For soccer bettors, the Cup board is not bare

Bet on it: Qatar 2022 is coming in November, and smart fans can find value at Vegas sportsbooks

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Alphonso Davies

Alphonso Davies #19 of Canada chases the ball during a 2022 World Cup Qualifying match against Panama at BMO Field on October 13, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS — Our neighbors have been dynamic on the pitch, not dropping a single World Cup qualifier in 11 CONCACAF third-round matches, and they’ve continued to excel without their ace footballer.

Mexico, up to its usual antics and tactics as this sphere’s powerhouse?

¡Incorrecto!

Canada has soared, at 7-0-4 for 25 points, followed by the U.S. (21 points, 9-goal differential) and Mexico (21, 6). The Canadians have won their last three matches without the gifted Alphonso Davies.

The top three go to the first autumnal World Cup, which begins Nov. 21 in Qatar. The fourth-place team, currently Panama, partakes in a playoff against an Oceania side to advance.

In June 2018, the Westgate SuperBook opened Canada at 1,000-to-1 odds to lift that gloriously ugly golden glob of a trophy Dec. 18. Its superb form has helped cut that to 150-1.

“Canada has been the best team in the region,” says SuperBook risk manager Rex Beyers. “Results don’t lie. They’ve done everything they were supposed to do, gone to the toughest places and gotten results. They’re in.”

Three “Octagonal” matches remain, all in the last week of March. Of the U.S. and Mexico, Beyers favors the Mexicans’ route, since they host the Americans on March 24 at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

Jeff Sherman, SuperBook vice president of risk management, wrote some $50 tickets on Canada at those four-figure odds. But he was aggressive, too, in protecting the house.

“That [initial] price was extremely high,” he says. “They could maybe squeak out of a [World Cup] group, then we’ll see what happens. No one has reacted to what they’re doing. You can still find some high prices on them.”

After our chat, I nabbed 300-1 odds on Canada — as potential future hedge material — at William Hill.

TOUGH TO REPEAT

Half of the 32-team World Cup field is still to be determined, via qualifying avenues that culminate next month. On April 1, the eight four-team World Cup groups will be drawn in Doha.

The Group of Death will be deigned, softer paths identified. Several titans, though, have already qualified, so early wagering value might exist.

And there isn’t a sharper futbol resource than the SuperBook, whose trio of Sherman, Beyers and John Murray produces the deepest weekly menu of soccer odds — from England and Italy to Japan and Turkey — in Vegas.

Brazil (five titles), Germany (four) and France (two) already have qualified, representing the bulk of the quadrennial event’s 21 championships.

Should the Brazilians (6-1 at the SuperBook), French (6-1) or Germans (10-1) conquer Qatar, a similar wager on each today would guarantee a profit.

The Germans, with new boss Hansi Flick, have won their last seven games by a combined 31-2 score. The French won their second World Cup at Russia 2018 and feature scintillating striker Kylian Mbappé.

An interesting tack, says Beyers, with some caveats. He can’t forget Germany’s 7-1 dismantling of Brazil on its own turf, in Belo Horizonte, in a semifinal of Brazil 2014 and rates the Germans above the Brazilians until proven otherwise.

France, though, makes him hesitate, because it has been 60 years since someone successfully defended a World Cup crown —Brazil won in 1958 and 1962.

“People just don’t repeat in this thing,” says Beyers. “Part of me wants to throw France out based on the simple fact that it just doesn’t happen.”

ENGLAND FAVORED

At last summer’s pandemic-delayed Euro 2020, Denmark — without Christian Eriksen, whose life medical experts saved in a chilling on-pitch incident — reached the semifinals, where it lost to England.

The SuperBook’s opening Qatar odds of 100-1 on Denmark have been whittled to 30-1. Sherman long ago secured a 100-1 ticket on the Danes; I got 60-1 at William Hill.

“They look like one of those teams that can be a threat as an outsider,” says Sherman. “A nice ticket on a team that, I think, can cause some havoc.”

The bracket broke well for Denmark in Europe.

“If that happens again,” says Murray, “I don’t see why they couldn’t make a run like Croatia did in the last World Cup.”

At Russia 2018, Croatia beat Denmark, Russia and England before losing to France 4-2 in the final. A SuperBook patron invested $500 on a 60-1 Croatia ticket for Qatar, nudging it to 50-1.

England opened at 14-1, which its rabid supporters have shaved to 7-1. The Three Lions are No. 1 in money and No. 2 in tickets, behind the U.S., at the SuperBook.

For the 60-1 Americans, Christian Pulisic scored for Chelsea on Tuesday in the Champions League, and Murray raves about seeing fullback Sergiño Dest (FC Barcelona) flourish for the U.S. against El Salvador in January in Ohio.

But Weston McKinnie left Tuesday’s Juventus match at Villarreal with two fractured bones in his left foot and Gio Reyna was shelved recently at Dortmund.

As for geographical comfort, Beyers suggests 1,000-1 Iran, 120 nautical miles from Qatar across the Persian Gulf, which is 11-0-1 (30-3 goal differential) in its last dozen games.

“A minnow,” says Beyers, “but I wouldn’t want to play them.”

Qatar, by the way, went 3-0-1 in last summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup before losing 1-0 to the U.S. Beyers will digest the April draw before making a serious wager.

“I want to know more about who’s playing, team forms, scandals . . . small potatoes, in the grand scheme, but they matter.”

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