Privet comrades, SBC’s Bookies Corner returns with industry stakeholders giving their first opinion on Russia 2018’s World Cup cast.
Which teams have impressed bookmakers during the qualifying stages? Who are the current tournament favourites? Which failed teams will be missed most by bookmakers and will England roar or wimp out of another major football tournament? SBC gets the initial Russia 2018 lowdown….
SBC: With qualifiers concluded, will bookmakers be happy with the final 32-teams starring in Russia 2018? Furthermore, Which non-qualified team will bookmakers miss the most at World Cup 2018?
Katie Baylis, (Betfair Media Relations Manager): Obviously a lack of home nations qualified for Russia 2018 is disappointing, however, it’s not necessarily unusual for that to be the case for a World Cup tournament and clearly there will still be huge punter interest in Russia 2018 regardless.
Not having Italy or Holland on board also dilutes some of the top tier betting markets, and bookmakers will further miss the USA and Chile who are popular draws.let’s lets not forget that we still have Messi , Ronaldo , Neymar and maybe Phil Jones to keep us entertained!
SBC: Of the final 32, which team has impressed bookmakers the most. Does qualifying performance matter, with regards to actual World Cup performance?
Michael Herry, (Kambi Head of Football): It will come as no surprise to hear that the teams at the top of the betting market impressed the most during qualifying with not much to choose between the leading quartet of Germany, Brazil, Spain and France. Out of those sides, I like the look of France, who topped a tough qualifying group featuring Sweden, Netherlands and Bulgaria. The losing 2016 European Championship finalists also have a very strong squad with the likes of Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann providing strength from front to back, with a strong bench to call upon.
Next in the betting are Argentina, who were very disappointing in qualifying, needing a Messi hat-trick in the final qualifying match against Ecuador to secure their ticket to the finals. Despite finishing 13 points behind Brazil in the CONMEBOL group, Argentina are as short as 7/1 to lift the FIFA World Cup Trophy next year and make little appeal. Belgium also feature near the top of the book at around 12/1 and while their first 11 is perhaps as good as any, I believe they lack the strength in depth to deal sufficiently with any injuries to star players such as Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard or Romelu Lukaku. Belgium were the joint-top scorers in European qualifying with 43 goals, but 32 of those came against Gibraltar, Cyprus and Estonia, and tougher tests await in Russia.
In African qualifying, I was impressed by both Morocco and Nigeria, with the latter my dark horse for the tournament at fancy three-digit prices. Nigeria have a squad full of Premier League experience with Kelechi Iheanacho, Alex Iwobi, Victor Moses and Jon Obi Mikel likely to play important roles in Russia. They recently beat Argentina 4-2, and although this was only a mid-season friendly, Nigeria will be the team other countries will want to avoid when they are drawn from Pot 4 next month.
All that said, it’s important to not put too much emphasis on qualifying form as a lot can happen before the first games on 14 June. Come kick-off, the majority of teams will not have played a competitive match for eight months, while we also have to consider the outcome of the draw and the potential for influential players to pick-up injuries that rule them out of the tournament. An injury to Neymar Jr. or De Bruyne, for instance, would impact their respective team’s chances of glory. As per usual, betting volumes for the World Cup will pick-up following the end of the domestic seasons in Europe, building up to what we expect will be the biggest turnover event of all time.
SBC: With just under 8 months to go until Russia 2018, what type of unique factors and dynamics do trading teams weigh up, when pricing World Cup favourites?
John Hill (PR Coral UK): Given the World Cup is in Russia next summer, it is no surprise that seven of the top nine in the betting for from Europe. The form of France, Germany and Brazil has been outstanding over the last couple of years therefore they look to be the three leading teams at the tournament. France went close to winning Euro 2016 and have a squad to admire, Germany always knock on the door at major tournaments and Brazil have been built well since they were embarrassed by Germany at the last World Cup.
Although England qualified with ease, we are still happy to take them on as their record in major finals since 2010 has been very poor. We expect patriotic money to arrive next summer so it would be no surprise if they were our biggest liability once again.
The draw for the tournament is obviously going to have an affect on the outright market. Looking at the seeds though, it is difficult to pinpoint what could be a group of death so the majority of the teams in the top two pots will be expected to qualify for the last 16.
SBC: A glorious summer of youth football saw England win the under-20 World Cup and under-19 European Championships…Surely Gareth Southgate’s mighty lions will bring ’football home’ next summer?
Alex Apati (Ladbrokes PR): The patriotic punter will be delighted to know we’ve trimmed odds of England winning the World Cup to 20/1 in the last few weeks, while we’re currently the third most-backed team in the tournament for the trophy!
And with so much hype around the Young Lions at the moment, six players aged 21 or under are priced at 3/1 or shorter for a place in Southgate’s 23 man squad for Russia.
Solid performances against Germany and Brazil this month have certainly given fans reason to feel confident. As promising as those results were, England failed to score in both of those games. So one for the pessimists: England NOT to score in Russia is currently 25/1!
We’re expecting England to go off at around about the 16/1 mark by the time the first ball is kicked and that’ll be because of the interest we’re likely to see from home supporters as we edge closer towards the end of the season and attention turns solely to the World Cup.
The Betting industry’s relationship with Football and its wider stakeholders will be discussed at the ‘Betting on Football 2018’ (#bofcon2018) conference. Click on the below banner for more information…