Betting on major international soccer tournaments like the World Cup or the European Championships is a unique and challenging experience at the best of times. As the tournament transitions from group play to the elimination round things can change significantly for teams, and therefore for bettors. Those bettors who wish to make a long term profit will be aware of those differences and the changes they must make in order to maximize their chances of success. Here are five big differences for soccer handicappers to consider:
Teams are at full effort – Soccer is a strange sport. More than in many other sports you can never be sure how hard a team will try unless they absolutely have to. In round robin games you will frequently see a team that should be able to win a game with ease struggle or put out a lousy effort en route to a bare win, a draw, or even a loss. It’s hard to know whether teams really consciously don’t try as hard in those games, or if they just let their focus and intensity waver. Either way, it can be very frustrating for bettors. In elimination games, though, this typically isn’t a problem. Players know that if they lose they are out – there are no second chances. Teams will sometimes still not bother to show up, but you can have much more confidence that you will get a full effort in the elimination games than in any game before that. That means sports bettors can worry less about psychology and focus more on what’s on the field.
Injuries can be a factor – The further a soccer team gets into a tournament the more likely that injuries are a factor. Players have been playing at high intensity against a high level of competition. There will be players that are unable to play, and others who aren’t playing at full capability because they are too banged up. The further you get into a tournament, then, the more attention you need to pay to injury reports. This is especially significant for more important players on each side because they are less likely to be cautious when the tournament life of their teams are on the line.
Suspensions can be an issue – If a soccer player gets two yellow cards or one red card during a tournament they have to sit out their next game – regardless of when that game comes. By the time teams have played several games in a tournament there is a good chance that one or more players could have penalty issues. That means bettors have to be very conscious of what a player’s penalty status is, and what impact it could have on the teams.
Recent scouting reports on teams – When you head into a major soccer tournament it can be really difficult to have an accurate sense of the form that teams are playing. A long time has passed since they have qualified, and a lot can change since then. They have played friendly matches since then, but it’s highly unlikely that they played those at full intensity, or that they used the same roster that they will rely on in the tournament. That makes it hard for opponents to prepare for early games, and for bettors to accurately handicap the early games. As the tournament progresses, though, there is much more recent information to draw from. That means we have a better sense of what a team is capable of, how players are playing, how the chemistry is, and so on. That has to change how teams and bettors approach games – typically for the better.
Favorites will be heavily bet – In these soccer tournaments the favorites get the bulk of the betting attention at the best of times. As the tournament progresses, though, and it becomes more clear which teams are the strongest, the public is going to bet those favorites more heavily than ever. As the stakes get higher we also see more public bettors paying attention to the tournament, and betting on them. The more public betting action there is on a tournament, the more aware sports handicappers need to be of the impact they are having on how lines are set and how they move.