Public Bettors Loving Three World Cup Group Matches
Jollof Sports – Croatian National Team
With exactly a month to go until the World Cup kicks off, it’s time to start delving into the betting market for individual group games. Odds have been available for more than six months with lines on the move based on sharp wagers, public money, injuries and more.
Below I’ve highlighted the three most lopsided public wagers for the opening group matches and whether or not I agree.
(All lines as of Monday afternoon via Pinnacle sportsbook; All betting percentages are the offshore market average. Bettors can find all the latest odds and betting percentages with a Sports Insights membership).
Croatia (69%) vs. Nigeria
Moneyline Odds: Croatia -108, Nigeria +360, Draw +246, Total 2.5 (u-150)
Croatia (-108) are the third-most popular bet in the opening group matches, receiving nearly 70% of tickets to beat Nigeria.
I’m surprised to see such lopsided betting going against Nigeria considering they’ve been one of the best African nations over the last 25 years, and Croatia haven’t fared well in recent World Cups. Obviously past competitions don’t matter much, but public bettors tend to base their selections off previous games and tournaments. Many of Croatia’s key players do play on the top teams in Spain and Italy, so that could be a potential reason for the public love.
I’m on the other side of things as I really love this Nigeria squad and already bet them to advance from Group D at +240. They’ve got a number of up-and-coming playmakers like Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Ihenacho, as well as a slew of other Premier League players. They’re always a tricky team to play on the World Cup stage and I can see them springing an upset this summer.
Despite the heavy public action on Croatia, there’s been very little line movement around the betting market. This is a good indication that there hasn’t been any sharp or smart wagers on Croatia. The opening game will be critical for Nigeria’s chances of advancing, and they need to get a win/draw in order to have a real shot at the Round of 16.
There’s still plenty of time for odds and betting percentages to change but it’s looking like Nigeria will be a strong contrarian pick for the opener.
Fun fact about Nigeria: They’ve been in the same World Cup group as Argentina in the last three World Cups, and five of the last six. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for Nigeria-Argentina at Foxboro in the 1994 World Cup at a very young age of 8, and it was one of the coolest events I’ve ever been to. They were both in Group D that year as well.
Here are highlights from that 2-1 Argentina victory in case you’re interested:
Poland (77%) vs. Senegal
Moneyline Odds: Poland +132, Senegal +259, Draw +216, Total 2 (o-122)
Poland is another European country getting the bulk of early action against an African nation. The Poles have received nearly 80% of tickets since odds opened up, which is especially lopsided considering the +132 price tag.
If you don’t know much about Senegal, then you should. They have the potential to be a sleeper team with most of their players playing in Europe at the club level, including Sadio Mane (Liverpool) and Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli). A big bulk of their roster plays professionally in England and France, and they’ve got a nice mix of youth and veteran leadership.
The public has no doubts about Poland winning the opening match but much like the Croatia-Nigeria match, there’s been little line movement. The low total of 2 goals hasn’t scared bettors away either, but this match has all the early makings of a draw.
Sweden (81%) vs. South Korea
Moneyline Odds: Sweden +116, South Korea +280, Draw +235, Total 2 (o-135)
Sweden are the most popular bet of the opening group matches with 81% of moneyline tickets against South Korea. Some of that can be attributed to the fact that fans/bettors thought Zlatan Ibrahimovic would come out of international retirement and suit up for Sweden this summer, but that rumor has officially been squashed.
Unlike the other two lopsided matches, there’s actually been a little bit of line movement in this game with Sweden moving from +123 to +116 at Pinnacle. It’s not a huge move by any means, but the market did have to adjust slightly which has simply created more value on the other side.
Sweden are still a good team without Ibrahimovic, but they’re in a tough group and I’ve taken them to finish last (+250) in Group F. I really don’t think there’s much separating Sweden and South Korea, and I hope the public continues to hammer Sweden. I’ll surely be going contrarian and taking South Korea to win/draw.
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Cover photo features the Croatian National Team