sync with the reality of them being picked for the award, leading to a sizeable shortening of the Neymars, Kanes and Messis of the tournament.
I was keen on Cody Gakpo, especially in the absence of Depay for the Dutch. Backing him on the MOTM market against Senegal (6/1), before his odds shortened for subsequent matches. I would have backed him for best young player but he was slightly above the age limit.
Pure value with no opinion
In the end Korea got a bit of luck and prevailed by beating Portugal in the last game and relying on the scoreline in the other game to see them through. I took this position (South Korea to beat Portugal) fairly early into the tournament when the lines opened, as Ladbrokes were at 8.5 when Pinnacle was 5.6. To me it was just a big outlier and could have played the safe bet by taking a +1 handicap line or even a DNB. Similarly Japan were a big price against Spain at 7.5. Unbelievably both bets came in. I took both in a loose change double (62/1!) but didn’t post that to my group.
It does go to show that this kind of method can definitely be effective and taking small positions (in this case 0.25 units on each) on these kind of bets will lead to long term profits.
In fact, anyone just backing the underdogs in every single game in this tournament to flat stakes would have had a great time! Similarly anyone backing the 0-0 at half time.
Passes and tackles bets
A big part of my world cup was researching passes prop bets. This was a very strong performer overall and a laddered staking approach reaped dividends as when the bets won, they won big and boosted the strike rate significantly. My tackles bets were more hit and miss compared to the superb work of my friend Paul (@feintingtheline on twitter) who excels in them. The great thing about these bets is the element of predictability in play styles and match ups between teams that can cut down a lot of variance.
Slices of fortune
Lots of tipsters love a boom and will happily take credit when things are going well and keep the losses quiet. I can definitely see the temptation in it and when emotions are running high, I’ve been guilty of it myself.
Wales v Iran- Sending off 4/1
My reasoning was more that I fancied Iran to lose their heads and with all the context of political unrest in the country and players under pressure, it could lead to an implosion. The total opposite happened and Hennesy (the Wales keeper) did a fantastic Shaolin soccer impression that was the first red card of the tournament. Referees have been fairly lenient in most of the games so to be the only red card bet I took and it won, I can’t claim it as any kind of genius thinking on my part.
I layed u1.5 goals fairly late on at speculatively cheap odds and gave up on it until the second late into injury time. A great day for the bets, less so for the Welsh!
England v USA- No cards (18/1)
There was definitely an element of luck in this coming in but the process and reasoning absolutely helped. Doing a bit of digging into the team’s yellow card history in recent games along with the kind of game I was expecting, the cards line seemed very high. Part of this was the referee’s extremely high yellow card count, and several tweets made mention of this with many backing the overs. The extra bit of research I did was comparing how the referee carded games in South America (generously!) with how he officiated games in the Olympics in Tokyo, where there was a huge drop off. Combined with the clear directives by FIFA to be lenient on cards and the style of the two teams, I thought this was a cracking price and well worth a go. One of my members managed to find odds of 35/1 on this shortly after I posted! It was a difficult last ten minutes to watch every time the referee blew the whistle but one of my favourite wins of the tournament!
In a tournament where some struggled, it was a good feeling to come out of it with a healthy profit and now the third profitable tournament I’ve focused on in this way has built up the bank. The volume based approach, with over 200 bets taken, certainly helped to land some bigger priced winners that made up for disappointing losses early on.
My pre tournament research definitely helped, having read numerous guides, previews, podcasts and the like. Hindsight is a wonderful thing though, and luck always plays a part.
Taking fortune out of the equation, my suspicion, without being too unkind is that a lot of tipsters didn’t make an effort to prepare or study the lesser known teams and their opinions were formed on pre existing biases on teams or regions, with no awareness of potential tactics or team match ups. In defence of the tipsters, the sheer relentlessness of the football schedule this year made it very difficult to find this time for a lot of people. But one highlight was labelling the USA team as MLS dross, when they only had 1 MLS player in their line up and the rest of the team were all at European clubs.
In summary, a fantastic world cup experience, with some good results at the end of it. Exhausting but a lot of fun with lots of learning to take forward!
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