The 2022 World Cup delivered more than its fair share of bookmaker-friendly shocks, but also a remarkable final that delighted huge numbers of punters. To assess the tournament from a bookie’s perspective, SBC News caught up with bet365’s Steve Freeth.
bet365 certainly proved popular with bettors as the action unfolded in Qatar, and insights provided by Oddschecker revealed that it beat the opposition to secure an overall 21.2% share of World Cup clicks through the affiliate during the tournament.
William Hill in second spot achieved 8.7% overall click-share across all markets offered, while Flutter-owned brands Sky Bet and Betfair Exchange were third and fourth with 8.3% and 7.2% respectively.
Bet365 also dominated the 1X2 markets across the 64 matches with a click-share of 22.1%, well ahead of its nearest rival – again William Hill on 7.5%.
Reflecting on that performance, Freeth told us how bet365 had managed to remain so popular with punters during the World Cup and talked us through the ups and downs of global sport’s biggest event.
SBC: Overall, how was the World Cup from a bookmaker’s point of view? Was the number of surprise results enough to offset the impact of one of the most-backed teams reaching a final against the reigning champions?
Steve Freeth: Argentina and France both figured prominently in the profit and loss columns throughout the tournament, but we managed to finish with our noses in front, just!
It was nip and tuck early on with us winning on the opening two games. One of those, and the result that shocked the world, was the defeat for eventual winners Argentina at the hands of 22/1 Saudi Arabia. We wouldn’t have things our own way for long though, taking a hit on the Netherlands vs Senegal and then predictably on England as they strolled past Iran in their group opener.
Belgium and Croatia were expected to fight out Group F but not only did Morocco end up topping the section, they continued to pull off some incredible results in the knockout stages, eliminating both Spain and Portugal en route to the semi-finals. Even in their last four defeat against France, the Atlas Lions were on the bookmakers’ side, bet365 celebrating as just two goals were scored. By the end of the tournament I think it’s fair to say that many a neutral and bookmaker alike were big fans of Walid Regragui’s brave Moroccans.
Didier Deschamps’ France did give us our biggest headache in Qatar, figuring prominently in the minus column. Les Bleus inflicted damaging losses on the bet365 margin following heavily-backed wins over Australia, Denmark and Poland. The trading team were cursing Robert Lewandowski’s twice taken penalty in that last 16 tie, which saw a monster swing against us.
And then there was the final. Where do we start?
In a breath-taking climax to the 2022 World Cup, bet365 customers were celebrating along with Lionel Messi and team-mates, following numerous boosts, offers and promotions landing throughout the 90 minutes, and continuing into extra-time. The total payout was well in advance of eight figures.
Argentina had been top of bet365’s outright liabilities for some time, having been backed from 8/1 into 11/2 in the lead up to Qatar and they weren’t put off after the opening game defeat to Saudi Arabia. La Albiceleste drifted out to 9/1 but that would prove to be but a minor bump in the road.
Lionel Messi was well backed for the Golden Ball (12/1 into 8/1) as well as Golden Boot (16/1 into 10/1), so fortunately we managed to dodge one of those. However we weren’t so lucky with the Young Player of the Tournament market. A number of customers took up our 33/1 about Enzo Fernandez claiming the trophy, and his outstanding tournament saw him named the best young player, over the likes of Jude Bellingham, Jamal Musiala, Aurelien Tchouameni and team-mate Julian Alvarez.
France appeared to freeze under the bright lights at Lusail Iconic Stadium in the first half as Argentina rose to the occasion. It was a dominant display from the South American giants in the opening 45 minutes as they denied defending champions France a shot on or off target.
The mercurial Messi looked to have put Argentina well on their way to lifting the World Cup, and when Angel Di Maria made it two we paid out on Argentina to win in 90 minutes with our 2 Goals Ahead Early Payout offer. Argentina had cost us a few quid by losing a 2-0 lead against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals, and they cost us even more by surrendering another two goal lead, this time on the biggest stage of them all.
Kylian Mbappe’s quickfire double ensured that Argentina failed to win in 90 minutes and also completed the Mbappe & Messi Shot on Target Super Boost (4/6 – 6/4) taking our payouts into eight figures.
All level at the end of 90 minutes, the two heavyweights of international football battled it out for a further 30 in Qatar.
The bet365 Extra Time Extra Chance offer pays out bets in credits that would have been a losing one in 90 minutes but goes on to win in extra time. Step forward Lionel Messi at 15/2 to score 2 or more goals, and Kylian Mbappe to score a hat-trick at 66/1 in a concession that also included Bet Builders.
It certainly wasn’t a bore draw of a final, and bet365’s Bore Draw + promotion ensured it wasn’t for fans either. With eight 0-0 results in this World Cup, a record for the tournament, it meant we refunded more than £28 million in Bore Draw refunds.
The result also saw the £100,000 top prize for bet365’s pre-tournament free-to-play game, the Tournament Predictor, awarded to one lucky player. Argentina’s success meant a total of nearly £400,000 was shared out between more than 15,000 winners.
SF: Bet Builders weren’t enough for the bet365 Trading team! Before the tournament we launched Winnings Boosts, a 25% boost on Bet Builders on selected daily group games and then on every game from the knockout stages. A number of our offers like Bore Draw+, 2 Goals Ahead Early Payout & Extra Time Extra Chance also included Bet Builders.
SBC: Which markets did you see the most activity around, and did customer preferences change throughout the tournament?
SF: Player Markets. Shots on Targets, Shots, Player to be Booked, Player Assists, Anytime Goalscorer, the lot!
These markets were all included in our Extra Time Extra Chance offer. So if your bet lost in 90 minutes, you still had a chance to win in extra time. That meant punters benefitted from Neymar’s extra-time opener for Brazil vs Croatia, the card crazy extra period that was Netherlands vs Argentina and of course, the biggest of all, and most expensive of all, the World Cup Final when Messi and Mbappe went toe-to-toe.
SBC: Did the pre-tournament favourites remain the same as the competition progressed, or did up-and-coming outsiders like Morocco start to attract backing?
SF: We’d have taken Morocco! But they did us enough favours during this tournament.
We didn’t want Brazil or Argentina (8/1 into 11/2 in the final few months before the World Cup) in the outright before a ball was kicked, so we ended up doing our money when Messi lifted the trophy as well as him lifting the Golden Ball (backed from 12/1 into 8/1) one as well.
We were just grateful that he was pipped for the Golden Boot by Mbappe having been punted from 16/1 into 10/1 to finish as top scorer.
SBC: As some of the Premier League’s top-players have been away in Qatar, has this spurred any punters to back outsiders for the rest of the season?
SF: It’s back to the bread and butter, and customers have had a magnificent start to the Premier League with us losing on every game over the first set of 10 fixtures on the return. The fightback has begun in 2023 though with cracking results from both Nottingham Forest and Brentford.
SBC: Erling Haaland has had a long break from active play though, so are Manchester City backers more confident than ever in his and the team’s chances?
SF: Didn’t take him long to get back into the groove did it! He was 6/1 to score 30 or more back in August and some nice bets will be landed should he carry on this amazing run. I can’t believe I’m typing he’s 11/4 to score 50 or more PL goals, but that’s what he is. A machine.
His goals have fired Manchester City into 8/13 favourites for the Premier League title, even after the shock draw with Everton over the New Year.
Arsenal may have something to say about the title race though. The Gunners were top going into 2023 and are a short-priced 6/4 for the title, with many punters now seeing it as a two-horse race.
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