When it comes to international football, the World Cup is the absolute pinnacle. It is football’s equivalent of the Olympics, seeing teams representing countries from all around the world go head-to-head in order to be crowned the world champions. The European Championship is the equivalent event that is limited to teams under the auspices of UEFA, just as the Africa Cup Of Nations is for Africa and the Copa América is for South America, but the World Cup is the daddy of them all.
It offers drama and excitement like no other competition, if for no other reason that the entire world is gripped on what’s happening wherever the tournament is being played. It has enjoyed moments of controversy, such as when Diego Maradona used the ‘Hand of God’ to score past England’s Peter Shilton, as well as moments that brought tears to the eye. The World Cup engrosses nations, communities and viewers from every corner of the planet, such is the overwhelming nature of football’s global appeal.
World Cup Betting Offers
World Cup New Customer Free Bets
When the World Cup rolls around, bookmakers are all too aware of the fact that punters want to have a bet or two on the outcome of the various matches. Indeed, plenty of people who don’t normally tend to place wagers on football are tempted to do so when it’s the World Cup, so bookies look for ways to tempt people to place their bets with them.
It isn’t an entirely generous enterprise, of course. The bookmakers are hopping that you lose your bets in the long term so that they make money from you, meaning that a free bet or two isn’t exactly a hardship for them. They’ll make a cut whatever happens, but they bank on the fact that more people will lose their bets than will win them, meaning that they’re always in the black.
What brands aim to do is give you something for free, they actually want you to win with your first bet and promotional money in the hope you will continue betting with them. By using welcome offers wisely punters can add a lot of value to bets.
Are They Free Bets or Bonuses?
The first thing you’ll want to do is the ensure that you’ve clarified whether you’re being given a free bet or some bonus money. The difference being that free bets can be played as their own thing, as long as you meet certain bet criteria laid out by your bookmaker of choice, whereas bonuses tend to need to be rolled over a certain number of times before you’ll be able to withdraw any winnings.
The wording used by your favour bookie will give you a clear idea of what type of reward you’re being given. If it says, for example, ‘Bet £10 On The World Cup & You’ll Get A £10 Free Bet’ then you’ll be given a free bet token in exchange for placing a £10 Bet on a World Cup match. Usually you’ll need to ensure that the bet that you place both with your £10 free bet and your qualifying bet meets set criteria, such as needing to be on bets with odds of 1/2 or higher.
If the promise is that you’ll get a ‘£10 Bonus For Betting £10 On The World Cup’ then things will work slightly differently. Whereas with the free bet you’ll be able to draw any winnings, minus the free stake, straight away, bonus money will often have small print that says that you need to ‘roll over your winnings’ a given number of times before anything will be withdrawable.
In terms of the best offers that come around during major events such as the World Cup, Risk Free Bets are the pinnacle. You usually simply need to deposit money into your account and then you’ll be able to place a bet of up to, say, £10, knowing that if it’s a losing bet then you’ll get a cash refund. These are rare but crop up for the bigger events, and you don’t get bigger than the WC.
Note, however, ‘money back’ offers are not the same as risk free and will often give a refund as free bet token, giving you another bite of the cherry but you can’t withdraw it as cash. It’s not as good as a risk free bet in cash, obviously, but still a good option.
Consider The Offer Terms
There are, of course, certain things to look out for when the World Cup comes around and it feels as though bookmakers are throwing offers at you to win your business. The most obvious one is whether it is indeed limited to new customers or is available to people who have been with the bookie for a long time. If you’re a relative newcomer to betting in general then this is unlikely to have any effect on you, but if you’ve been betting for years then it will be an important distinction.
The minimum bet requirements are also key. The reason for this is that bookmakers don’t want to be giving away money willy-nilly, so they are unlikely to offer you the chance to win by betting on a dead cert. Instead your bets will almost certainly have to have minimum odds in excess of 1/2. They’re also likely to make you jump through hoops a little bit, too. Sometimes a bookie will have an automatic system that credits you with your free bet when you’ve done what you need to, but other times you might need to input a special code.
Make sure that you check which way it works for your chosen bookmaker and do what’s necessary to ensure that you get what you’re owed. The most frustrating thing is when you sit down to watch a World Cup match thinking you’ve got a free bet coming your way, seeing the player you’ve placed your wager on score and then find out that you didn’t place your bet properly. Do your best to ensure that that doesn’t happen to you!
You’d also do well to see if there’s a limit to how much money you can win with your free bet. Say you’ve got a free bet token of £10 and the limit for the payout is £500, there’s no point in betting on something with odds of 60/1 with your free bet as it will mean that you’ll miss out on £100 of winnings that should be yours.
World Cup Offers For Existing Customers
The World Cup really is one of the favourite tournaments for bookmakers because they know that all sorts of people will be looking to placer a wager or two with them, even those that have no previous experience in doing so. For that reason there are often all sorts of offers and promotions available during the period of the tournament that you’ll want to take advantage of.
