Monday, 16 July 2018

England, Erskine And Southgate

My old friend Ian Erskine is on his soap box again, offering his views on the World Cup in general and on England's World Cup.

Despite all the hype surrounding England's performance, my thoughts on Twitter, somewhat tongue in cheek were that:

As is often the case, England started this tournament slowly, needing a stoppage time goal to get past Tunisia in a match England were 1.5 to win. The win at 1.23 over Panama was as comfortable as they come, and then there was the almost meaningless match against Belgium in which a loss guaranteed an easier bracket. 

Ian commented that "the Belgium game (only team England played ranked above them and priced shorter than them) was a non-match". To be clear, while Belgium were a shorter price than England to win the World Cup overall, England were clear favourites to beat Belgium in the final group game. Pinnacle's prices were England 2.43, Draw 2.85, Belgium 3.86, the result highlighting the challenges with betting on games where motivation is a factor.

After narrowly getting past a James-less Colombia in the Round of 16, a game we were 2.15 to win in 90 minutes) and arguably getting the "can't win on penalties" monkey off our back might well be the best positive from this tournament, we played a dull, efficient, dare I say boring, German-like performance against Sweden (1.85 to win in 90) to reach the Semi-Final, where we were outplayed by an individually talented, but very average Croatia side. England were 2.33 to win in 90 minutes here.

Is Southgate the manager for England moving forward? I can't see the FA dumping him after what most people view as a successful World Cup, and personally would like to see him given another tournament, but I'm admittedly biased on this given his Crystal Palace links.

However, Ian's assertion that regarding Southgate - "Problem is, he is tactically naive and not a f****** winner" needs to be corrected.

The man has a solid record of being a winner - who can forget Crystal Palace's Championship winning season of 1993-94 with Southgate as captain?

He also, far less importantly I admit, won the League Cup with both Aston Villa and Middlesbrough, and played in an FA Cup Final and a UEFA Cup Final.

He also played for England in the summer tournaments of 1996, 1998 and 2000 although most people will unfortunately remember him for his decisive penalty miss in the 1996 Semi-Final.

Finally, Ian strangely fails to mention Southgate's co-written book "Woody & Nord: A Football Friendship" which won the Sports Book of the Year award for 2004 from the National Sporting Club (now the British Sports Book Awards).

Not a f****** winner!  

Draws On The International Stage

A low-scoring third-place play-off and a high scoring final match were not what was expected based on history, but for those who understand the value of the Draw in knock-out games, World Cup 2018 was another success.

The 'official' profit from the fifteen matches using Pinnacle prices where available was 1.61 points, an ROI of 10.7%, which is completely meaningless given the small sample size of any one individual tournament, but we have now had five World Cups this millennium, a sample size of 75 matches, and the total profit from this strategy is 22.35 points, an ROI of close to 30%.

Only one World Cup, South Africa 2010, showed a loss (-1.99 points), and only one round (the Semi-Finals) shows an overall, but small, loss. With matches never overlapping, the number of consecutive losses is useful to know, and is just four. 

Fortunately, with next next World Cup four years and four months away, the success of a Draw backing strategy in international tournaments isn't just limited to the World Cup.

Euros from 2000 have an ROI of 19.4%, Copa America tournaments from 2007 (I have no price data for prior tournaments) have an ROI of 12.8%, and the three Confederation Cup tournaments from 2009 (again, no price data before that) have an ROI of 56%

Overall, these four tournaments combined have a basic ROI of 22%, 36.52 points from 167 matches, but as other studies of the Draw in 'big' matches have shown, applying a simple filter improves these numbers still further. 

For example, ignore matches where one team has an implied probability greater than .667 and the ROI climbs to over 35%, with 50.12 points from 143 matches.

There are also some matches where the confidence in the edge is much higher - for example when the Draw is priced at 3.0 or shorter, the ROI is 55%. As the image above shows, the true price on the Draw from 2002-2018 was 2.68, but the lowest Draw price with Pinnacle in that time was 2.88 (and a winner too, I might add). William Hill went just 2.7 for the Draw, in a book that was over-round by 112.8%. 

Risking a conservative 4% of the bank on each bet, a 1,000 point bank would now be a 5,377.4 point bank. With the longest losing streak so far not exceeding five, a less conservative 10% stake of the bank (ratcheted) would now be worth 93,682 points, off a peak of 117,103.15 reached with the England v Croatia semi-final.  

