World Cup Betting Strategy

Taking Underdogs in Pool Play


With 32 teams qualifying for the World Cup each year, there are bound to be some upsets. This is especially the case in pool play, where the 32 teams are divided into eight different 4-team pools.

If you've ever watched pool play before, you know that each team plays the other three teams once in a round-robin tournament. From here, the top two teams in each group advance to the Round of 16. And once the Round of 16 begins, there aren't usually a lot of upsets. So if you're going to wager on underdogs, your best chance to do so usually lies in pool play. That said, let's discuss some World Cup betting strategy for taking the dogs in group play.

A Great Value

One great thing about the first stage of the World Cup is how many David vs Goliath matchups there are. For example, Cameroon wouldn't exactly be on equal footing in a match against Brazil. Likewise, few people would give Australia much of a chance against Spain.

Herein lies the beauty of the World Cup in that some of these matches offer pretty good value in the betting lines. And you don't even need to dig as deep as Australia vs. Spain to find an underdog bet that pays the winners well. For example, let's say that Portugal plays the United States in group play, and the line is as follows:

Portugal   -220
USA        +270

At the time of this writing, Portugal is ranked 5th in the world while the US is ranked 14th. Sure this means Portugal is a favorite; but is it really worth risking $220 on them to win a $100 profit? Or is there more value in betting $100 to win a $170 profit on the United States? Probably the latter, but the overall point is that there are going to be several matchups like this in pool play where you can get great value from a supposed underdog.


How to find Good Underdog Bets

Knowing that there are some favorable dogs in group play is only a small part of World Cup betting success. The bigger step is to figure out how you can spot and take advantage of these matches. It's not always easy to find a soft line in the World Cup because of how highly publicized these matches are. In other words, this isn't like some line on a Major League Soccer game between the league's worst two teams.

But there are some favorable lines to be found, and the first step to spotting them involves looking at contests between historically good teams and an up-and-comer. Remember, World Cup betting lines are set up based on public perception. And the public is more likely to wager on high-profile teams over teams that don't have much of a Cup history.

A good example of this from 2014 World Cup pool play will be when Chile takes on The Netherlands. These teams are almost evenly matched, but a large majority of the public will favor The Netherlands because they made the 2010 World Cup Finals and are a very well-known team worldwide. Chile is also a respected team, but their line probably won't reflect this when these teams square off.

Of course, you'll also want to do more in-depth research on both sides before laying money on an underdog. Some of the key factors that you should look at include injuries, how stars did in recent league play, insider news on how teams are gelling, field conditions and what respected analysts think.

Look at Advancing Bets Too

Besides making individual match bets on underdogs in pool play, you should also look at bets on each team advancing. Many online sportsbooks offer lines on each team advancing out of their group. With two teams making it out of every pool, you can find some hidden gems among the third and fourth-rated teams in each group.

This narrows your research down to 16 teams. And from here, you can gradually eliminate pools where you see one of the following two factors:

1) You don't think the third or fourth-ranked teams have a very good chance at making it out of group play.

2) The lines on the teams advancing aren't very soft.

Once you've narrowed down a few groups to research, you can go about finding an underdog(s) that you like to advance out of pool play. Much like individual matches, you'll be able to find some great advancing bets, which hopefully leads to big profits for you!