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International Soccer Friendlies: How to Cash In

(Originally posted 5 June 2004)

This weekend sees a full slate of international soccer matches. Although they give teams an excellent chance to warm up ahead of Euro 2004, these games are utterly meaningless. Nothing is at stake. Not trophies, not qualification, in many cases not even pride. The conventional wisdom is to avoid betting these types of games because they’re totally unpredictable. But a savvy handicapper knows how to navigate around the uncertainties of international friendly games. Here are a few things to look out for:

Home advantage: Countries like Albania, Moldova and Azerbaijan aren’t the most pleasant places to visit. Road teams have to endure strange customs, intimidating stadiums and questionable food. So is it really surprising that, say, the Italian national team would be less concerned about winning or even playing the game than they are about getting the heck out of that miserable country?

Motivation: Because these games are often totally meaningless, it’s hard to expect much inspiration from the players. For the most part, that’s an accurate assessment of international friendlies. But sometimes pride and the desire to restore national dignity are the biggest motivators. If a country is thrashed 5-0 in front of their home crowd you can bet they’ll be out for revenge next time out.

Rosters: A key factor to remember in international friendlies is the best players often don’t play. These are not the same faces you’ll see at a World Cup game. Instead we’re often treated to a match featuring a rag-tag bunch of second stringers. As a rule, clubs are reluctant to release their star players for international duty. Why risk picking up an injury in a match of dubious value? To avoid injury, players won’t exert themselves. Instead, you’ll see them jogging carefully around the pitch, avoiding tackles and confrontations.

Coaching: Managers will frequently use these games to experiment with new strategies and formations. A team comfortable playing 4-4-2 might try 5-3-2, 4-3-2-1 or other formations. Players will be put in different positions. The coach might try a left midfielder on the right side. He might ask an offensive midfielder to play a defensive role. A naturally attacking team might practice counterattack or another strategy unsuited to their natural style.

Public teams: Most punters are only familiar with a few national teams. If they don’t know about a team, they’ll assume it must be a lousy one. “Sweden is much better than Latvia. It’s a no brainer” is a typical thought process. Of course, that mind-set creates enormous value in unfancied teams, particularly home underdogs. And since many of these games end in draws, the smart handicapper will take the points – usually a half-goal advantage – and turn a draw into a winning bet.

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» World Cup Qualifiers 2006: European Zone
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» Italian Soccer Prediction: Serie A Preview 2004/2005
» French Soccer Prediction: Singing Les Bleus
» Spanish Soccer Prediction: Primera Liga Preview 2004
» German Soccer Prediction: Bundesliga Preview 2004
» English Premier League Prediction 2004/2005
» Olympics Soccer: Redemption Time
» Copa America Prediction: Samba or Last Tango in Peru?
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» Betting Euro 2004: The Final Four
» Euro 2004 Gambling: Propaholics and Rooney-Mania
» Euro 2004 Predictions: Handicapping Secrets Revealed
» Euro 2004 Tips: Props - Part 1
» Euro 2004 Bets: Props - Part 2
» International Friendlies: How to Cash In
» Road Dogs and Big Profits: How to Find Both
» Uefa Champions League Betting Tips: The Final Four
» Man Utd v Arsenal Prediction: Clash of the Titans
» Premiership Predictions: EPL Roundup
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» Profit from Home Field Advantage

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