The 2014 FIFA World Cup will get underway this June in Brazil and not only will it be the biggest soccer event of the year it’ll be the biggest betting event of the year. The numbers are staggering—it’s hard to get an accurate figure on how much money will be bet on the World Cup consider that UK bookmakers are expecting to take as much £3 billion in action. That’s just the United Kingdom meaning that the overall money bet on the World Cup is downright mind boggling.
For the intelligent bettor it’s important to keep in mind that the majority of World Cup betting action will be from casual and recreational players. This type of player has a tendency to bet with their heart, backing their country’s team or else jump on a bandwagon and bet one of the top favorites. Bookmakers are aware of this—in addition to moving the prices based on betting action they’ll frequently ‘shade’ lines involving teams they know will receive a lot of wagering action. The sharp player, meanwhile, looks for ‘value’ on teams that might not be as popular with the general public.
So which teams are ‘overvalued’? First of all, a disclaimer: just because a team is ‘overvalued’ doesn’t mean they can’t win. It’s also not a slight on the team itself but rather their market valuation. ‘Value’ is a very nebulous concept but its essential to be mindful of it if you’re going to make money betting over the longterm. The most obvious ‘overvalued’ team is the host country of Brazil. Brazil is a very good team to be sure but they have defensive issues, questions about their midfield depth and a recent history of very erratic play. These questions are sufficient in our view that they’re a ‘false favorite’ and are overvalued at +300.
Spain is the defending World Cup Champion but the marketplace appears to be making a big deal about their loss to Brazil in the Confederations Cup. This is a mistake in our view—despite the fact that Brazil won that matchup 3-0 its unwise to conclude that Spain is ‘down’ from their 2010 team. Some have expressed concern that they may be ‘over the hill’ but it’s hard to pass up a proven commodity like Spain who are also the #1 ranked national team in the world at the moment. They look like a nice value at +685. Germany is also attractive at +640—some concern in both cases about European teams having historically struggled in World Cup play in South America. Then again, the conventional wisdom that European teams can’t win in South America could be giving us value.
Italy is also worth at least a speculative play at +2850. The rap on Italy is that they’ve been insanely erratic in World Cup play—they won the tournament in 2006 and then didn’t win a game in 2010—but they’ve got a deep, talented and experienced team. Most of their roster is from AC Milan and Juventus in Italy’s Serie A league meaning there will be good cohesion. At such a high price they’re worth a shot.