Soccer – football, for the purists – boasts one of the richest and most diverse gambling scenes on the planet, with hundreds of football leagues and knockout tournaments spanning Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and Oceania.
Here’s our guide to betting on O Joga Bonito – the beautiful game.
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Soccer betting markets
There are myriad different ways to bet on the football – so many, in fact, that it would be foolish to try and cover every single type of soccer bet in this article.
Even middle-rung domestic fixtures can sport hundreds of online betting markets, from straightforward outrights to the most obscure exotics. Let’s take a look at the more common football bets found at leading Internet bookmakers.
Futures/outrights football bets
An outright bet applies to an outcome which will not be known until the end of a season or tournament, and can often be placed months before a competition kicks off. This gives punters a great opportunity to take advantage of broad early odds before the favourites become clearer and the prices shorten. Popular futures markets include:
- To Win the Tournament/League
- Top Goalscorer
- Most Clean Sheets
- First Time Winner
- Top Four Finish
These are easiest soccer wagers you can make. The aim of the game is simple: to pick which team will win any given match. You can also opt for the draw, which occurs much more regularly in association football than in other sports. There are, however, a few different kinds of win markets for soccer:
Your stock-standard, plain vanilla football bet. Choose either Team A to win, Team B to win, or bet on the draw. A typical soccer Win-Draw-Win market might look like this:
Everton 1.83 – Draw 3.40 – Tottenham Hotspur 4.50
In this case, Everton is the home side and the clear favourite to take the three points. Thus, the Toffees are paying much shorter odds than Spurs, who are deemed far less likely to win.
- Draw No Bet
Rather than risking a loss should the match end all square, the Draw No Bet option refunds your stake should neither Team A or Team B win. So, for example, if we put $20 on Stuttgart to beat Borussia Monchengladbach but the match ends level, we get our $20 back. Naturally, the odds here are shorter than in standard Win-Draw-Win markets.
- Double Chance
With this option, you can bet on two possible outcomes simultaneously at reduced odds. For example: in a match between Sevilla and Valencia in La Liga, we could take either Sevilla and the draw, Valencia and the draw, or both Sevilla and Valencia to win.
- To Win Either/Both Halves
You can also wager on a side to score more goals in one of the two halves, or that Team A or Team B will win both halves outright. The latter option can provide some pretty juicy prices.
- To Win to Nil
This market asks you whether you think Team A will win the game while keeping Team B goalless, or vice versa. For instance: if we bet on Genoa at $3.10 to Win to Nil against Sampdoria, we salute if Genoa wins the game and doesn’t concede any goals.
Correct score markets
Correct score bets don’t need a hell of a lot of explanation. Pick from dozens of possible scorelines at various stages of the game:
- Half Time Correct Score
- Second Half Correct Score
- Full Time Correct Score
- Half Time & Full Time Correct Score
These markets can dish out some of the biggest dividends in soccer match betting. For example: the odds on underdogs Blackpool leading a high-flying Derby County side 3-0 at half time might be 500 for 1 or higher.
More football exotics markets
These days, you can bet on just about any possible occurrence within a game of football. These exotic bets often have little to do with the end result – so if you have a good feeling that Team A will score first but lose the game, for instance, you can put your money where your mouth is.
Here’s just a few of the exotic betting markets available at the best online sportsbooks:
- First Goalscorer
- First Half Result
- Second Half Goals
- Total Number of Corners
- Time of First Booking
- Penalty Awarded
- Anytime Own Goal
- Over/Under X Total Goals
- Both Teams to Score in a Half
For the most out-there soccer exotics, check out the Match Specials offered by many leading bookies. These can include markets like Player A and Player B to score the same number of goals, Player C to score a header in extra time, or Player D to score and get sent off.
Betting on international football tournaments
- FIFA World Cup
The biggest sporting event on the face of the Earth, bar none. The Copa Mundial is held every four years and draws hundreds of millions of television viewers (and punters) from all corners of the globe. The next instalment of the World Cup will take place in Russia in 2018, where Germany will defend its crown after downing Argentina in the Brazil 2014 final.
- UEFA European Championship
In many folks’ eyes, the Euros are the most demanding and prestigious of all football championships. Euro 2016 in France will see back-to-back champs Spain battle international heavyweights like Germany, Italy, England and the Netherlands in search of an historic third straight title.
- CONMEBOL Copa America
Approaching its centenary edition, the Campeonato Sudamericano is far and away the oldest international football competition of its kind. It features all 10 South American CONMEBOL members plus two invitees (usually nearby CONCACAF nations such as Mexico and Costa Rica, although Japan has appeared as well). Uruguay leads the way with 15 Copa America titles, ahead of Argentina (14) and Brazil (8).
- CAF Africa Cup of Nations
With African stars like Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and Michael Essien having a huge influence on the European domestic leagues in recent times, the CAN is no longer a footnote in the world game. Held every two years, the tournament has grown from a three-team affair in 1957 to a fully fledged knockout competition featuring 16 countries. Egypt has won a record seven Cup of Nations titles, including three on the trot from 2006 to 2010.
