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Opinion: Don’t Give World Cup Favorites Too Much Love in the Knockouts

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The 2022 World Cup has been thrilling to start, and we’ve officially reached the knockout round of 16. With a couple of knockout games already in the books, it’s important to touch on the heightened stakes for the biggest tournament in the world. On paper, a lot of the matchups left might look one-sided, but a lot of heavy favorites should be taken with a grain of salt. 

We’ve closely monitored the World Cup up until this point and we’ve realized that heavy favorites are getting backed to a great extent. Brazil, for example, seems unstoppable to the general public and are currently favored to win the cup. The truth, however, is that Brazil is facing a plethora of injuries which could see their chances cut short. 

More than anything, the purpose of this article is to provide a contrarian opinion for the rest of the World Cup games. This is quite literally the world’s biggest stage for soccer which gives even the biggest underdogs all the more reason to play their hearts out. We’ll discuss how you can use this narrative to your advantage in matchups that feature heavy favorites. 

Notable Trends

  • Out of 48 total games played, 6 games have ended 0-0 
  • 15 out of 48 games have had under 1.5 goals scored
  • 20 out of 48 games saw both teams scoring a goal (BTTS). 

These trends are notable regarding overall competitiveness. Low-scoring games highlight an uptick in defensive play, while the high rate of both teams scoring in sometimes lopsided matchups goes to show that no team can be discredited on the world’s biggest stage. 

It’s important to note that 1.5 is not a standard total goal prop for the World Cup – in fact, it’s quite low. This number usually opens at 2.5 or sometimes 3.5 for games that heavily favor a certain team. Knowing this, a 15/48 or 31.25% win percentage for u1.5 goals is profitable thus far in the World Cup. 

For those that aren’t very familiar with the World Cup format, games are allowed to end in a draw throughout the first round. After the first round, games that are tied after 90′ of regulation will go to extra time. Any game that’s not decided in extra time will go to penalty kicks for a decision. 

The format in the knockout rounds and beyond adds an element of competitiveness. Essentially, a huge underdog can give themselves more of a chance by playing on the defensive and forcing extra-time or penalty kicks. Anything can happen when it comes down to penalty kicks, and this is the most likely demise for a heavy favorite that can’t finish in regulation. 

Betting Market Advantages

There are several ways to approach the betting market if you’re going to side with the narrative that games get more competitive as the World Cup progresses. Most public money will side with the money line favorite, and this is hardly profitable long term. 

  • Avoid betting the money line or spread on any heavily favorited team (ex: if Brazil is -300 against Switzerland, it’s best to avoid this outright)
  • Look for great odds for alternate total goal props. One-sided matchups typically feature high goal totals which can be exploited in competitive matchups. 
  • It’s easier to bet the correct score for a game when you know both teams will be on the defensive. Both 0-0 and 1-0 scores are worth a look in competitive matchups.
  • Full-time draws are more likely between two above average teams. 
  • Betting on underdogs outright or betting the spread for underdogs can be very profitable.
  • If you’re watching live, you can gauge the pace of the game and chances generated. In the event that a favorite scores early, you can catch good odds on the underdog. 
  • Early goals can cause a shift in playing style toward more defensive play. Taking the live under after an early goal can be very profitable. 

Most people will simply avoid a game that looks like a blowout on paper. There’s no denying, however, that these matchups often don’t work out how Vegas expects them to. In this case, lopsided expectations often result in less-likely outcomes.

It’s more difficult to make these claims for soccer outside of the World Cup because the stage is nowhere near as big. Here, we know every team is fitted with at least some elite talent, and they only have a chance to show out every four years. 

Going Forward

We expect to see several “lop-sided” matchups throughout the round of 16. At the same time, we also expect better matchups as the weak teams get weeded out. Ultimately, it’s best to avoid situations that look too good to be true because there’s a lot more at stake now. 

No team wants to be embarrassed on the world’s biggest stage, so expecting a lot of goals is futile, even from the strongest of teams. Instead, you should expect hard-fought matchups going forward, and likely a few upsets along the way.

Although there’s only been a few games played in the round of 16, none have gone to extra time yet. As the matchups start to get tougher, we can expect to see some negative regression here. There will certainly be a few games that go the distance without a decision – the only question is when? 

The point of this article is not to encourage betting on soccer games, but rather to provide a different opinion as we move forward. Even if you’re watching for fun, I encourage you to take note of the trends and playstyles throughout the round of 16. As the stakes increase, the intensity should also increase, thus resulting in more competitive games throughout the rest of the tournament. 


Favorites garner a lot of attention throughout the World Cup, and for a variety of reasons. For teams like Argentina and Brazil, a large global following and constant media attention result in favoritism regarding winning odds. This favoritism sometimes makes sense, but it’s important to look at the bigger picture at the World Cup. 

To recap, the World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world. Billions of people tune in to watch their favorite team or players take home the biggest trophy in sports. That said, intensity will be high for the teams that still have a fighting chance. 

Key points from this article: 

  • Underdogs cannot be discredited at this point in the World Cup.
  • Remember, although some teams are better than others, these are still professional soccer players – all of which have elite skill sets. Upsets can and will happen. 
  • Games will be substantially more competitive going forward. 
  • Alternate unders are worth a look for total goal props, especially for matchups that hint to defensive play. 
  • No games have gone to extra time or penalty kicks yet. 
  • Betting on the correct score in relatively transparent games can be extremely profitable. 

We only get the chance to discuss the pinnacle of soccer every four years. Editorials like this will give us a base for understanding the World Cup now and in the future. Let’s hope for an enjoyable remainder of the tournament.