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World Cup Group Stage Betting

In international tournaments like the FIFA World Cup or European Championship, the countries that are privileged to qualify for these prestigious competitions are separated into groups of four. Thirty-two nations make up the field for the FIFA World Cup with one country getting an automatic bid into the tourney as the host – Russia has that distinction in 2018.

The other 31 teams in this 32-team tournament are decided through qualifying competitions in their respective regions. Once the field of 32 teams is set, a draw is held to break the teams into eight groups of four. The groups are labeled Group A through Group H

How are the World Cup Groups Determined?

The drawing process to decide which country will be placed into which group is actually quite simple. The drawing committee places each of the 31 teams into pots, with the top seven qualifying teams going into Pot 1, the next eight going into Pot 2, and so on for Pot 3 and Pot 4. As the host team, Russia is automatically slotted into the top spot of Group A. The other top spots in each group will be drawn out of Pot 1, followed by the second spots coming out of Pot 2, the third spots out of Pot 3 and the remaining spots out of Pot 4.

Why are the World Cup Groups Decided that Way?

This system assures that the groups are relatively evenly balanced with one team coming from each of the four tiers in every group. Of course, not all teams in every pot are created equal, so some groups inevitably contain a tougher path into the knockout round than others. The toughest group in every World Cup is nicknamed the “Group of Death.”  Experts feel there isn’t a defined “Group of Death” in 2018 but some have labeled Group F as the strongest four with Germany, Mexico, Sweden and South Korea. 

How does a Country Win its Group in the World Cup?

Every group plays out games in a round-robin style, with all four nations in the group playing each of the others once. In this stage, wins count for three points, draws count for one, and losses count for zero. At the end of these games, the top two countries out of every group with the most points advance to the knockout round, while the two countries with the fewest points in the group are eliminated.

If two or more teams are tied in points, the following would be used as a tiebreaker, in this order: goal differential, the number of goals scored by each country, and if a team has scored in each of its group matches. If a winner isn’t determined by those methods, a coin flip would decide the winner.

Betting Strategy for Group Stages

When considering long shots to win their respective groups or in futures odds, be sure to analyze the strength of the group as a whole. Weak groups that are ripe for upsets are those with a top-seeded country that is vulnerable, perhaps due to playing a style that struggles with squads in the group they landed in.

The world’s most elite teams tend to win their groups, but the group stage has also been known to produce surprises. Look for value among teams coming out of Pot 2 or, in weaker groups, even Pot 3.