It's worth noting that pre-Euro 2008, the over-round averaged 106% and so these returns should be easily beatable. For subsequent tournaments, the over-round is a more reasonable 102%.

Roll on Copa America 2019, by which time 99% of you will have completely forgotten about this post. 

Saturday, 14 July 2018

England Rare Underdogs

Today's match is England's 69th in a World Cup Finals, the outcomes of the previous 68 being as follows:

For the first time in more than sixteen years, a run of 18 matches, England start a World Cup match as underdogs, a little piece of trivia pointed out by @MarkOHaire this morning. Here are the prices (using Pinnacle where available) from England's loss against Brazil in 2002 for Finals matches:
The England v Italy game of 2014 did see Italy as favourites on Betfair at 2.77, with England and the Draw both 2.95, but the average odds from 22 non-exchange bookmakers that day were England 2.5, Draw 3.0 and Italy 3.22.

The other surprise to readers might be the 2010 match against Germany, and here the Austrian based sports-book Interwetten and well known in Germany, had Germany and England joint favourites at 2.7 with the Draw at 2.9, a sure sign that even as late as 2010, local books adjusted for local biases. All other books had England as favourites that day, and had VAR been in place, we might well have won it!  

Friday, 13 July 2018

Collovati Calamity

Just like that, it's not coming home after all, and England have a second match against Belgium in which neither country really cares who wins. Sure, there's an extra $2 million in prize money, but that's not likely to make a difference to how the match is played.

All but the inaugural World Cup has featured this third-place play off, while six Euros played this game before it was abandoned after 1980 when 18 penalties were needed to separate Czechoslovakia from Italy, and tournament organisers were beginning to get concerned that next day's final might have to be delayed.  At sometime around 3:27am, Fulvio Collovati's kick was saved, and the remaining crowd of 37 mostly friends and families of the players, trudged out into the shortest Neapolitan night of the year.

The 24 matches have an average number of goals of exactly 3.5, and consequently only four matches went to Extra-Time, with only the aforementioned 1980 game going to penalties. 10 of the last 12 third place matches saw goals for both teams. 

Since this game is not considered a knockout game, it's perhaps not surprising that the trends of fewer goals in recent seasons seen in knockout games is completely reversed in this oddity. The first 12 games averaged 3.25 goals per game, while the most recent 12 have seen an average of 3.75 goals per game.

Contrast these numbers with the Final match, which tends to be taken a little more seriously. Of 35 World Cup and Euro Finals, 13 went to Extra-Time, while four went to either a replay or penalties. Over half the matches were level at Half-Time, and the average goals per game was a more modest 2.74. 

From 1994, i.e. the last 12 Final matched, the average per game is 1.42 goals with seven games going to Extra-Time, and nine level at Half-Time. 13 of the last 17 losers failed to score. 

If you backed the Draw in the Semi-Finals you would again be in profit after a Half-Time Draw on Tuesday and a Full-Time Draw on Wednesday. 

No 0:0 scores at 90 minutes in this year's knockout rounds so far, the last time that happened in World Cups without second group stages was 1966, but plenty of 1:1s at an implied price of 2.8. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Adding In The Euros

As you were told in the last post, at least one quarter-final in every World Cup from 1986 has had at least one match go to penalties. I hope some of you cashed in. I suspected it might be the Sweden v England game, but in the end this was a rather dull game and an efficient German-like performance from England.

It had been 16 years since we last had a two goal lead in a knockout game but unfortunately, I am old enough to remember Leon 1970, so it was only at 90+4 that I felt totally relaxed.

Not such a big sample size of course, but from 1986 the 16 World Cup semi-finals have produced 11 Half-Time Draws and 5 Full-Time Draws, of which four went to penalties. 

With an all-UEFA line-up, it's not unreasonable to include Euro Semi-Finals for a larger sample, and of the last 11 combined tournaments which featured Semi-Finals, 19 matches have gone to Extra-Time, an implied price of 2.32 while 27 matches were Half-Time Draws, an implied price of 1.63. 

From 1990, 24 of the 28 matches were decided by one goal or Drawn after 90 minutes, but the four that were comfortable wins includes three of the last four matches played. 

Friday, 6 July 2018

There's Always One (Penalty Shootout)

The Round of 16 ended up just about perfectly, although I would have happily lost my Draw bet on the final tie of the round to spare myself the emotional roller-coaster of Extra-Time and penalties, but as it turned out, lifting the penalty curse might prove to be a very important thing for England. They may need that confidence boost again very soon. 

