Betting on Underdogs a Profitable Strategy in World Cup Group Play

Betting on Underdogs a Profitable Strategy in World Cup Group Play article feature image

Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Mexico defender Edson Alvarez

The Highlights

  • Mexico pulled the biggest upset of the World Cup over Germany.
  • Betting underdogs has been profitable during group play in past tournaments.
  • The optimal strategy for betting dogs includes a consensus projection.

Mexico defeated Germany 1-0 on Sunday. It was a surprising result for the reigning world champions who were among the favorites to win the World Cup, but it’s indicative of a broader trend in the tournament’s group stage.


Germany opened as -185 favorites against Mexico. Behind 76% of moneyline tickets, the defending champs closed as -215 chalk. The implied probability of a German win was 68.3%. The betting market suggested Germany should come out on top, but the prediction models weren’t as confident.

Not to toot my own horn, but I was on Mexico. According to the consensus projection from and, El Tri had value as a sizeable underdog.

Through Sunday’s action, underdogs are 3-5-3 straight-up in the World Cup. A $100 bettor would have returned a profit of $238 wagering on these squads. Betting underdogs is a profitable trend in this tournament.

In the 2014 World Cup, underdogs compiled a 22-33-9 record. Despite being 11 games under .500, these teams returned a profit of $1,193 for a $100 bettor, according to The best time to bet the dogs was in the group stage. In the opening rounds, underdogs were 16-23-9. A $100 bettor won $1,426 for a 29.7% return on investment.

Unfortunately, we do not have records for World Cup matches before 2014. This limits our sample size, but the results are promising. Plus, we’ve seen in other sports that underdogs are typically undervalued by the betting market.

I’m not suggesting you should take every dog in the World Cup, but history shows it’s been a profitable strategy. The optimal approach is to create a consensus projection using World Cup models as shown in the tweet above. If the prediction shows value on the underdog, don’t be afraid to place a bet on a longshot.

Here is each match for Tuesday evaluated using a consensus World Cup projection:

Columbia -135 vs. Japan +490 (8 a.m. ET): Japan is a big underdog with a 16.9% implied probability of winning. The models give Japan a better chance of pulling the upset at 22.5%. Columbia is a traditional soccer power, but this is an opportunity to bet against them with upside of a big payday.

Poland +135 vs. Senegal +262 (11 a.m. ET): Poland is a plus-money favorite. At +135 odds, the implied probability of a win is 42.6%. The consensus projection gives Poland a 47.7% chance of a victory, so it offers value.

Russia +114 vs. Egypt +315 (2 p.m. ET): Following an impressive opening win, Russia is a +114 favorite. The consensus projections see the host nation winning its second match 54.9% of the time, giving them value.