Played by 250 million people over two hundred different countries, football is easily the most popular sport in the world. And with the 2018 World Cup set to be hosted in Russia in just over a year’s time, it seems like a great time to start looking at how to spread your bets in the run-up to the event.
The main pitch for the $10 billion tournament will be the 68,000-person capacity St. Petersburg Stadium, with matches also to be held in multiple stadia across the country including Sochi (former host of the Olympics), Kazan and Samar. The first official match is scheduled to be played on 14th June 2018 and the final is set to run on the 15th of July. However, even before these matches start we will be able to follow the ongoing wealth of qualifier matches that will whittle down the long-list to the final thirty-two qualifying teams and help point towards the teams that will be worth taking a punt on.
So What Is The Story So Far?
These qualifier matches are currently being played out from a number of confederations including the AFC, CAF, CONCAF, CONMEBOL, OFC and UEFA. All of these have slightly different rules but they usually deploy a two-to-three round tiered progression structure and, with end dates of September to November of this year, the final teams will make up the competitors for the tournament.
But The Important Question To Ask Is, Who Currently Stands To Place?
The 2018 World Cup is unique in that it is not only the first to be held in Eastern Europe, but every national team has been registered to play. This meant that the long list was made up from the most diverse spread of teams in our lifetime but even before the matches began, the numbers started to fall. Zimbabwe, Indonesia and Kuwait have all been eliminated, with the only certainty on the list so far being the hosts themselves.
Rosters for each match are freely available online and have been in-play since March 2015. With so many matches beforehand, this is a prime opportunity to watch the form of the teams, take stock of how they’re going to play in the future and start the process of earmarking individual players for awards or where they will place within their groups.
With all teams segmented into different groups, it has been inevitable that some drawings have been more favourable than others. England famously got off lightly after being assigned to Group F with Slovakia, Slovenia, Scotland, Lithuania and Malta. Unsurprisingly, they have shown early consistent form – winning three of their four early games, conceding one to a draw but sitting comfortably at the top of the group with ten points. Other favourites have had less luck, with previously strong Netherlands losing Guus Hiddink and being placed in a group with France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus and Luxembourg. Despite strong opposition, they’ve have gone on to a secure position in the group with four matches played and two losses and a draw.
This year’s qualifiers have also seen Irish teams giving a surprisingly strong showing. The Republic of Ireland has come out of the gate swinging and won three of its four early Group D matches, only conceding one draw. Northern Ireland have also started well and are well placed to become an underdog – sitting on two wins, a draw, and a loss within Group C, despite continuously languishing under Germany. But the real group that everyone has been watching has been Group G, which contains both Spain and Italy. Spain has continuously proven to be on equal footing for points, drawing against Italy in a group containing Israel, Albania FYR, Macedonia and Lichtenstein.
While it’s still early days, it shouldn’t come as surprise that the top ranked teams amongst bookies and pundits include the usual big five: Germany, Brazil, Spain, Argentina and France. From the matches played to date, the following individuals have been earmarked for watching if they manage to make it to the world cup in 2018: Argentina’s Erik Lamela, Brazil’s Roberto Firmino, France’s Antoine Griezmann, Germany’s Marco Reus and Spain’s Sergi Roberto.
Smaller teams have also seen certain players distinguish themselves. Poland’s Robert Lewandowski singled himself out through a hat-trick against Denmark to give the team their first victory in the qualifiers. Portugal’s Jaro Mario has also gone on to establish himself after being a major part of a string of 6-0, and 4-1 victories in their group. Keeping an eye on these players will be key in predicting which teams will flourish in the final qualifying rounds.
2018 World Cup Tips
Know The Bets To Make: You can start placing your bets ante-post if you are looking for better odds but greater risk. Conventional bets include where a team will place in a group along with staking individual matches and particular players for the Golden Ball, Boot, Glove, and the Best Young Player and Fair Play Award. One of the downsides of placing these bets is the depth of awareness bookies have about well-known teams and, while taking an early punt can be enjoyable and profitable, it is advised that you stake against the outcomes of outsider teams.
Research The Hard Facts: Before laying any bets, it’s always best to look at the facts backed up by hard stats. Companies such as Goldman Sachs have conducted research into the ‘economics’ of the World Cup. For every tournament, the investment bank puts together a ‘dream team’ and match predictor spreadsheet, based on statistics and past trends. While it is not a guaranteed cheat sheet, it is a good way of familiarising yourself with the facts before placing your bet.
Look At The Trends: It’s also important to remember the common trends that the World Cup has historically shown. Only eight teams have ever won the trophy: Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina, Uruguay, England, Spain, and France. Hosts have also historically struggled in modern times to win the cup, with defending teams only managing to protect the trophy twice, with an average of three goals per game.
Free Bets And Special Offers: As the World Cup is the most publicised and known in the sporting calendar, there will be a number of offers available that can be taken advantage of. Keep an eye out for these and save yourself some money from the outset. We’ll be working closely with our good friend, Geeky Gambler to bring you all those latest offers as and when they become available.