Ewing: You Don’t Need to Know Soccer to Bet Saturday’s World Cup Matches

Ewing: You Don’t Need to Know Soccer to Bet Saturday’s World Cup Matches article feature image

Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Sweden defender Pontus Jansson

The Highlights

  • It’s OK if you have little to no soccer knowledge. You can still have success when betting the World Cup.
  • Math is your friend. Use consensus projections to make value bets.
  • Tunisia (+931), Korea (+528), and Sweden (+630) are the best Saturday plays using my method.

I know nothing about soccer.

That hasn’t stopped me from betting on every World Cup match. It has gone about as well you might expect. Through Friday, June 22, I have compiled a 8-18 record.


But wait, there’s a twist. I’m +8.57 units despite being ten games under .500. What kind of sorcery is this?

If you haven’t noticed, the dogs have been barking in Russia.

Mexico (+675) over Germany, I had it.

Japan (+470) to win vs. Colombia, you bet.

I was also among the 20% of bettors who thought Croatia (+320) could topple Messi and Argentina. A $100 bettor tailing my picks would be up $857 for a 33.0% return on investment.

Here is each bet I placed:

So, what’s my secret? Math. To make my selections I’ve created a consensus World Cup projection based on predictions from ThePowerRank and FiveThirtyEight. If one model is good, two is better.

After determining each team’s chance to win, and the likelihood of a draw, I calculate the implied probability for each event based on the betting odds. If the consensus projection is greater than the implied probability, I place a bet.

See, math and betting can be fun! Now the part you’ve been waiting for … here are the plays I’ve made for Saturday using the above method.

Saturday Selections

Belgium vs. Tunisia

8 a.m. ET

Nearly 80% of moneyline tickets are on Belgium, but Tunisia has moved from +1327 to +931. The implied probability of a Tunisia win is 9.7%. The models give the underdog a 12.1% chance of pulling the upset.

Play: Tunisia +931


Mexico vs. Korea

11 a.m. ET

Mexico shocked Germany in the opener. Is this a letdown spot for El Tri? Korea (+528) has a 19.6% chance of knocking off Mexico according to the consensus projections.

Play: Korea +528

Germany vs. Sweden

2 p.m. ET

Germany (-200) is the biggest favorite on Saturday. Despite a disappointing result in the team’s first game, almost 70% of bettors are backing Die Mannschaft. There is only a 19.1% chance that Sweden drops Germany, but at +630 (13.7% implied probability) there is value betting the underdog.

Play: Sweden +630