Football Markets Guide
Football is recognised as the world's most loved sport, being played on the streets everywhere from Stockholm to Sao Paulo, and watched all over the globe on millions of TV sets. Thanks to the widespread broadcasting of football, you don't need to be in the stadium to enjoy the buzz of two teams going at it. And even if you don't support one of the clubs involved, football betting can make each match important, adding to the engagement and anticipation of every game.
Before you start betting on football, it’s important to understand how football betting markets work, the types of bets that are available and what football betting odds mean. So let’s look further into all the football betting essentials, including how to bet on 'The Beautiful Game', what you can bet on, the different types of bets you can make, and the main competition formats you can expect.
How to guide on placing a bet on football
From international showpieces like the World Cup and European Championships to the top domestic club leagues like the Premier League and La Liga, football gives us a packed calendar full of meaningful matches to bet on. Football markets offer some of the most high profile competitions in the world, as well as a plethora of domestic competitions to dive into. Whether you like to place regular bets on football, have the occasional punt from time to time, or are getting started with sports betting, it seems there is never a shortage of fixtures on which to place wagers - but what are the kind of bets you can make?
Many of the available football bets you will see concern the outcome, or events within, a match between two teams. Betting on the outcome of a football match is perhaps the most common type of bet placed within football betting markets. However, along with backing who will win a particular match, there is a range of markets that are typically offered on each game, and we will break down the different types of match bets available in more detail further down the page.
It isn't just the winner of matches, or events within matches, which you can bet on. There are markets for the overall winner of competitions that allow you to place a bet on the eventual champion. It could be a knockout tournament played over a period of a few weeks (such as the World Cup and European Championships), European knockout competitions spread over the course of a season (such as the Champions League and Europa League), or domestic league seasons which last for the majority of the year (such as La Liga, Serie A, the Bundesliga or The Premier League outright betting).
This type of betting allows you to predict the best team over the course of a competition, rather than just one game. This might mean that there is less chance of an upset or unlikely outcome. But not always - remember Leicester City's amazing Premier League title win in 2015/16? They were available at 5,000-1 to become champions at one stage.
But it’s not only the outright winner of competitions that you can bet on. In league formats, you can place wagers on whether a team will finish in the top 2, 3, or 4 positions and so on. You may also place a bet on whether a team will be relegated to the division below after finishing in the bottom two or three positions. Or you could pick the specific teams you think will be relegated. For example in English Premier League relegation betting, you might place a bet on one or more teams that you think will be relegated to the Championship come the end of the season.
Each-way betting in football means you can pick a team to win a competition, or simply reach the final. This effectively halves your stake into two different bets - one for the tournament win, and the other for reaching the final, or in the case of a league format, coming second.
Individual Football Player Betting
While football is a team sport, it also relies on the brilliance of individuals. As such, there are individual accolades that you can wager on. Top goalscorer in a particular competition is a popular example of betting on individuals. There are also events relating to individual players that you can bet on within matches - we will cover this in our section on the different types of football bets available.
Each year, there are several awards handed out to the best players in a country (e.g. PFA Player of the Year), continent (e.g. Ballon d'Or), or around the world (e.g. FIFA World Player of the Year). You may also find markets for the winner of these awards, available to bet on every season.
In-Play Football Betting
Over the past few years, football betting online has been taken to the next level with in-play betting. This type of live football betting sees the odds change as the match progresses. In general, most of the markets available before a match will also be available in-play. But there can be some exceptions, such as the first goalscorer for instance.
In-play betting offers the opportunity to 'see how the land lies' before placing a bet. It means you can wait for certain odds to lengthen before pouncing, or just watch some of the action to get a feel for the game before placing a wager.
In-play betting also means that you can adapt your betting style depending on how the game seems to be unfolding, potentially recovering some of the losses you think might be incurred if the game doesn’t seem to be going how you originally anticipated.
Which Types Of Football Bet Are Available?
Now let's hone in on football match betting specifically. Which kind of bets can you expect when betting on a match? Here are some of the most common:
Match Outcome In Football Betting
This might be the most common type of bet in football. Match outcome requires you to predict the outcome of a fixture. So you would place a wager on either team winning, or a draw. Depending on which team is more highly rated, who is playing at home, and recent form, odds can vary significantly for a match outcome.
Over/Under Football Bet
An over/under bet in football is whether there will be over or under a certain amount of goals during a game. This is typically set as 0.5, 1.5, 2.5, 3.5 and upwards. If you think that a game is bound to produce a few goals - perhaps due to the weakness of the respective defences - you might be tempted by the odds for an over, whereas when two teams with misfiring attacks and solid defences meet, the under might seem more attractive.
For example, a bet on under 2.5 goals means that the match would need to finish 1-1, 2-0, 0-0 or any combination where the total number of goals in the game was under 2.5 i.e. 2 or less.
Remember, the odds are likely to reflect the defensive and attacking capabilities of two teams - so just because two teams tend to score a lot of goals, that doesn't necessarily mean that the value is in the over. As with other types of football match bet, factors such as form and team selection should also be considered.
