In other words, beginning Nov. 20 and continuing through Dec. 18, we’ll have a football-and-futbol feast.
Let’s get some betting perspective — from both sides of the counter — on how sharp bettors approach the World Cup.
Leaning on Lionel
Soccer superstar Lionel Messi announced this will be his last World Cup for Argentina. Messi and his Argentinian mates are playing quite well, and professional bettors have taken notice in the World Cup championship futures odds market.
“Argentina has attracted all the attention in the lead-up and has moved from 10-1 all the way down to 5-1,” WynnBet junior trader Dom DeBonis said. “The Argentines are unbeaten in 38 straight games, having delivered Lionel Messi his first international trophy at the most recent Copa America. And they are loaded with attacking talent.”
Argentina has always been among the favorites in the World Cup odds market. But sharps also hit a couple of long shots in Serbia and Uruguay. Serbia is now 75-1 at WynnBet after opening 100-1, while Uruguay improved from 50-1 to 40-1, 11th in the 32-team field.
“The stark market moves across the industry on those three teams suggest that they were being undervalued at open,” DeBonis said of Argentina, Serbia and Uruguay. “Sharp money has pushed each of them up a tier in terms of where the best bettors expect them to finish.”
Alexi Lalas talks expectations for the USMNT in the 2022 FIFA World Cup
FOX Sports soccer analyst Alexi Lalas joins Craig Carton to preview the World Cup.
Fire early, fire late, fire futures
The World Cup draw took place way back on April 1, setting up all the group-stage matches for the 32-team field. These games have had months to be bet into. Therefore, it’s been a while since much sharp play showed up.
“The sharpest players would really only be attracted to openers or steam based on lineup drops prior to kickoff,” DeBonis said.
Translation: Professional bettors might have jumped on early numbers months ago, but probably won’t jump back in until literally game day, on any late-breaking news.
But in World Cup futures markets — particularly the tournament and group winners — action from the smart set has been steadier.
“Futures betting on the groups and [tournament] winner is another story, because you can get an advantageous number that can be hedged later in the tournament,” DeBonis said.
Rob Miech — who wouldn’t call himself sharp but is definitely an experienced and informed soccer bettor — provided an example illustrating DeBonis’ point on hedging.
“In early February, I got 60-1 on Denmark,” said Miech, a sports betting columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. “Denmark is just good, and they’re kind of a tournament darling.”
Part of that darling status is due to the remarkable comeback of Christian Eriksen. In the 2021 European Championships, Eriksen collapsed on the field due to cardiac arrest during a match against Finland. A defibrillator was required to get his heart beating again. Eriksen will now lead the Danes in the 2022 World Cup.
“He has come back and is now full bore,” Miech said.
Oh, and Denmark is now in the range of 30-1. If the Danish side makes a run and gets out of the group stage, Miech can consider hedging against his 60-1 championship ticket, betting on Denmark’s opponent game-by-game.
Miech also got what at the time appeared to be a great flier bet on Canada at 300-1, again in February. The Canadians lost just one match in World Cup qualifying play. However, goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau broke his leg playing for Los Angeles FC in the MLS Cup final on Nov. 5, so he’s out for the tournament.
Further, Canadian star Alphonso Davies is coming off a hamstring injury that might slow him in the tournament.
Still, Miech is hopeful that big long-shot Canada can find its way out of Group F — which includes Belgium and Croatia — and into the Round of 16. If so, Miech said, “I’ll hedge against this ticket in the knockout stage. I could potentially be betting big against Canada.”
RELATED: World Cup expert picks
USA: Non-sharp play
The U.S. Men’s National Team is well down the odds board at WynnBet, currently 150-1 to win the World Cup. So if you put a hundred bucks on Team USA, and the Americans pull off an unfathomable run, you’d win $15,000.
But there’s a reason the USMNT — in a six-team logjam as the 14th choice on the odds board — has such lengthy odds. Bookmakers would consider Team USA fortunate to just get out of Group B — which includes England, Wales and Iran — and advance to the Round of 16.
However, that’s not stopping public/recreational bettors from logging some patriotic wagering duty.
“Our biggest liability, as is probably the case at all American-based sportsbooks, is the U.S.,” DeBonis said. “While the Americans are a long shot to actually win the tournament, the hope is that a strong showing could convert some new followers to the sport who enjoy betting on the games as we prepare to be the host nation at the 2026 World Cup.”
