Don’t bet Brazil
At every sportsbook in the world, Brazil is a heavy favorite to win the World Cup. Here on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe, the five-time champion is listed as a 2-1 favorite at Lakeside and a 7-5 favorite at Harveys.
History, though, suggests Brazil won’t be victorious on July 9 in Berlin, the site of the 2006 World Cup final. Probably a wiser bet would be host Germany, listed at 7-2 at both casinos, or any other top European team.
Of the 10 World Cups held on European soil, only once has a non-European nation won. In fact, 15 of the 17 countries that have won the tournament did so playing in its own hemisphere.
All six World Cups hosted by Western Hemisphere countries were won by either Uruguay, Brazil or Argentina. So while Brazil is undeniably talented, bettors shouldn’t invest all their money on them.
Like in betting golf, spread your money around, place small bets on longshots and compare odds at different casinos. Even without its best player, England is a great bet at 7-1 (Harveys). France has arguably the best striker in the world in Thierry Henry and is a decent bet at 12-1 (Harveys).
Unlike golf, though, the World Cup provides outstanding hedging opportunities. And there is a good chance it will again this year.
In the last three World Cups, four longshots have advanced to the semifinals. Bulgaria and Sweden made the semifinals in 1994; Croatia in 1998; and South Korea and Turkey in 2002. All of these teams were no better than 25-1 going into the tournament.
Bettors who took these teams had the ability to hedge (bet the other team) in the tournament’s late stages to ensure a profit. Ukraine at 35-1 (Harveys), Paraguay at 85-1 (Harveys) and South Korea at 100-1 (Harveys) could be this year’s darkhorses.
Ukraine has a lethal striker in Andriy Shevchenko, Paraguay has made the second round the past two World Cups and South Korea advanced to the semifinals in 2002. If any of those teams make the semifinals again, bettors could start hedging.
But if you’re looking for a winner, stick to the favorites. Argentina at 7-1 (Lakeside) is a better value bet than Brazil at 2-1, while Italy and Holland are both 10-1 (Lakeside) and have about the same chance as Brazil to advance, simply because they are European teams.
Then again, the only team to win a World Cup outside its own hemisphere was Brazil, which won in Sweden in 1958 and in South Korea/Japan in 2002.
– Jeremy Evans