Handicapping major international soccer events like the World Cup or Euro is very tough. It’s hard to know what type of form a team is really in heading into the tournament. Because of the format of a tournament, a team in bad form can really get in trouble quickly. That can be very costly for bettors. That means that successful bettors have to do the best job they can of being prepared when the tournament starts, but they also need to be able to make adjustments quickly and accurately once the tournament starts and they have current data to work with. Here’s a look at five different factors that can cause bettors to make quick adjustments:
Teams lacking chemistry – Chemistry and leadership are massive factors in how a team performs in a major soccer tournament. If the players aren’t on the same page and working together, then they are vulnerable. When just one loss can be fatal, this is a huge problem. If a team shows obvious signs of lack of chemistry – through poor body language, a lack of focus or intensity, or troubling remarks to the media before or after games – then it can be in the best interest of bettors to adjust expectations for that team downward. This is especially important if the chemistry or leadership isn’t nearly as strong as it was expected to be. In a case like that the team is likely to underperform expectations, so you can find real value if you can adjust your expectations before the public does.
Players not at full effect – In a soccer tournament like this smart sports bettors know that the play of one player can be the difference between success and failure for a team. That could be a striker who drives the offense, a midfielder who controls the flow of play, or a goalkeeper who does a good impression of a brick wall. Before a tournament starts you probably have a good sense of whether a team has a key player like that and if so, who he is. If that player shows signs in early action of not being anywhere near his full capabilities then the team could really struggle, and you could be well served by decreasing expectations. You need to be careful, though, that you don’t overreact here. If the player just has a bad game then it doesn’t necessarily mean he will struggle throughout. Soccer handicappers need to look for bigger issues – health woes, problems with the players around them, a clash with the coach, and so on – before you come to conclusions about what it could mean for the longer term in the tournament.
Rosters being shuffled – By the time a tournament like this rolls around a coach should have a pretty good idea of what his best roster is and how he should be using his players. As a result, it is a source of real concern if a team is making big lineup changes between games in a tournament. It’s common for teams to make adjustments from time to time – trading one defender for another of similar quality, for example. That’s not a problem. It’s when they are making dramatic changes like benching a star, starting different styles of players entirely, or starting clearly inferior players, though, that you need to consider what that means and whether it is a sign of bigger issues.
Players in card trouble – Red cards and yellow cards can be very costly to teams because they can cost a team a key player for a crucial tournament game. Bettors need to pay close attention to what players are in card trouble and what that could mean. The public can easily get caught off guard by this and not factor the impact into their betting.
Surprisingly strong teams – Experienced sports bettors know that every time a soccer tournament like this happens there is a team or two that is much stronger than anticipated. It could be that they have matured quicker than expected, that players have developed under the public radar, that they have had a lot of experience playing together and have strong chemistry as a result, or that they weren’t given enough respect before the tournament because they aren’t a traditional power. When a country does start very strong then bettors need to figure out whether it will be sustainable and how they need to change their expectations. Sometimes a soccer team just looks strong at the start because they played an overrated opponent to open the action. Other times, though, they are really strong and deserve much more respect than they initially seemed to. The more effectively and quickly a sports bettor can re-evaluate a team that starts strong the more of an edge they can have over the betting public.