World Cup Free Bets & Betting Offers
Every four years, the World Cup captures and hearts and minds of billions of people around the globe. According to a FIFA commissioned review, over 3.5 billion football fans tuned in to watch some part of the 2018 edition of the tournament, with over a billion seeing France beat Croatia in the final.
Seeing your own country compete in the World Cup adds an extra level of excitement but it is a joy to watch for many neutrals too irrespective of who is playing. A jam-packed footballing calendar combined with some electric atmospheres and featuring some of the very best players in the world makes for a wonderful footballing spectacle.
Speaking of players, for many, winning the World Cup marks the pinnacle moment of their playing careers. With the entire hopes of a nation weighing on their shoulders, the pressure can be immense but for the champion, the reward is pure euphoria and a place in the history books. Ask most footballers and there is no piece of silverware they would rather have over the World Cup trophy.
World Cup Stats, Trends & Facts
Betting on the World Cup
During some summers, football fans can spend several months with very little in the way of familiar live footballing action to bet on. Sure, the Icelandic Urvalsdeild might be in full swing but many punters do not like betting on teams about whom they have next to no knowledge. Most of the big European leagues finish in May and do not return until August, leaving a three-month break that regularly feels like much longer.
Normally, every four years, the World Cup fills a sizeable chunk of this gap with some high-quality football featuring so many well-known stars. The exception being the winter-held 2022 World Cup, the first of its kind. No matter when the tournament is though, many people love to bet on the action as it helps increase the levels of excitement that little bit more. Betting on individual games, especially those you are planning on watching, is extremely common but so is placing outright bets. Many of these can be placed throughout the tournament but you will often get the best price by confirming your wager before the first ball is kicked.
This is an extremely popular market and one that you can have a flutter on months or even years in advance if you are confident of a team’s potential. Betting early can sometimes be of benefit because it avoids any potential shortening of odds. This might happen, for instance, if a team enjoys an impressive run of form leading up to the tournament and/or during qualification. For most people though, making a choice just before the tournament start is preferred as you have more information on which to make an informed choice.
No matter which World Cup it is, often the same usual suspects will find themselves high up the betting to go all the way. The likes of Brazil, Spain and France tend to be firmly in the mix while other nations such as Germany, England and Argentina are rarely a long way away. One thing you can always guarantee is that there will be a large number of huge-odds outsiders. In the 2018 World Cup, 19 of the 32 teams present began the tournament at odds of 60/1 or greater. You can virtually write these teams off because the World Cup is not a place for upsets. In the last few decades, the biggest ‘surprise’ seen was Italy’s 10/1 triumph in 2006.
If you want an outright bet that is more likely to pay out at bigger odds, dipping into the top goalscorer may well offer appeal. Also known as Golden Boot betting, you simply need to select the player who finishes the tournament with the most number of goals. There can only be one recipient of the Golden Boot so, in the event of a shared goals haul, several tiebreakers are used including the number of non-penalty goals and the number of assists.
In more modern iterations of the World Cup, the top goalscorer has bagged themselves a minimum of five goals, but more often six. It would be a huge ask to acquire this in the group stages alone so you really need to pick a player from a nation likely to survive a couple of knockout rounds. While picking ‘safer’ options certainly is not a bad idea, neither is an each way flutter on a dark horse. Thomas Mueller and James Rodrigues, who won the Golden Boot in 2010 and 2014 respectively, were a very long way down the betting ahead of each tournament.
To Qualify/Win Group
Although we are yet to have some 100/1 outsider shocking fans across the globe by lifting the World Cup, this does not mean the tournament goes exactly as planned. It is not uncommon to see smaller nations performing above expectations by getting out of the group stages unscathed. One great example is Costa Rica in 2014 as they not only managed to advance from the group stages but they finished top with an unbeaten record. Given that Italy, England and Uruguay joined them in Group D, anyone who predicted Costa Rica to avoid an early goodbye received a decent payout.
To Reach Quarters/Semis/Final
If you have faith in a certain team to go a little further than just the group stages then you can easily put your money where your mouth is. For the strong tournament favourites, these markets will not return a great deal but for any outsider you can pocket yourself a tidy profit, providing you call it right. In 2018, the dark horse of Croatia went much further than expected, going as far as the final showdown. A bet on them to win would have returned nothing but a flutter on a semi-final or final appearance would have paid out quite handsomely.
To Make the Squad
A little different from the rest, betting on ‘to make the squad’ requires you to put yourself in the shoes of the national team manager. You will not have this option for all teams in the tournament but odds on who will make England’s final squad are not hard to find. Note that featuring in the initial (up to) 35-man squad is not enough as players need to be part of the final 23 for the bet to be a winner. Odds within this market do not tend to be generous but if you are convinced that some under-the-radar talent will earn themselves a call-up, it can be worth looking into.
World Cup Key Facts
Almost everyone is aware of the World Cup but plenty of people know little more about it other than it is an international tournament that features every few years. If this describes you, keep reading to find out all the most important facts and records relating to the World Cup. Although it is not a tournament that features very regularly, there have already been plenty of records set that will take quite some beating.