For Dylan Brossman, trading operations senior manager for FOX Bet, the flood of U.S. bettors backing Team USA is expected.
“It’s no surprise the USA has the most tickets at this point,” Brossman said. “Just behind [Team USA] are Brazil and Germany.”
Team USA is currently 200-1 at FOX Bet, co-17th choice. That means a $100 bet would – very hypothetically – win $20,000 if the U.S. won the World Cup.
A is for action
Among the eight groups — four teams in each — in this 32-team soccer extravaganza, one has stood out for sharp bettors: Group A. And again, they’re not necessarily betting Group A games, but rather Group A futures — which team will win the group.
“Group A is attracting the most sharp action, with Senegal being backed early. But the injury to its star in Sadio Mane has shifted that,” DeBonis said. “The action has [since] been coming in on the group favorite Holland [Netherlands] and long-shot host nation Qatar.”
Mane suffered a leg injury in early November while playing for his professional club Bayern Munich. He’s expected to miss Senegal’s Nov. 21 group opener against the Netherlands and likely the Nov. 25 match against host country Qatar.
Netherlands is now the hefty -255 favorite to win Group A, with Senegal and Ecuador both +600, and Qatar well back at +1700.
How important is Christian Pulisic to team USA in 2022 FIFA World Cup?
Stu weighs in on Christian Pulisic and the role he will play for team USA.
Sweet on Serbia
As DeBonis noted above, sharp bettors hit Serbia in the World Cup championship odds market. Miech thinks at the very least, Serbia can be among the top two teams in Group D, finishing behind World Cup favorite Brazil and advancing to the knockout stage.
It’ll likely come down to the Serbian squad’s final Group G game, against Switzerland on Dec. 2. And Miech is already on it.
“I think Serbia beats Switzerland. That’s a big play for me,” he said.
At WynnBet, in the three-way betting, Serbia is a modest +185 underdog, with Switzerland a +165 favorite and draw at +225.
Learning to draw
Which brings us to an important point on soccer betting, for those unfamiliar: Most sportsbooks offer three-way betting on World Cup games. The wager is on what the result will be after 90 minutes plus injury time. So you can bet on either side, or on draw.
In the above Serbia-Switzerland game, for example: A $100 bet on Serbia +185 would win $185 profit if Serbia wins; a $100 Switzerland play would net $165; and if you put $100 on draw and the two teams play to a tie in 90 minutes plus injury time, you’d win $225.
The option of draw is worth keeping in mind, particularly since the group-stage games don’t go to extra time.
“The draw on the three-way line hits at about a rate of 24%, which is an implied line of +317,” DeBonis explained. “The closest matchups tend to have the draw priced between +185 and +225, so the times when it would be advantageous would actually be when a greater chalk-underdog discrepancy is in play. This is especially true in international tournaments, when the teams spend less time building chemistry and cohesion, and might not get the results at the same clip you see at club level.”
However, if you bet on Team A or Team B to win in a three-way option, and the game is tied after regulation and injury time, you lose your bet. It’s not a push like it would be on, say, an NFL moneyline.
And even in the knockout stage, in which games go to extra time, a bet on the three-way line is a bet on the result for 90 minutes plus injury time. If you bet Team A to win in three-way betting, and the game is tied after regulation plus injury time, you lose your bet, even if Team A goes on to win in extra time or on penalty kicks.
If you’d prefer to avoid that, most books also offer two-way betting, on which you just pick which team you think will win. It’s a standard moneyline bet on each side, so if the game ends up a draw, the betting result is a push and a refund. Further, if a game goes to extra time — in this case, for World Cup knockout stage games — you’ll get a result, either a win or loss, whether in OT or on penalty kicks.
As for me, a non-sharp bettor, I love betting the draw, even if the odds say I shouldn’t. In case you haven’t noticed, there often ain’t a whole lot of scoring in soccer. I won’t get carried away with it, but for World Cup 2022 odds, you can bank on me betting for a few 1-1 or 0-0 draws. Then it’s off to Chili’s, my friends. #ChilisMoney
Patrick Everson is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and senior reporter for VegasInsider.com. He is a distinguished journalist in the national sports betting space. He’s based in Las Vegas, where he enjoys golfing in 110-degree heat. Follow him on Twitter: @PatrickE_Vegas.
Download the FOX Super 6 app for your chance to win thousands of dollars on the biggest sporting events each and every week! Just make your picks, and you could win the grand prize. Download and play today!
Get more from FIFA World Cup 2022 Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more