Both of Tuesday's matches were 0:0 at Half-Time at prices of 2.46 and 2.56, and for the round, no less than seven of the eight matched were Half-Time Draws - three 1:1s and four 0:0s.

Here are the Full-Time Draw statistics for the World Cup. Noticeable that while the 1:1 score was the predominant Draw in earlier days, and has actually increased slightly in frequency, the 0:0 is now just as likely, resulting in the Draw probability now closer to 0.4 than the 0.2 of 1930 to 1982. 


So, eight teams left, two CONMEBOL v UEFA ties, followed by a pair of all-UEFA match-ups in a Quarter-Finals once again blessed by the presence of England. 

All eight have reached, and won at, this stage before, Russia as the Soviet Union in 1966. Four are former champions (Brazil, England, France and Uruguay), one is a previous finalist (Sweden), and the other three are all previous Semi-Finalists. Croatia finished third on their debut in 1998, tying Portugal's 1966 record, the Soviet Union finished fourth behind Portugal that year, while Belgium had a fourth place finish in 1986.

With 9 Quarter-Final appearances, England are third all-time behind Germany (14) and Brazil (13). The records of the other teams still standing are France (7), Russia, Sweden and Uruguay (5), Belgium (3) and Croatia (2).

From 1986, when Quarter-Finals were re-introduced after being dropped in 1974, 1978 and 1982, and the World Cup was devalued by that decision in my opinion, there have been 32 matches. 17 were Draws at Half-Time, 13 were Draws at Full-Time, and 11 went to penalties - at least one Quarter-Final shootout in each World Cup.

Of the 13 South America v Europe matches, 9 were Half-Time draws, 3 Full-Time Draws, and 3 went to penalties.

Of the 11 all-UEFA matches, no game saw more than one first-half goal, with 4 HT 0:0s,  4 finished as Draws, and all 4 went to penalties. 

Not surprising that one-sided matches are rare at this stage. Only three matches from 1986 have been decided by more than one goal, two all-UEFA matches (1998 Croatia 3 Germany 0, 2006 Italy 3 Ukraine 0), and one inter-confederation game in 2010 when Germany thrashed Argentina 4:0. Older readers might recall that those two used to be good teams.

The Half-Time 0:0 price on Brazil v Belgium is currently 3.0. I'm just sayin'.  

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

World Cup Half-Time

21 goals in the six Round of 16 matches played so far, an average of 3.5 goals per game, means that 2018 is on track to beat the modern day record for this round of 24, (90 minutes only), set in 1994.

Some way short of the 40 goals at this stage in 1934, or 1938's 37 goals which included a 5:5 draw between Brazil and Poland, a walkover for Sweden, and two replays with Switzerland and Cuba needing a second game to get past Germany and Romania respectively, but more goals is not good for the Draw, as readers will know. 

Two more HT Draws yesterday mean 5 out of 6 winners so far, with two full-time Draws. While the Half-Time Draw can be odds-on, e.g. 1.91 for the Sweden v Switzerland game today, it can also be a lot higher. Yesterday I was matched at 2.42 on the Brazil v Mexico game and 2.58 on Belgium v Japan.

There have now been over 200 knockout games in the World Cup since its inception, and the Half-Time Draw numbers over the years, complete with the Draws broken out by score, are:

The Half-Time 0:0 in today's Sweden v Switzerland has traded at 2.56 (it's also traded at 1.61 which wasn't a good back), but looking at the implied price of the 0:0 in more recent years, anything close to 2.56 is good value. 

Note that in earlier years, and so far this year, the 1:1 was more frequent a Half-Time score than the 0:0, but since 1986 has been very much a rarer outcome. If the 2:2 is your preferred Half-Time Draw score, good luck. You'll need it.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Slicing The World Cup Draw

Halfway through the Round of 16, and we got the Draws we were hoping for yesterday, From 1986, the Round of 16's 68 matched have now seen 22 Draws, an implied price of 3.09. 

Including all elimination games from that year, the 44 Draws from 124 matches make the implied Draw price 2.82. 

Our old friend Slicer has been touting the Draw on the Betfair Forum, posting the following:

I was walking through London's Hyde Park this morning enjoying the sunshine when I passed a park bench. An unshaven disheveled old man emerged from underneath layers of cardboard. He asked me for some spare change. I hesitated until he told me that his name was Martin Gale, the world renowned developer of the Martin Gale Successive Stakes betting method. He told me that if I gave him £2 for a cup of coffee, he would reveal to me a guaranteed progressive betting system for the rest of the World Cup. Looking at his appearance, I asked him if his methods were so successful why he was living like this. His reply that he had made so much money that it became meaningless and he wanted to go back to basics, living a simple life.