- First Tournament – 1930 in Uruguay
- How Often – Every four years so 2022, 2026, 2030 and so on
- When – Usually runs mid-June to mid-July but the 2022 World Cup is an exception (November to December)
- Where – Changes location each tournament; single tournaments can be held across 2+ countries or solely within one country
- How Many Teams – Upped to 32 in 1998 but increasing to 48 in 2026
- How Many Games – Increased to 64 matches in 1998 but will grow again to 80 games in 2026
- Most Successful Team – Brazil (five World Cups)
- First Ever World Champion – Uruguay
- Player with the Most World Cup Goals – Miroslav Klose who scored 16 goals in 24 World Cup matches
- Player with the Most Goals In One Tournament – Just Fontaine who racked up an incredible 13 goals in just six games at the 1958 World Cup
- Team with the Most Tournament Appearances – Brazil are the only team to have appeared in every World Cup
- Player with the Most Tournament Appearances – Antonio Carbajal, Lothar Matthäus and Rafael Márquez all featured in five World Cups. From these, Matthäus played the most matches (25)
- Youngest Player to Play – Northern Ireland’s Norman Whiteside who was just 17 years and 41 days old when facing Yugoslavia in the 1982 World Cup
- Oldest Player to Play – At 45 years and 161 days, this record goes to Egyptian goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary when he played against Saudi Arabia at the 2018 World Cup
- Fastest Goal – Hakan Şükür needed just 11 seconds to score for Turkey against South Korea at the 2002 tournament
- Fastest Red Card – José Batista of Uruguay lasted a mere 56 seconds before being sent off against Scotland in 1986
How to Qualify for the World Cup
Every nation wants to be at the World Cup but getting there can often be a long and arduous road. With the exception of the host nation, who are given a free pass (where there is more than one host nation, it is up to FIFA’s discretion) every other country must safely navigate their way through qualification. This is a process that takes place within each continent so UEFA nations will compete for the UEFA allocated spaces, and CONMEBOL (South America) teams will battle it out for their slots etc.
Allocations have varied a little over the years but more recently a standard 32 team tournament would see 13 teams from Europe, 5 from Africa, 4.5 from Asia, 0.5 from Oceania, 3.5 from North and Central America and 4.5 from South America. If you have noticed this only adds up to 31, remember there is a spot reserved for the host country. The reason some countries have a 0.5 is because there are playoff games involving CONCACAF (Central/North America) v AFC (Asia) and OFC (Oceania) v CONMEBOL (South America). In other words, there will be four countries going for two available spaces.
Who Decides Where the World Cup Takes Place?
This covers the very basics of how teams make it to the finals of the World Cup, but who decides where the World Cup takes place? Unlike qualifiers, this is settled years and years in advance. Voting for the 2026 World Cup, for instance, took place in 2018 during FIFA’s annual congress. Under the present system, all FIFA members are eligible to vote, providing they have not been sanctioned, with each country getting one vote of equal weight each.
This new system, used for the first time to determine the host of the 2026 World Cup sees around 200 votes cast, making bribery a lot tougher than it used to be. Prior to this, only FIFA Executive Committee voted on where future World Cups could be held. As there are far fewer committee members than FIFA members, previous bids have been ripe with corruption. Germany’s successful bid to host the 2006 World Cup for instance, allegedly involved a €6.7m slush fund used to bribe four Asian members of the committee, according to Der Spiegel.
More recently, you have the successful Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022) bids which both appear to have involved corrupted officials offering their vote in exchange for cash. Jack Warner, former head of CONCACAF reportedly received $5m in bribes to vote for Russia, while Guatemala federation president, Rafael Salguero took $1m. Testimony in 2017 also accused all three South American members of taking multi-million dollar bribes to vote for Qatar. Given that Qatar beat the US bid by 14 votes to eight, persuading just three was enough to get an outright win.
These many corruption allegations and related arrests have tarnished FIFA’s reputation, and deservedly so, but it has done little to hurt the prestige of the World Cup. For the nations that make their way through qualifying, they are desperate to give their fans back home something to be proud of. What qualifies as a successful tournament will depend considerably on the nation but each country faces exactly the same challenges.
Advancing from Group Stages
First, teams attempt to get out of the group stages. To determine what country is in which group, nations are first seeded. How teams are seeded changed in 2018 as FIFA World Rankings from a couple months prior were used for the first time. This was made possible now that the world ranking system is much less derided than it used to be. The eight best teams featured in Pot 1 while then the next best teams in Pot 2, and so on. One team from each pot was then drawn to create a group of four. For the 2026 World Cup, there will only be groups of three, but an increase in the number of groups.
To advance from the group stages, a team must finish in the top two places. Should there be two (or three/four) teams tied with the same number of points, various tiebreakers will be enforced to separate them, this traditionally being goal difference followed by goals scored. For the top two teams, their reward is passage into the knockout stages. At this point, every tie is settled with a one-legged game in which the winner takes all. If there is nothing to separate two nations after 90 minutes, the game will enter 30 minute period of extra time and then penalties if needed.
In the 2018 World Cup, four knockouts of the 15 were settled by a penalty shootout and one saw a winner during extra time. High-pressure shootouts are a regular feature of World Cups and this only adds to the overall drama. Several rounds of knockout fixtures eventually culminate with just two teams left standing, these being our two finalists.
For the two teams eliminated in the previous round, the semi-finals, they will take place in a rather low-prestige third-place play-off. Many consider this to be a rather needless affair but it does give managers the chance to get unused or barely used players a full World Cup appearance.
World Cup Trophy
For the eventual victor, although they will initially celebrate with the solid gold World Cup trophy, this is not what they will take home. Instead, they will only return with a gold-plated replica. In addition to this though, they will also pocket themselves the largest share of the large prize money. In the 2018 World Cup, champions France earn themselves $38m, a fair chunk more than the runners-up, Croatia, who pocketed $28m. Even progressing past the group stages was worth $8m and this is a huge sum for some of the smaller nations competing.