Here’s a look at some of them:
- Acca Insurance – People love putting accumulators on on football matches. That’s especially true during something like the World Cup, when there are a high proportion of matches in short amount of time. Will you bet on every first match in the groups, for example? If so, keep an eye out for the bookies that promise you insurance should only one of your legs lose or an Acca boost if all of the legs you’re placed are winners.
- Acca Bonuses – Acca Insurance is great if you are unsure of a selection or two but if you really back your knowledge and believe your acca will win you will be better of with a bonus that will enhance your winnings. There are also acca free bet clubs for those that want to place several accas a week.
- Price Boosts – Bookmakers know that one of the sure fire ways to win new customers is by promising them a boost to the odds on a given outcome. Normally the money will be paid as cash for the ‘normal’ odds and then as free bets for the remaining amount, but keeping your eye out for such boosts can see you in the money.
- Free Bet Clubs – Plenty of bookmakers have loyalty schemes. They result in people betting a given amount of money being rewarded with free bets, provided all of their bets are placed with the same bookie over a certain period of time. It’s always worth looking to see what the criteria for the various schemes out there.
- More Money For….. – As a football tournament, the World Cup presents an opportunity for punters to have a wager on players doing something in particular such as scoring twice or netting a hat-trick. Some bookmakers will offer you more money if you’ve placed a First Goalscorer bet and the player you’ve bet on goes on to score two, three or even more goals. There are also insurance offers for extra time, penalties, if your team scores first and doesn’t win, 0-0 draws, etc.
Obviously this list is far from exhaustive, but it gives you an idea of the sort of deals that you can take advantage of if you’re planning on having a couple of bets on the World Cup.
Information About The World Cup
Since 1998, 32 teams have been invited to take part in the World Cup. That doesn’t mean that all the teams invited take part in the main competition, however. Instead, a qualifying tournament is played in order to ensure that only the best teams are able to take part in the finals. FIFA splits teams into one of six continents, depending on where they are based geographically. Here’s what they are:
- AFC – The Asian Football Confederation
- CAF – The Confederation of African Football
- CONCACAF – The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football
- CONMEBOL – The South American Football Confederation
- OFC – The Oceania Football Confederation
- UEFA: The Union Of European Football Associations
Each continental zone is given an allotted number of places at the forthcoming World Cup, based largely on the perceived strength of the confederations. The various organisations are then entitled to come up with their own manner of qualification, with the aim being that only the very best teams get through. The host nation doesn’t need to go through this process, gaining a place in the World Cup automatically.
Once the various teams that will represent each confederation have been decided upon, they will move on to play in the World Cup Finals proper. The competition usually takes place in the summer, though that will not be the case for the 2022 World Cup when it be hosted in Qatar and the heat in the country means that the World Cup will be played in the winter instead.
Eight teams are seeded ahead of the tournament, with the host nation being joined by seven others. Each seeded team is put into a group and joined by three other teams, which are drawn at random. Those four teams then go head-to-head in a mini round robin tournament to decide upon the teams that will make it through to the knockout stage of the competition.
The teams that make it through to the knockout rounds then go up against each other, with group winners playing against the runners-up from one of the other groups. The way that the rounds work teams will know who their possible opponents will be right the way through to the final depending on which teams win which rounds.
The final sees the two semi-final winning teams go head-to-head to be declared world champions. There is also a third-place play-off between the two losing semi-finalists.
New Format From 2026 Onward
FIFA have decided to expand the tournament even further from 2026 onwards, with 48 teams taking part. Whilst many football fans would be forgiven for thinking that that will inevitably dilute the quality of the competition, there’s no doubt that it will also allow more nations to take part and mean more football for supporters to watch, which is never a bad thing.
The group stage will feature 16 groups rather than the previous 8, having three teams in each rather than four. The top two sides in each group will then take part in the knockout stage, which will begin with a round of 32 rather than 16 as it does currently.
Previous Winners, Finals & Host Nations
|1930||Uruguay||Uruguay v Argentina||Uruguay|
|1934||Italy||Italy v Czechoslovakia||Italy|
|1938||France||Italy v Hungary||Italy|
|1950||Brazil||Uruguay v Brazil||Uruguay|
|1954||Switzerland||Hungary v West Germany||West Germany|
|1958||Sweden||Brazil v Sweden||Brazil|
|1962||Chile||Brazil v Czechoslovakia||Brazil|
|1966||England||England v West Germany||England|
|1970||Mexico||Brazil v Italy||Brazil|
|1974||West Germany||Netherlands v West Germany||West Germany|
|1978||Argentina||Argentina v Netherlands||Argentina|
|1982||Spain||Italy v West Germany||Italy|
|1986||Mexico||Argentina v West Germany||Argentina|
|1990||Italy||West Germany v Argentina||West Germany|
|1994||United States of America||Brazil v Italy||Brazil|
|1998||France||Brazil v France||France|
|2002||Japan & South Korea||Brazil v Germany||Brazil|
|2006||Germany||France v Italy||Italy|
|2010||South Africa||Spain v Netherlands||Spain|
|2014||Brazil||Argentina v Germany||Germany|
|2018||Russia||Croatia v France||France|
|2022||Qatar||? v ?||?|
As you might expect, the method of deciding the host nation for the World Cup is a complex one and has been involved in some controversy over the years. Above we look at the hosts for various years as well as the side that eventually won.
