Well, after 64 matches, a record 172 goals, one of the best (and most evenly priced) finals in history and the prior 12 years of existential footballing crisis, the Qatar 2022 World Cup finally reached its crescendo. In many ways, the footballing gods treated us to a fairytale like no other. Lionel Messi, the best to ever lace the cleats, lifted the one prize that always seemed to allude to him and extinguished any doubt that he sits alone in the pantheon of football greatness. Although you get the inkling, Kylian Mbappe will give his title a challenge in the coming years after pushing the 'little magician' all the way on the greatest stage.
Both PSG stars were heavily backed from the get-go to claim the top goal scorer market, with 17% of total bets on the eventual winner, Mbappe. Messi, though, would still hurt us by winning his second Golden Ball, which saw our biggest pay out across our massive 100+ outright player markets range. But both paled into near insignificance to the liability we had on France to win the final, with 38% of the outright winner bets on Le Blues to win their second consecutive World Cup.
In addition to being swept up in the Messi romantic narrative, the tournament was dripping in spectacular games and goals, scintillating talents and teams. Near unbackable nations shocked heavily proclaimed morals, as footballing powerhouses in South America and Europe were stunned by defiant nations from confederations in Africa and Asia, bridging the gap between regions significantly closer. Record-breaking bookings were seen in a game in a tournament where there was an unprecedented low for the 32-team World Cup format. And most notably, there were an equal record number of goalless draws in a tournament that set a record high for total goals – quite the paradox.
Like all sports fans, the Football World Cup is undoubtedly our pinnacle here at Kindred, bringing a gluttonous of betting trends and insights.
Player & Team Statistic Props
The 2022 World Cup saw an even bigger shift from the traditional main markets to the more eccentric and quirkier player markets, which continue to grow at a rate of knots. In fact, we saw a 105% rise in Player Occurrence bets compared to Euro 2020 through our significantly improved PM Bet Builder offering, most notably Player shots on target, Player shots and Player fouls. These were supplemented by Match and Team stats markets available in Bet Builder and Multi-Builder for the first time – Offsides, Shots, Shots on Target and Fouls. Combining these with our overall UX, combinability capabilities and settlement times, we believe the punter experience here in this campaign was the best in class. And given that 45% of pre-match actives in the knockout stage placed a Bet Builder, we now set our sights on expanding this offering to domestic leagues worldwide in the coming months.
The Closing of the Gap
The 2022 World Cup was the first global tournament where the gap between confederations was significantly closed. Both Asia and Africa stamped their brand onto the world stage. For the first time ever, the Asian Confederation saw three sides reach the Round of 16, producing major upsets throughout their campaigns. Saudi Arabia was our widest-priced underdog to win at any World Cup in Kindred's recorded history, 20/1 at one stage in PM, when they gave eventual tournament winners Argentina an early group-stage hiccup. We saw Japan top Group E, priced at 11/1 ahead of previous world champions Spain and Germany, as well as Australia, beating 10th world-ranked Denmark and Tunisia as priced outsiders PM in both respective games, to make the knockout stage.
Then we turn our attention to Africa, particularly Senegal and Morocco, equalling the continent's best-ever group stage performance in 2014 when Algeria and Nigeria reached the knockout rounds. But it was Morocco who stole our hearts. The first African and Arab nation to make the final four despite being a 60/1 chance to do so and even at one stage becoming our worst way in the overall outright winners' market which was pre-tournament priced at 400/1.
And dare I forget about Croatia, too, a nation with a population of tiny propositions compared to the main powerhouses, who yet again exceeded themselves, finishing 3rd.
All these upsets would see an overall shift from the traditional 'favourite-backing' approach to times when the ledger would be red for the bookmakers' outsiders.
Backing the 'Unders'
Traditionally punters have always been mad for the overs - and to be fair, it was still the more favoured proposition across the overall Over/Under offer - but despite the Qatar World Cup seeing the most goals ever for the tournament, there was a clear shift from punters starting to take notice on the unders in a wagering sense. As a result, the under outcome grew substantially, with bets up 35% compared to last year's men's Euros, taking back its share on the bet offer considerably to 19%.
No doubt an unprecedented total of goalless draws in the early stage of the competition would have swayed punters to this strategy, but the counterargument could be made that with the significant amount of added-on time throughout the world cup - some matches which had almost 30 minutes added on across both halves - players would have been more enticed to back the overs. But overall, it wasn't the case and indeed, the unders across all its propositions (goals/cards/corners etc.) would, in the fullness of time for the WC22, prove to be a profitable strategy for our players.
After one of the most memorable World Cups in history, guess what? This is not the end of things... A women's Football World Cup to follow in 2023. Bring it on.