When betting on a major international soccer tournament like the World Cup or the European Championships the first, and often most potentially lucrative place to focus is on group play. Those early games are where you can find mismatches, inaccurate public perceptions, teams that aren’t as mentally or physically prepared as they should be or teams that aren’t likely to play as well as they are capable of. Because the groups can offer so many betting opportunities it only makes sense that serious bettors need to spend time as soon as the groups are announced looking at how they set up, and where the opportunities could be. Here are five factors for sports bettors to consider when doing so:
Where is the strength? – This is an obvious starting point for any soccer handicapper’s evaluation. You need to have a sense of which teams are strong and which are weak. Everyone will have an opinion on this and there will be a widely held opinion in most cases. It’s important that sports bettors just don’t accept what everyone else is saying and to do your own analysis yourself. The approach I favor here is to take the four teams in the group and to arrange them in order of strength, from strongest to weakest. This doesn’t always mean that the teams will wind up in that order in the standings, and you won’t always bet on the stronger team when they play against a weaker one, but it is a good starting point for further analysis.
Where will the public perceive the strength to be? – Once as a soccer handicapper you know where you think the strength is going to be in the group you can shift your attention to where the public is likely to focus, or where they are already directing their early attention. The dream situation is when your perception of strength and the public perception of strength don’t align. That means that you have a chance to find nice value if the public matches their opinion with betting intensity.
How do playing styles match up? – The single most important factor whenever two teams play each other in any sport is how they match up on the field. The much more talented team can struggle if they are not likely to be able to assert their strengths, and if the opponent is going to be able to exploit their weaknesses. You need to look at the general style of play the teams in a group favor. Are they aggressive or passive, offensive or defensive? By determining these factors you can see how well those styles will suit the opponents. That will have an impact on whether the strongest teams are really the ones worth betting on.
What is the order of the games? – The schedule can play a massive and underappreciated role in how soccer teams perform and how they play.Experienced soccer bettors know this. A weaker team, for example, may have a much better chance against a stronger team at the end of round robin play when the strong team has already secured a playoff spot than they would early when nothing has been determined. An offensive squad may not have their chemistry and timing figured out as well in their first game as opposed to their last, and a team lacking depth is likely to be in better shape in the first game than the third. Spending the time to look at the implications of the timing of games is always a good idea.
Is there history or rivalry? – Sports handicapper must understand that soccer is a game filled with intense rivalries and frequent hatred. Those rivalries can fuel the fans, and can have a big impact on how the teams approach the game – especially if the rivalry is a recent one and the current players have bought into it. Whenever you evaluate a group you will want to look for two things. First, you want to look for games that will feature these types of intense and game changing rivalries so you can consider the meaning of them. Second, you need to look at games in which the actual impact of the rivalries isn’t likely to be as extreme as the public will perceive them to be. Sometimes rivalries are intense in the minds of fans, but for players they mean little. For example, it is very hard for a rivalry to be particularly intense if one soccer team is clearly superior and has been for a long time. In those cases the betting public is likely to overreact and value can be created as a result. As a savvy soccer handicapper you can take advantage of this situation.