To cut the story short, he said that because there was really no outstanding team in the World Cup, and even the better fancied sides appear mediocre, draws can be expected, and that I had better get some sandwiches and shandies in to keep me going through many extra times and penalties. So I asked what was the bottom line. He said at the top level in most countries approx. 30% of games end in draws. So, he said, with 30 games left one might expect 10 games to result in draws, particularly as there is very little between most of the teams left in the competition.
He said start off with low steaks, back the draw in game 1-France v Argies. If you lose back the draw in game to establish the required prophet AND recover your lost steak on game 1. The system progresses like this to the end of the competition. With odds of approx. between 2/1 and 3/1, one can't lose too much and it will keep the interest.

Now- we have to decide if he was telling the truth about winning loads and going back to basics or whether his famed Martin Gale method has lead him to such losses that he is reduced to living in this manner.
I felt I had to tell the story of this meeting to you, my BetFair friends.
Make up your own mind as ever and good luck.
His friend is a little off with the claim that "at the top level in most countries approx. 30% of games end in draws" - how I wish that were true - but as history shows, Draws are a good bet in World Cup elimination games.

I'm also not sure where his friend got the '30 games left' from. There were 15 competitive games left at the start of the Round of 16, and now just 11.

I would also never encourage anyone to use anything but level stakes.  

Coincidentally, the Slicer post linked to above will take you back to June 2010 when the South Africa World Cup was in full swing, and it's a little sad that eight years later, I am still banging on about the Draw. The 0:0 hasn't come in yet, but there has been at least one such scoreline in every World Cup knock-out phase from 1986. I'll also mention that the implied price on the 0:0 Half-Time score in elimination games is 2.34, and 1.82 for the Half-Time Draw.  

Looking at today's games, can Mexico beat their famous "5th game" curse?
The Mexican national team have been eliminated from every FIFA World Cup at the round of 16 stage from 1994 onward, with the first incident happening in the 1994 FIFA World Cup when the team lost to Bulgaria through a penalty shootout, and since then were eliminated at the same stage from every tournament afterwards (losing to Germany in 1998, the United States in 2002, Argentina in 2006 and 2010, and the Netherlands in 2014).
Being group runner-up doesn't help their cause - Russia became only the second group runner-up to advance in three World Cups yesterday, so it's goodbye to the only two remaining non-UEFA or non-CONMEBOL nations later today.  

Sunday, 1 July 2018

VAR In Perspective

Since the World Cup started, there's been a lot of talk about VAR increasing the number of penalties awarded. Betting Tools Brian proclaimed: 

There have been more penalties given this world cup than in the whole of the last one in 2014 and we haven’t yet finished the group stages.
No doubt the 59 penalties awarded in the first twelve games, or whatever the precise number was, had something to do with this idea, but the longer-term evidence doesn't suggest that this is the case at all. Recency effect anyone?

As for 'we haven't yet finished the group stages', this stage comprises 75% of the tournament in terms of matches. The knockout stage is just the icing on the cake, although it is very tasty icing.

The current total is actually 24, (average 0.48 per game), which is indeed the highest ever in a World Cup Finals surpassing 1990's 16, (average of 0.308 per game), but the sample size of one World Cup is small.

Two top leagues in Europe used VAR for the full 2017-18, while England's FA awarded the honour of being chosen for the first VAR match to Crystal Palace in their FA Cup Third Round match at Brighton and Hove Albion earlier this year.

In the Bundesliga last season, there were 88 penalties awarded, down from 97 in 2016-17 and up slightly from 84 in 2015-16. A three year average of 0.29 penalties per game.

In Serie A, there were 119 penalties awarded, down from both the 136 awarded in 2016-17 and the 121 in 2015-16, a three year average 0.33 per game.

Those seasons were for a combined 686 matches, so to jump to conclusions about penalties based on a few World Cup games is a little silly. I don't have the monthly numbers, so it is possible that both those leagues saw an early increase in penalties before teams adjusted and the averages were maintained, but were that the case, i think we would have noticed. 

The average number of penalties in the English Premier League over the past three seasons is a relatively low 0.24, very much in line with Betfair's average 4.05 price on this possibility: 

Last season's top penalty team was Crystal Palace, with most awarded (10) and most scored (8), a statistic that reflects the amount of time spent in opponent's penalty areas.