There have now been 48 games finished in the group stage and 14 knock-out
games played at the 2006 World Cup. As the tournament reaches its conclusion
in Berlin this weekend, handicappers and sharp bettors have more and more
information available for analysis.
Many punters were surprised that the Italy vs. France total opened at 1.5
goals. For diehard handicappers betting at the Pinnacle Sports book, this
was expected. How did they know? Many tipsters use a universal
handicapping system that can be used to set lines for any sport and
requires only minimal adjustments for injuries and other situational
Whether you are analysing a total in baseball or soccer, the first step
in any sport is to set a baseline figure for an average game. In other
words, how many goals are scored in an average game during regular
In the group stage, there were 117 goals scored in 48 games, for an
average goal production (and defence allowed) of 2.44 goals per game
resulting in 1.22 goals per team per match.
In the knockout stages, there have been 21 goals scored in 14 matches during
regulation time, for an average of 0.75 goals per team per game (excluding extra time played or penalty kicks).
If you combined the two, your “baseline” is 1.11 goals per team per match (138 goals in 62 games).
The next step in setting your baseline is comparing each team’s offence
and defence against this average.
France have scored 8 goals while conceding 2 goals in their 6 games played so
far. Les Bleus’ defence was 0.78 goals per game better than average (1.11
– 2/6), while their offence was 0.22 goals better than average (8/6-1.11).
France’s offensive “power rating” would be +0.22, while their defensive
rating would be -0.78 (negative numbers are good for defensive
Meanwhile Italy have scored 9 goals in regular time while conceding just 1
(count the own goal against the USA as a goal conceded). Italy’s
offensive rating would be (9/6 – 1.11) = +0.39, while their defensive rating
would be (1/6 – 1.1) = -0.94.
The Azzurri’s offensive rating might be slightly understated though, since
we did not include the 2 goals they scored in extra time against Germany in
the semi-final. The reason for this is that only goals scored during
regular time count for betting purposes when wagering on total goals.
With these raw numbers, you can now create an estimate of how much each team
will score in regular time. How many goals might we expect Italy to score?
Just start with your league average (1.11 goals per team per game), then add Italy’s
offensive rating (+0.39) and France’s defensive rating (-0.78). This
suggests that we can expect Italy to score about 0.72 goals, but remember that
all teams tend to revert to the mean/average.
I “revert to the mean” by averaging that with the league average of 1.11
goals, for 0.92 expected goals (1.11+0.72/2 = 0.92). For France, we can
initially expect (1.11 + 0.22 – 0.94) = 0.39 goals. Averaging this with
the league average 1.11 goals per match, we expect 0.75 goals.
If you want to convert these expected goals to money line odds for
“Italy to win the World Cup”, simply take Italy’s expected goals, divide
by France’s expected goals, and multiply by -100. In this case, it would
be (0.92 / 0.75 * -100) = -123, which is pretty close to the current wagering odds
If you want to convert these numbers to an over/under total, simply add the team
expected goals, and using probability theory check a Poisson distribution
for the odds you want to set. For example, if you wanted a price on over
1.5 goals, look at the Poisson function for (.92 + .75 = 1.67). Oddly enough,
this goes under 1.5 50.3% of the time, and over 49.7% (the exact market
There are a few additional things you can add in to gain more precision.
The first is an adjustment for “strength of schedule” by just comparing
how a team’s previous opponents did against the league/tournament average.
While this becomes less important when many matches are played, it can be
extremely important in short tournaments or when it is early in the
Before placing your bet, you should also consider situational factors.
For example, France’s striker Louis Saha will miss the final game due to a
suspension for receiving two yellow cards in the knock out stages. While
you may decide that this shouldn’t have an impact on the match, you must
ALWAYS check the teams for injuries and suspensions in any sport. Failing
to account for missing players is one of the quickest ways to the poor
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