- AFC Asian Cup
The second oldest continental football competition, the Asian Cup is also second only to the Euros for sheer number of participants (47 nations). West Asian countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran (three titles each) have traditionally held sway, although Japan has won four of the last six championships to emerge as the new king of Asia.
- FIFA Confederations Cup
Held a year in advance of the big dance, the CC is essentially a star-studded dress rehearsal played between the six reigning continental champions, the Copa Mundial holders, and the following year’s World Cup host nation. The 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil was won by the home side (fourth title) in a field which included Spain, Italy, Uruguay, Mexico, Japan, Nigeria and Tahiti.
Major club competitions
- UEFA Champions League
The European Cup (as it was formerly called) is the biggest annual prize in club football. Contested each year between 32 domestic champions and top-ranked runners-ups from all over the continent, the UCL features an eight-section group stage and four knockout rounds – just like the FIFA World Cup. Five clubs have earned the right to keep the European Club Champions’ Cup permanently: Real Madrid (10 wins), AC Milan (seven wins), Bayern Munich and Liverpool (five wins each), and Ajax (three consecutive wins).
- Copa Libertadores
What the Champions League is to Europe, the Liberators Cup is to South America. The best clubs among the CONMEBOL nations have played off for la Copa every year since 1960, when Uruguay’s Penarol won the inaugural title. Argentine teams have traditionally dominated the Copa Libertadores, with Independiente winning seven times and Boca Juniors reaching the final on 10 separate occasions.
- AFC Asian Champions League
Probably the world’s fastest-growing international club competition, the ACL features champion teams from emerging football nations like Japan, South Korea, China and Australia. The Pohang Steelers (Korea Republic) have claimed a record three Asian Champions League titles, ahead of Al-Hilal (Saudi Arabia) and Esteghlal (Iran) with two apiece.
- FIFA Club World Cup
Every December, the champions of Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, South America and Oceania form a seven-team field to find out which club is the greatest on Earth. The competition has run in its current format since 2005, with Spanish and Brazilian clubs winning a combined seven times out of 10 stagings so far.
Top football leagues for online betting
English Premier League – The most watched domestic sporting competition in the world, with hundreds of millions of followers worldwide. The EPL features some of the biggest clubs in football, such as Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City.
- Spanish Primera Division
Perpetually ranked among Europe’s strongest leagues, La Liga is home to the world’s two most powerful sporting clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona, as well as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – undoubtedly the two greatest footballers of this generation.
- Italian Serie A
Italy’s top division is renowned for the tactical quality of its football. Major match-ups include the Derby d’Italia (Juventus vs Inter Milan), the Derby della Madonnina (Inter vs AC Milan), and the Derby della Capitale (AS Roma vs SS Lazio).
- German Bundesliga
Although dominated by the fearsome Bayern Munich, recent strong performances in Europe from the likes of Borussia Dortmund (2012-13 UEFA Champions League finalist) have made the world stand up and take notice of the obvious quality on display in Germany’s premier football competition.
- Ligue Un
The French top flight is a well-established breeding ground for star talent, having produced the likes of Eden Hazard, Franck Ribery, Eric Cantona, David Ginola and Zinedine Zidane. Top clubs include Saint-Etienne, Marseille, Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Lyonnais, who won an astonishing seven consecutive Ligue Un titles between 2002 and 2008.
- Campeonato Brasileiro
For pure entertainment and serious tekkers, the Brazilian Serie A is hard to beat. These days the Campeonato boasts a strong blend of soon-to-be superstars and household names such as Ronaldinho, Alexandre Pato, Luis Fabiano and Elano.
- Major League Soccer
Association football is on the rise in the United States, where an emerging national league has benefitted from marquee recruits such as David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane, David Villa and Tim Cahill. As of 2015, the MLS features 20 teams split into two conferences. LA Galaxy is America’s undisputed glamour club and owns the Western Conference with five MLS Cup wins, while DC United leads the Eastern Conference with four titles.
Since rising from the ashes of the National Soccer League in 2004, the Australian top tier has gone from strength to strength with the help of major signings like Alessandro del Piero, Robbie Fowler and Damian Duff. Brisbane Roar (three championships), Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC (two each) rule the roost, while new boys Western Sydney Wanderers became the first Aussie team to win the Asian Champions League in 2014 – just two years after the club’s inception.
Internet betting tips for soccer
Here’s a few general pointers to keep in mind when having a punt on the soccer:
- Do your research
How’s the head-to-head form? Will the star striker pull up in time for Sunday’s game? How have these guys gone away from home this season? Make sure you do your homework and get the answers to these kinds of questions before you lay your hard-earned cash on the line.
- Get the best odds
Rival bookmakers often come up with different odds for the same markets. Thus, it’s important to shop around and find the best possible prices for the bets you want on your ticket.
- Gamble responsibly
Online soccer betting is all about fun, so make sure it stays that way. Only gamble when you can afford to, and make sure you stay well within your bankroll limits at all times.