Betting on Underdogs at the World Cup

There are plenty of reasons to bet on the underdogs

World Cups capture the imagination of the public like few other events. Even the most casual football observer can be swept up in the excitement of a national team when the tournament only comes around once every four years.

The games come thick and fast, especially during the group stage, and the chance to see some of the planet’s biggest superstars in action is always a highlight of the sporting calendar.

As with other high-profile sporting events, the increased amount of attention can be a help to bettors. Bookmakers can be more generous in their promotions with a fierce fight for business, meaning that the customer can often pick and choose the offers and terms that suit them best.

There are plenty of bookmakers to choose from, so be sure to find the best football bookie for you.

Underdogs on the International Stage

Looking ahead to this summer, Brazil, France and Germany are likely to remain at the front of the 2018 World Cup winner odds given their wealth of world-class talent. However, plenty of bettors will be looking at much bigger odds over the course of the tournament, either outright or in a single match.

The English dictionary defines an underdog as “in a competition, the person or team considered to be the weakest and the least likely to win”.

As with any contest, this doesn’t mean the underdog in question can’t win, but their perceived weakness – according to the bookmakers at least – means these teams are offered at bigger odds than those at the front of the market.

Greece was the underdog winner at Euro 2004

Sometimes it can pay handsomely to participate in underdog betting and take a chance on one of the less fancied runners too. Just ask anyone who backed Greece to win Euro 2004 at prices around 50/1 before the tournament got underway.

Unlike a league campaign where the better team is crowned over the course of up to 38 games, international competitions like the World Cup and European Championships are much more volatile in nature.

The standard four-team group followed by a small number of knockout matches – all of which could be won via extra time or a penalty shootout – mean it’s perfectly feasible for someone outside the front few teams to advance to the latter stages or even win.

Portugal were 20/1 to win Euro 2016 – by no means a favourite - and did so despite only coming out on top in one of their seven matches in normal time. You are certainly unlikely to finish top of any league with a win percentage of just 14.3%.

Tips for Underdog Betting

There are a few key components to betting on underdogs.

Stay Disciplined

It’s important to stay disciplined; if you believe you’re getting “value” on your big-priced selections then having the patience to deal with losing runs and the variance involved in such instances is essential.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Going against the majority of the betting public can sometimes be an uncomfortable experience, but it can be satisfying, too - not least when you know that your underdog selection might pay several times the price of the favourite who most of the bets are riding on. You might only need to win a few percent of your bets if the odds are such that those winners will more than make up for the losing selections that have gone before or come afterwards.

Be Patient

If you can identify underdogs who are underestimated by the market and stay patient enough to stick to your approach, then opposing favourites can certainly be a hugely rewarding experience.

Why Bet on Underdogs?

Betting is often about discipline and psychology as much as being able to judge the event itself and understanding football betting. Never is that more of an issue than siding with an underdog, especially if you’re taking a chance on a particularly big price selection either in the outright markets or on a match-by-match basis.

Dealing with Variance

The word “variance” is one that you’re likely to hear a lot when it comes to betting on bigger prices and it’s important to be able to deal with the inevitable ups and downs of such an approach.

There are no two ways about it: bettors will have both lucky and unlucky runs of form – that’s a given no matter how good you are at finding winners.

The marginal decision that goes your way one week could easily go against you the next time and sometimes it can feel like a lifetime since such an event went the way you’d wanted it to. Betting on underdogs can feel like it magnifies these feelings of the need to stay disciplined and not lose your composure, especially in the middle of a run of poor results.

Bigger returns when your bet winsMore patience required
Able to turn a profit with a lower strike rateTough test of discipline
Regularly fading the public moneyLikely to back much fewer winners

Think about it like this in terms of a football betting system: suppose you’re offered a 50-50 bet such as heads or tails when flipping a coin with a price of Even money being paid if you’re correct. Alternatively, you can bet on the number rolled on a standard six-sided die, but you are going to be paid at 6-1 (instead of the true odds of 5-1) if you call it correctly. Which one do you go for?

Logic dictates that you’ll back fewer winners betting on the dice as opposed to the coin, but the odds in this example mean it’s a better long-term play from a profitability standpoint.

This is a simplified example of course, and betting on football doesn’t have such set probabilities as those above, but the premise is the same for betting on underdogs in terms of being able to withstand regular losing spells in search of bigger-priced winners.

The question is, if you believe the odds are in your favour to enough of a degree, could you deal with a run of losing bets without losing your patience or discipline?

This can be a big issue for bettors. If you haven’t had that “winning feeling” for a little while, are you likely to opt for a shorter-priced pick purely to back winner rather than because you believed it was a good bet, and potentially undoing the hard work that has gone before?

If you believe the team in question should be a shorter price (i.e. has a better chance of winning) than the price you’re getting suggests, then backing it looks like a good bet, but by taking on bigger prices you’re probably going to back plenty more losers than winners in the long run.

The upside, though, is that when you find a winner the payout is much bigger than backing the favourite. If you’re only betting on teams at 10/1 or bigger that you believe should be shorter in the market then it could be a little while before one of them wins, but you’ll be handsomely rewarded when they do.

Regular vs Live Betting on Underdogs

There are different ways to bet on underdogs

In the world of online betting where in-play wagering is commonplace, there is the opportunity to see how the underdogs are playing before getting involved should bettors wish to do so.

This means that bettors can sometimes see how the early stages develop before choosing to get involved, something that could be attractive when it comes to taking bigger prices on underdogs.

In football, it’s unlikely that the bookmaker odds will change drastically in the early stages of a match unless there is a big event such as a goal scored or a sending off, albeit these can work both for and against you so there’s a risk to take into account.

The risk here is that one of the aforementioned events does happen and then the landscape of the game completely changes compared to before a ball was kicked, affecting the pre-planned selection.

Again, this is a matter of personal choice and some bettors might feel more comfortable seeing how both teams line up and approach the game before getting involved in underdog betting, while others will be happy enough to back their judgement and commit their money beforehand.

Fading the Public

Favourites winning is usually a bad result for bookmakers, and you’ll regularly see plenty of press coverage when several short prices all win in a day or a weekend. If you’re regularly betting on underdogs then it’s likely that you’ll find yourself on the opposite side of this equation, and that can be an attractive option for some bettors.

If public money is often coming in on the favourites because they’re the most likely team to win – regardless of whether they’re too short of a price to do so – then taking the other side of that equation and opposing those odds makes sense because of the number of bets (if not the total amount of money) skewing things on the other side.

There is no need to exclusively opt for either favourites or underdogs of course; everybody has a different tolerance and approach, but the latter definitely requires plenty of tolerance and discipline.

While the number of winners might be much lower than taking shorter prices, if you can identify enough opportunities where teams are being offered at bigger prices than their actual chance of winning the game, then underdog betting can be a profitable long-term strategy for the patient punter.

Start Betting Today

No doubt, betting on the underdog can be a risky proposition. There’s a reason, after all, that the term exists. Nonetheless, as you’ve read above, underdog betting can be quite profitable if done correctly. Check out top bookmakers in the UK and place your bets!


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