Dispatches From The Maracanã: World Cup Gambling!


I told you I’d be back before I take of for Brazil on Friday!

When last we met I was discussing my trip to Rio de Janeiro for the 2014 Fifa World Cup and analyzing why I was actually headed on this trip of a lifetime. While that was fun and meaningful (and I encourage you to read it), I decided that I also wanted to leave you all with something near and dear to my heart: Gambling!!!

Sporting events are ridiculously entertaining, especially if there’s something at stake. That’s why we all pace around at an alarming rate when our teams are involved in big games. It’s why we yell at inanimate objects and occasionally throw our iPhones into walls (seriously, how much money has Apple made on iPhone replacements due to sporting events?). It’s also why I’m way more at risk for a heart attack than a normal 25 year-old should be. I can thank the Los Angeles Kings for that. I’ve been popping Lipitor and Bayer aspirin like a 75 year-old who’s undergone a triple bypass.

But there are also sporting events that we want to watch but don’t have a rooting interest in. Sure, we may favor one team or the other; however, at the end of the day we truly don’t care who wins. That’s no way to walk through life! So what do we do? We gamble! What’s the fun in watching a game when you’re not agonizing over the results and acting like a deranged lunatic for hours on end? Ok, maybe that’s just me. But most people would agree that watching a game when something is legitimately on the line is more exciting. So, that is why we’re bringing gambling to the World Cup.

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  • As I mentioned in my first article for The American Pitch I will be attending five games in Rio. None of those games involve the United States. What is a man like me to do? I’m not going to sit in the Maracanã, the holiest pitch in the entire world for my money, as not root for a side. That’s like going to Vegas and not having a drink, playing blackjacks, or hitting on women that are way out of your league. That’s not my style. I’m going to the Maracanã and I’m choosing sides. I’m drawing a line in the sand. I’m going to have a rooting interest.

    Ok, so we know what I’ll be doing for the games in Rio. But what about the World Cup in general? What do you think? Of course I’m going to have a little bit of action. So, who am I riding with? Let’s get started.

    Group A

    Winner: Brazil (-420)

    To Qualify: Mexico (+145)

    There is no doubt in my mind, or in anyone else’s, that the host nation is going to come away with the victory in this subpar group. It’s what we like to call a lock. Perhaps you’re familiar with that term. It’s like betting on the Shaq and Kobe Lakers to win the title and get into a fight. It’s bound to happen.

    As for Mexico, I see them qualifying just because I think they’re the strongest team left in the group and should be able to sneak out a victory or two over Cameroon and Croatia, both of whom will get demolished by Brazil.

    Group B

    Winner: Spain (-140)

    To Qualify: Chile (-120)

    Spain is Spain. They’ve won the last three majors. They’re winning this group. They’re simply too talented for Chile, Australia, and the Netherlands, as we saw in the 2010 World Cup Final.

    The upset here is that Chile advances from the group instead of the Dutch. Quite simply, I firmly believe that European teams, outside of Spain, are going to struggle in South America. I’m riding the South American teams hard. I just believe the weather, the travel, and the fans are going to be behind them. All of that matters on the world stage.

    Group C

    Winner: Columbia (-125)

    To Qualify: Ivory Coast (+340)

    Like I said, I’m riding the South Americans. Greece and Japan are not a match for Columbia is one of the weakest groups at the 2014 World Cup. Ivory Coast moves on simply due to the fact that they are going to run Japan and Greece all over the pitch. Plus, who doesn’t love Didier Drogba?

    Group D

    Winner: Uruguay (+170)

    To Qualify: England (-145)

    I’m betting on Luis Suarez to come through in a big way in this tournament. He’s playing the roll of the villain and he loves it. Italy is always a tough out in the World Cup, but I have a feeling they’ll be the France on the ’14 World Cup.  Therefore, England moves on and provides the supporters of the Three Lions with a bit of hope. How long does that last? Not very.

