Sports bettors need to understand that the location of major international soccer tournaments like the World Cup or European Championships is a potentially significant and often overlooked factor in the handicapping of the events. Location factors can give a weaker team an important edge, or can handicap an otherwise strong team. Here are five location factors to consider when handicapping a major soccer tournament:
Home team – In major international tournaments the home team typically gets a bye into the field. Sometimes that doesn’t really matter because the squad would certainly have been in the field anyway. Other times, it means that a team that doesn’t really belong in the field gets in and that a more deserving team might not have room to participate. If the home team was playing on a neutral field then it would probably be pretty easy to ignore them and bet against them with enthusiasm. However, when they are playing at home, the location becomes a source of much uncertainty. The home crowd will be wildly enthusiastic and they will remind their team that they have nothing to lose. Sports bettors need to keep in mind that crazy things can happen when a soccer team fears nothing and has everyone cheering for them.
Close enough for fans to travel – If a crowd isn’t playing at home then the next best thing is if they are close enough that their fans can travel in large numbers to watch the game. If one team is playing close to home while the other team traveled around the world to arrive at the tournament then the closer team could have a significant advantage. That is not automatic though. Smart soccer bettors will make sure that the team is popular in their home country and that their fans typically travel to watch games and enthusiastically cheer when they are there. Soccer handicappers also need to make sure that the team that has traveled a long way isn’t a strong public team. Brazil, for example, is going to have a whole lot of crowd support whether they are playing at home or in Europe.
Hatred from local fans – Experienced sports bettors know that soccer is serious business in a lot of parts in the world. If countries don’t really like each other at the best of times then they really aren’t going to like each other on the soccer pitch. Rivalries and tensions between countries, either recent or those that have existed for generations, can have a huge impact on the atmosphere of a game, how the players respond in the game and the impact the crowd can have on the outcome. No two situations are alike, but you need to consider if this is a factor and what it means as far as your handicapping is concerned.
Extremes of weather or altitude – When teams are coming from all over the world or even all over a continent to play in a soccer tournament then they could be subjected to conditions that are very different than what they are used to. Here are some factors for sports bettors to consider. Teams that live at sea level could really struggle if the tournament is held at altitude, while teams traveling from high to low could have an edge. Teams that are used to mild weather could struggle in extreme heat, while hot weather teams could suffer in the chill. You need to be careful here though because it doesn’t matter where a team is from if the majority of their players don’t play regularly in that country. If they play in foreign leagues then you need to consider the adjustment from those league locations to the tournament site, not their home country. Top international stars often spend very little time at home.
Logistical issues – Professional soccer handicappers know that the location of particular games in a tournament can present real logistical challenges for teams based on where they have decided to base their operations for the tournament. If one team has to travel a long way to get to a game, or has decided to travel right before a game they could have a disadvantage in a game. That disadvantage could be even bigger if their opponent is based closer to the tournament or if they have played a game in the location already. You would think that logistics would be straightforward in a tournament, but they can be surprisingly complicated for some teams, and far less complex for others. If a team isn’t particularly mentally tough in the first place then logistical woes could be a difference maker and the smart soccer bettor can find value.