World Cup 2018: What to bet on – favourite or underdog?

World Cup, without a doubt, is the main football event and billions of people are waiting for the moment when they could drink cold beer and enjoy football on the couch in front of their TVs. However, some people want not only to enjoy watching games, but also to make some money on these events. So many bettors, so many minds! Probably, many of you have heard two opinions about World Cup – some say that this is the most predictable tournament and it is necessary to bet on favourites, others say that this tournament is the most unpredictable and to earn some money it is necessary to bet on underdogs underestimated by bookmakers. Where is the truth? Of course, the answer to this question has long been given by the FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder – the truth is out there…

The question of favourites or underdogs is the subject of a long and fascinating debate, but let us make it easier and just look at the last World Cup betting lines and calculate! What could be simpler and more significant? In order for our calculations to be objective, we need to develop the right approach. First, let us determine the outsider and the favourite. If betting lines are offered at even odds, then obviously there are no favourites. Perhaps a favourite in football is the team whose chances of success are about 50%, in other words the odds for its victory are nearly 2.00. It is also necessary to understand that there are no clear favourites in the playoffs because the level of rivals is always approximately equal, so we will consider only World Cup group stage matches. You can see below the results and betting lines for all matches of the previous World Cup group stage. What is our next step? It is very easy – we will choose only matches in which there was a clear favourite and bookmakers offered them at odds of about 2.00 or smaller and calculate our profits or losses if we would have blindly placed bets against underdogs. We marked the games that met our terms with * that means they had a clear favourite.

 

 Algeria – Russia

1:1

3.59

3.64

2.02

*

 South Korea – Belgium

0:1

4.54

3.55

1.83

*

 Portugal – Ghana

2:1

1.77

4.77

3.69

*

 USA – Germany

0:1

8.06

3.05

1.67

*

 Bosnia – Iran

3:1

2.20

3.51

3.25

*

 Nigeria – Argentina

2:3

9.25

4.15

1.43

*

 Ecuador – France

0:0

5.51

4.07

1.61

*

 Honduras – Switzerland

0:3

6.99

4.42

1.48

*

 Costa Rica – England

0:0

4.35

3.92

1.78

*

 Italy – Uruguay

0:1

2.54

3.43

2.76

 

 Greece – Ivory Coast

2:1

3.93

3.57

1.95

*

 Japan – Colombia

1:4

3.40

3.68

2.07

*

 USA – Portugal

2:2

4.52

4.03

1.73

*

 Australia – Spain

0:3

7.76

5.18

1.38

*

 Netherlands – Chile

2:0

2.66

3.46

2.60

 

 Cameroon – Brazil

1:4

21.29

9.28

1.12

*

 Croatia – Mexico

1:3

2.68

3.42

2.61

 

 Belgium – Russia

1:0

2.20

3.30

3.43

*

 South Korea – Algeria

2:4

2.50

3.25

2.92

 

 Nigeria – Bosnia

1:0

4.25

3.60

1.87

*

 Germany – Ghana

2:2

1.33

5.46

8.94

*

 Argentina – Iran

1:0

1.14

8.38

20.72

*

 Honduras – Ecuador

1:2

5.71

4.12

1.59

*

 Switzerland – France

2:5

4.58

3.47

1.84

*

 Italy – Costa Rica

0:1

1.56

3.99

6.52

*

 Japan – Greece

0:0

2.37

3.33

3.06

 

 Uruguay – England

2:1

3.77

3.74

1.94

*

 Colombia – Ivory Coast

2:1

2.02

3.48

3.76

*

 Cameroon – Croatia

0:4

5.48

3.90

1.64

*

 Russia – South Korea

1:1

1.82

3.57

4.60

*

 Australia – Netherlands

2:3

12.97

6.52

1.23

*

 Spain – Chile

0:2

1.57

4.41

5.51

*

 Belgium – Algeria

2:1

1.33

5.16

9.73

*

 Ghana – USA

1:2

2.40

3.39

2.98

 

 Brazil – Mexico

0:0

1.34

5.25

9.01

*

 Germany – Portugal

4:0

2.06

3.50

3.65

*

 Argentina – Bosnia

2:1

1.30

5.56

10.05

*

 Iran – Nigeria

0:0

4.73

3.44

1.83

*

 France – Honduras

3:0

1.26

5.90

12.14

*

 Switzerland – Ecuador

2:1

2.40

3.20

3.15

 

 England – Italy

1:2

2.50

3.00

3.21

 

 Ivory Coast – Japan

2:1

2.70

3.28

2.68

 

 Uruguay – Costa Rica

1:3

1.44

4.17

8.92

*

 Colombia – Greece

3:0

1.86

3.23

5.02

*

 Chile – Australia

3:1

1.42

4.39

8.56

*

 Spain – Netherlands

1:5

1.84

3.34

4.95

*

 Mexico – Cameroon

1:0

2.18

3.13

3.72

*

 Brazil – Croatia

3:1

1.31

5.10

11.68

*

 

Well, the results of betting on the favourites are disappointing as if we bet €100 on ‘favourite to win’ we would win only €33. Therefore, such betting approach is not acceptable! Let us keep looking for the right approach. But it should be noted that

Placing bets on all the favourites in betting lines does not make sense!

So what Hit Rate had favourites in the previous World Cup? It was about 62% and it was not a high rate! Maybe it makes sense to bet on draws or even underdogs? Well, let’s check! If we put €100 on a draw in all matches with a clear favourite (there were 39 such games in the group stage), then 8 bets would win and 31 loose. Losses would make: €2.338 – €3.100 = – €762. If we bet €100 on ‘underdog to win’, then 7 bets would win and 32 loose. Losses would make: €3.085 – €3.200 = – €115. As we see, wagering on draws or underdogs are unprofitable, but bets on favourites brought us profit, even if it was just a small amount. However, we can conclude that bets on favourites look more attractive and we just need to find the right approach to use them!

In view of the above it can be safely said, that it is unprofitable to bet on small odds. Let’s calculate how much we would earn if we bet on the favourites on which bookmakers offered odds greater than 1.80. Simple calculations show that these bets can bring us profit! Sixteen matches meeting our parameters would bring us €226, and our Yield would be an impressive 14%!

Bets ‘favourite to win’ at odds from 1.80 to 2.20 are the most profitable at World Cup!

If the bets at odds from 1.80 or greater brought us profit, does it mean that the bets on the favourites at the smaller odds would really bring losses? Okay, let’s check this theory. The favourites at odds below 1.80 managed to win only in 15 of 23 matches. If we put €100 on a draw in all these 23 matches, we would earn €1773 – €1500 = €223. If we put €100 on the underdog in these matches, we would earn €1795 – €1500 = €295!

Have we found a simple formula for success? Let’s draw conclusions. Bets on favourites in all matches brought us profit, but this amount of profit does not interest us at all. However, as calculations showed betting on draws or wins of underdogs are unprofitable. Nevertheless, we drew attention to a great amount of the sensations on the World Cup and noticed that bookmakers overestimated the obvious favourites in the betting lines. So, how to bet on the World Cup? We will bet on favourites (or against them) according to the following scheme: if the odds on the favourite are greater than 1.80 – we will bet on it, if the odds are smaller – we will bet on a draw or underdogs win. If you played in such a manner at the last World Cup, you would have earned €226 + €223 = €449 (favourite at @1.80 or higher + draw) or €226 + €295 = €521 (favourite at @ 1.80 or higher + underdogs win). In total, you would have made 39 bets. In order words, your turnover would be €3.900 and your Yield would be 12% and 13%, respectively. It’s not so bad, right?

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