    Group E

    Winner: Ecuador (+440)

    To Qualify: France (-455), Ecuador (-110)

    I LOVE SOUTH AMERICAN TEAMS! Also, France is due to make it through. Ecuador pulls the huge upset and takes down France and Switzerland, who is very much overrated in the FIFA rankings.

    Group F

    Winner: Argentina (-390)

    To Qualify: Nigeria (+165)

    Lionel Messi. Enough said. This is another one of the weakest groups. There is no way that Iran, Nigeria, or Bosnia and Herzegovina are going to be able to keep up with everything Argentina has to offer. Nigeria squeaks by B&H in their matchup and finds themselves in the knockout round.

    Group G 

    Winner: Germany (-145)

    To Qualify: USA (+270)

    Germany is winning this group. It’s another lock. In one of the groups of death the Americans will have to get by their nemesis in Ghana and a tough Portugal team. However, Portugal has a slew of injuries and Ghana isn’t the same team they’ve been in years past. I have faith. I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN! I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN! I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!

    Group H

    Winner: Belgium (-140)

    To Qualify: South Korea (+165)

    Belgium is another one of those teams that is flying under the radar that may have a chance at making a huge splash in Brazil. I’ll ride them for a bit. They’re clearly the class of this weak group. Algeria, despite their fine showing in 2010, is the weakest team in the 32 country field, so they’re out. That leaves Russia and South Korea. For some reason I believe that South Korea will advance. Sorry Russia. Blame Putin. Or Ovechkin. Either way, don’t blame me.

    Golden Boot

    Luis Suarez (+1700)

    Neymar (+1125)

    Hulk (+5000)

    Fernando Torres (+9500)

    I’m going with four picks here. If you placed $100 on all four candidates listed above, and one of them won the Golden Boot, the least amount of money you would win would be $725, if Neymar were to win. I love Neymar and Hulk because there is little doubt in my mind that Brazil is going to score a ton and advance deep into the tournament. Hulk and Neymar provide decent odds and a good chance at capturing the boot. Plus, always bet on the guys with one name.

    Suarez is a pest and internationally hated; however, there is little doubt that the little man can put the ball in the net. He’s going to be a force for Uruguay; however, he may not advance that far in the tournament. A bet for Suarez is a bet for Uruguay advancing deep. Remember that.

    Lastly, I’m going with Torres because, well, I’m not quite sure. Sometimes gambling is about feel and instinct. I have a random feeling that Torres is going to show up huge in the World Cup and will finally live up to his ridiculous hype.

    World Cup Champion

    According to Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com, Brazil has a 45.2% chance at claiming the World Cup on their home soil. While that number may seem extraordinarily high to some, the Soccer Power Index (SPI) doesn’t believe so. However, only 23.3% of bets are coming in on Brazil to take the Cup. That disparity leads me to believe that Brazil is a solid bet to win the World Cup. Therefore, I have no choice but to place a wager on them.

    In all reality, there are only four true contenders for this year. Yes, a team like Uruguay, Chile, Belgium, or France could make a surprise visit to the finals, but it’s highly unlikely. According to SPI Brazil, Argentina, Spain, and Germany have a 76.5% chance at winning the whole thing.

    Based on their current odds (listed below), a victory for Argentina, Spain, or Germany would result in cash if you bet on all four of the favorites. Even if Brazil wins the Cup, and you’ve bet $100 on the four favorites, you’d only be losing $90. Those are pretty solid odds. My suggestion: bet on all four and ride the analytics.

    Brazil (+310)

    Argentina (+490)

    Spain (+650)

    Germany (+670)

    And one last one, because if Roger Bennett and Michael Davies, aka The Men in Blazers, predict a 65-yard wonder strike from Kyle Beckerman to win the World Cup in Brazil then I’m on board.

    USA (+25000)

    Here is my entire bracket (via ESPN’s Bracket Predictor):

    As I mentioned, on Friday I head to Rio. It’s sure to be an epic trip and I’m sure there will tons of stories for me to share on The American Pitch, as well as some that I probably will never share. But, for now……..