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Top-10 World Cup betting tips

7 June 2010

Some analysts are estimating that more than $3 billion around the world will be bet on the World Cup. Will that much actually be bet? I don't know. But the World Cup will be this year's largest betting event, with sports bettors being able to bet on everything from how many yellow cards will be awarded to which team will win the World Cup.

Here are our top-10 betting tips to consider before you place your punts on this year's World Cup.

10. Host team always advances
The host nation (or nations) has never failed to advance past the first round in World Cup play. Part of this has to do with the fact that most of the countries that have hosted the World Cup are soccer powers. But in the two instances where the World Cup traveled to nations considered soccer lightweights, the hosts advanced. In 1994, USA took advantage of an own goal by Colombia to escape group play. And in 2002, co-hosts South Korea and Japan both unexpectedly advanced beyond group play, with the Koreans finishing fourth in the tournament.

The Bafana Bafana won't finish fourth this year. But that World Cup host magic can get South Africa through a Group A that features an underwhelming French team, an unknown Uruguay team and a Mexico team that finished behind the United States in qualifying. The odds on South Africa being eliminated in the second round (the first round being group play) is one of the best value propositions in the tournament, with a 10/3 payout.

9. Defending champs rarely repeat
The last time a World Cup champion successfully defended its title was in 1962 when Brazil beat Czechoslovakia to win its second straight Cup. The only other nation to win consecutive World Cups is Italy, which pulled off the feat by winning the tournament in 1934 and 1938. The difficulty in defending the Cup is bad news for the 2006 champs Italy. Look for a different winner this year.

8. The math favors Brazil
Starting in 1998, the U.K.-based Goldman Sachs Global Economics, Commodities and Strategy Research group has a published a paper on the World Cup and Economics for its clients. In 1998 and 2006, the paper correctly predicted three out the four semifinalists. And in 2006, the group came up with the Goldman Sachs World Cup Probability model, which combines official FIFA rankings, odds from different sportsbooks and a strength-of-schedule component to determine the likelihood of a team winning the World Cup.

According to this year's study, Brazil is a 13.76 percent favorite to win. Spain is the second choice at 10.46 percent, while North Korea is the longest shot, with a .05 percent chance of winning.

7. The Africa factor
While the host country generally gets a solid home-soil boost, this World Cup might extend that good fortune to all of the African teams in the tournament. While South Africa is hosting the tournament, the other African nations feel a sense of pride and ownership over this summer's World Cup, and they will be looking to ride that wave of enthusiasm deep into the tournament. Teams like Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Cameroon are likely to outperform expectations and previous results, and you need to take that into account when placing your bets.

6. Lionel Messi is really good
Lionel Messi was 18 years old during the 2006 World Cup, where he played in just three games and tallied one goal and one assist. Four years later, Messi is the best player and the world and is expected to dominate the tournament the way his coach Diego Maradona did in 1986. And there's no reason why the supremely talented Messi can't deliver. He will be the most talented player on the pitch in every game, and he can turn ordinary scoring opportunities into great ones in milliseconds. He's 9/1 to be the top goal scorer and the over/under for total Messi goals is 3.5 with the over paying 10/11 and the under 4/5. Skip the over/under bet. There's no value there. But grab Messi at 9/1 to be the top goal scorer. With Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba injured and a plethora of goal scorers on Spain counterfeiting David Villa's chances, Messi is the man to beat in the goals department.

5. Account for altitude
Five of the venues sit in locations that are more than 4,000 feet above sea level. A sixth venue is just 20 feet short of the 4,000 foot mark. And the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg that hosts the finale is a whopping 5,750 feet above sea level. By comparison, Denver is 5,280 feet above sea level, Mexico City is 7,349. Berlin, on the other hand, is 114 feet above sea level and London is 30 feet above sea level. What does all of this mean? It is much more difficult to train and play at altitude because there is less oxygen in the air. It's one of the reasons why it is almost impossible to beat Mexico at Azteca Stadium. And the teams that are used to it, like Chile, Uruguay, Mexico and South Africa, will have a significant advantage over the rest of the field.

4. No European team has won outside of Europe
The fastest way to get into a bar fight in Europe is to remind Europeans that no European team has ever won a World Cup outside of European soil. The drought vexes them and makes their blood boil. But it's an undeniable fact. The European contingent hasn't been able to win the big one on the road -- a fact that bodes well for Brazil and Argentina.

3. The choke factor
Brazil has the won the World Cup five times. Italy has the won it four times. Germany has won it three times while Argentina and Uruguay have won it twice apiece. France and England have both won it once. That's it. That's the list of World Cup winners. Seven nations have won the World Cup. So either those seven nations are really dominant, or there's a whole lot of choking going on.

I tend to fall on the choking side of things. Spain has never finished better than fourth at the World Cup. And that was in 1950. Portugal and the Netherlands have had outstanding teams in the recent past, but have never brought home the Cup. In fact, over the past 20 years, an argument could be made that Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands have had the most talented teams in the World Cup. And all three have choked away opportunities to win. Spain hopes their choking dog days are done after winning the Euro 2008 championship. But until they actually break through, La Furia Roja are a risky pick to win it all.

2. Injuries matter
Pay attention to injury situations. They can dramatically alter your decision making process. With a healthy Drogba, Ivory Coast had a reasonable chance at surviving the Group of Death. If Drogba fails to play because of his arm injury, or is at less than a 100 percent, Ivory Coast's chances are diminished and Portugal joins Brazil as the most likely to advance from Group F. England was a chic pick to win the World Cup. But with defender Rio Ferdinand injured and out of the tournament, it's tough to envision them winning it all. So pay attention to injuries. The passion a country has for soccer doesn't win games. Players do.

1. Value bet
With so many different bets available to make, the key to success is finding value. Don't bet on Messi at 10/11 to score more than 3.5 goals because there is no value in it. Don't bet on Cameroon at 8/11 to be eliminated during the group stage. Instead take them at 9/4 to reach the knockout stage because they're an African country with a reasonable shot at slipping past Denmark into second place in Group E behind the Netherlands. Value betting is the key to success in World Cup betting. It keeps you from risking a lot of money to make very little, and it gives the opportunity to receive some decent payouts.
Top-10 World Cup betting tips is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan

Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.

Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.