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COLUMN: World Cup's 'best' bets
by Mike Woitalla, June 9th, 2010 11:01PM

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TAGS:  world cup


[MY VIEW] Online bookmakers, led by British firms such as William Hill, expect billions of dollars of World Cup wagers from around the globe. I put much thought and time into the making my tournament predictions for Soccer America, but would I bet on them?

I may have correctly predicted all eight quarterfinalists of the 2006 World Cup, but I haven’t picked the World Cup winner since 1990. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.

A few years ago, a Los Alamos National Laboratory study declared soccer the most unpredictable sport after studying 300,000 soccer, baseball, basketball, hockey and football games.

That study comes as no surprise, considering soccer’s low-scoring nature. The last World Cup averaged 2.30 goals per game. An underdog scores a goal, bunkers down, and there's your upset.

Plus, when most games are decided by one goal, a referee's decision has all the more chance of swaying the result one way or the other, regardless of who's the deserving victor.

Then you've got the penalty-kick tiebreakers, which in the last five World Cups have decided 14 knockout-stage games, including two finals (1994 and 2006).

Of the last five champions, only Brazil in 2002 lifted the title without winning a game on penalty kicks!

Betting on a sport in which great teams are frequently stifled by inferior foes’ defensive tactics and the most important games are decided by an artificial tiebreaker -- that just doesn't make good gambling sense to me.

So while others are enticed by quadrupling their dollars with a wager on Brazil to lift the trophy, my money stays home.

But millions of people will bet, and it won’t just be on game results or the overall winner. The British bookmakers offer so much more.

There’s 5/1 odds that Michael Bradley will be the first player to foul Wayne Rooney. It’s 8/1 that Landon Donovan will score against England. It’s 10/3 and 5/1, respectively, that Rooney or Peter Crouch strike for England.

One dollar will get you seven if a Brazilian is the first player to reveal a Jesus Christ T-shirt during a goal celebration.

At Paddy Power, Ireland’s biggest bookmaker, you can bet on how many England players will sing the national anthem before U.S. game, how many matches Nelson Mandela will attend, and who Diego Maradona will verbally insult before the first game of the tournament.

British gamblers can even bet on whether an ITV commentator will utter the phrase, "They’re confiscating all the Vuvuzelas!" The smart money won't wager that, but I'll be happy if there's a winner.



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