As you can see from the above table, no team has appeared in more finals that Germany if you include their appearances as a divided nation, whilst the host nation has won the tournament on six occasions to date.
A Potted History Of The World Cup
When England played Scotland in the world’s first ever international match in 1872, the game’s popularity proved that there was an appetite to see countries go up against each other. The result was the formation of the British Home Championship, which took place for the first time in 1884 and saw England, Scotland, Wales and the then-united Ireland go head-to-head to decide upon the best football team in Britain.
As football began to spread around the rest of the world, so too did the desire to see nations go up against each other. Football was played as a demonstration sport as part of the Summer Olympics in both 1900 and 1904. It was in the latter year that the Fédération Internationale de Football Association was formed, more popularly known as FIFA. In 1906 the newly formed organisation made an attempt at organising a competition of its own, but it wasn’t successful.
The Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy
In 1908 football was included in the Olympics as a competitive event, though only amateur players were allowed to take part, which gave it the feeling of a show rather than a competitive version of the sport that was becoming ever more popular. Great Britain won the Gold medal, but the fact that not many people took it seriously annoyed Sir Thomas Lipton, the man behind the famous teas of the same name.
The result was that he organised his own football tournament in Turin in 1909. He invited football clubs from different countries to represent their homeland, resulting in Germany, Switzerland and Italy turning up. The competition lacked any English clubs because the country’s FA banned them all from taking part. This was a show of power from the Football Association at a time when FAs were all battling for superiority and the right to control the game.
FIFA Agrees To The Summer Olympics
As FIFA grew in strength and football began to settle down in terms of how it was run, the Summer Olympics continued to be the only tournament that counties from around the world were invited to take part in. Prior to the 1920 Summer Olympics FIFA finally agreed to recognise the football tournament as a ‘world football championship for amateurs’. The result being that the 1920 football tournament at the Summer Olympics was the first to be an official intercontinental offering.
FIFA became a professional organisation in 1924 and the Summer Olympics in both that year and in 1928 were seen as being ‘Open World Championships’. They were both won by Uruguay but, to use a cliche, football was the real winner. It was shown that there was a genuine desire to see football played in a competitive manner from teams all around the world, so the President of FIFA, Jules Rimet, began to push the organisation to host a tournament of its own that was not part of the Summer Olympics.
The First World Cup
Most of you will no doubt recognise the name of Jules Rimet, so it doesn’t take much to work out that he got his wish. The first World Cup was played in 1930 and hosted by Uruguay, with Rimet himself getting involved in order to ensure that Yugoslavia, Belgium, Romania and France were all willing to make the trip to South America from Europe in order to take part. In the end thirteen different nations took part in the inaugural World Cup, which was eventually won by Uruguay when they beat Argentina 4-2 in front of a crowds of 93,000 people.
Whilst it was obviously as a success as tournament, you must remember that travel wasn’t as easy back then as it is today. When the decision was taken get Italy to act as hosts for the World Cup in 1934, therefore, the South American teams did as many European sides had done four years earlier and mostly refused to travel. The same was true when France were hosts four years later, with just Brazil and Cuba coming from outside of Europe to take part in the competition.
British Teams Join & Tournament Expands
The Second World War resulted in the World Cup not being hosted in either 1942 or 1946, when Germany and Brazil respectively were supposed to host. British teams, which had refused to join FIFA initially, were invited to join in 1946 and did so, making them eligible for the tournament that was to be hosted by Brazil in 1950. Uruguay were also happy to return to the fold after deciding not to take part in the World Cups hosted in Europe during the 1930s. They returned as defending champions despite the fact that both of the European tournaments were won by Italy, proving their worth by defeating Brazil 2-1 to retain their crown.
After the success of the World Cup in 1950 things began to change rather rapidly. The dominance of teams from Europe and South America was seen as something of a problem for FIFA to deal with, given that only the US, Cuba, North Korea and Mexico had made it out of the first round by the time that the 1970 iteration of the competition was complete. In 1982, therefore, the decision was taken to expand the tournament to 24 teams for the first time. The hope was the sides from Africa, North America and Asia would be able to be genuinely competitive and whilst they added to the entertainment and popularity of the competition, European and South American teams have continued to be the dominant force in it.
The World Cup itself hasn’t necessarily been embroiled in too many controversies, unless you’re talking about moments on the pitch that caused a ruckus for the teams involved. A Thierry Henry handball during a qualifying match against the Republic of Ireland went unnoticed by the officials in the build-up to a goal, for example, allowing his team to score and French to make the finals at the expense of the Irish.
Yet FIFA themselves have been embroiled in numerous scandals that have then had an impact on the World Cup. The most obvious example came in 2015 when the organisation was engulfed by claims of bribery and corruption, with many believing that it influenced the awarded of the host nations. This was particularly likely in the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, which is a small nation with little footballing heritage but plenty of money thanks to its access to oil.