When you place a bet on the correct score, there is typically higher risk than a match outcome or over/under bet. A correct score bet simply requires you to predict the final score at the end of the match. This is a potentially more profitable bet which you can lengthen the odds of further by betting on a correct score double or accumulator (we will cover these types of bets further on in this section). If you have a hunch that a game will finish as a particular scoreline, a correct score bet can be your chance to cash in. A good way to approach correct score betting is to consider if one or both teams will score at all. Once you have decided, then settle on the number of goals.
Both Teams To Score
Both teams to score (also known as BTTS and goal-no goal) is along the same lines as a correct score bet, but is a simpler choice - will both teams score during the match, or not? If you bet 'yes', a score of at least 1-1 is required for you to win, while taking 'no' on a BTTS bet in football sees you win if the game ends 0-0, or 1-0 to either side. BTTS has become popular on the in-play market, with events such as goals, substitutions and tactical changes having the ability to swing the odds.
Has a striker on one of the two teams found their shooting boots in recent weeks? Or perhaps a midfielder has a record of popping up with goals against a certain team? These are reasons why you might choose to place a first goalscorer bet, which quite simply requires you to pick which player on either team will score the first goal. This is a high risk but potentially profitable market, and seems sure to have you on the edge of your seat until the net bulges for the first time!
Handicap betting refers to a betting system that imposes a certain handicap on the favourite before the match starts. For example, if Bayern Munich played Schalke, a handicap market could have heavy favourites Bayern at -2 and underdogs Schalke at +2. That means if you placed a handicap bet on Schalke, you would win the bet if they won, drew, or lost by less than two goals. Conversely, if you picked Bayern in the same handicap market, they would have to win by more than two goals for the bet to win.
A football handicap bet could be part of a three-way handicap market, which would also have a betting option for the handicap tie (a handicap tie would be if Bayern won by two goals in this scenario), or in the case of no draw handicap betting, using decimal handicaps of 0.5, 1.5, 2.5 and so on, can ensure that there is no draw option, as the final handicap score will always be a win for either team.
Handicap betting is a way of 'levelling the playing field' in football matches with a heavy favourite and a big underdog. For example, the normal match outcome odds for Bayern Munich vs Schalke might be very slim for Bayern the favourites, making a punt on them appear pointless. Equally, you might think that Schalke have such a small chance of winning that there is little point in making a wager. With a handicap market, the odds are made more attractive thanks to the application of the respective handicaps.
Whether it is a double (two selections), a treble (three selections), four-fold, five-fold or upwards - an accumulator bet relies on all your selections winning in order for you to win the bet. However, if you pick five teams to win on an accumulator, also known as an ‘acca’ and they are all victorious, you can expect much higher winnings than if you had bet on them in five separate bets. That's because accumulators multiply together to give you a 'jackpot'. But remember - it just takes one selection to go wrong for your accumulator to return nothing.
When it comes to football accumulators, one of the most popular forms is to bet on a number of matches happening on the same day, or over the course of a few days. This means that win or lose, the result can be known reasonably quickly. Other types of football accas can include bets involving matches across a variety of leagues or competitions, or on matches taking place over the course of a season.
As with all types of sports betting, one of the most important pieces of information to look at when betting on football is the odds on offer for the wager you’d like to make. Being aware of the odds, along with your own opinion of how individual teams or players will perform can help you to find value in football betting markets.
If we take a typical bet on the outcome of a match between Manchester City and Sheffield United as an example. You might see the odds for the game shown as:
Manchester City: 1/6
Sheffield United: 15/1
The underdog - in this case, Sheffield United - would typically be listed at longer odds to win the game. This means that if you backed them to win and they went on to win the match, your profit would be larger than if you had backed the favourites, typically listed at shorter odds, and that team ended up as winners.
In this example, backing Man. City to win the game would mean that for every five pounds you bet on this outcome, you would receive a pound returned if the bet was successful. In this instance, a £5 bet on Manchester City to win the match would return £6 (£1 profit plus your initial stake) if they did in fact win the game. Conversely, betting on Sheffield United to win would mean that if successful, a £1 stake would return £16.
The available odds in a market represent the likelihood that a particular outcome will unfold. Longer odds mean that something is less likely to happen, and therefore while these bets can result in higher profits if successful, they do usually carry more risk. Understanding betting odds is therefore fundamental to identifying which bets you wish to back.
Football Betting Competition Formats
So which are the competitions you should be looking out for as a football bettor? In this section, we look at the most prominent cups and leagues that are contested, along with popular bets to make on outright markets.
Betting On International Football Tournaments
Seen by some as the pinnacle of the sport, tournaments such as the World Cup and European Championships only come around every four years, when they are sure to be the focus of sports fans and casual punters. After a long qualification process, the countries left in the competition will battle it out for international supremacy. These tournaments typically start with a group phase, followed by a knock-out competition which culminates in a final. While they are usually won by the traditional powerhouse countries - such as Brazil, Germany or Italy - every now and then, you might get a surprise winner. Think Greece at the 2004 Euros!
There is also the UEFA Nations League, which was set up to replace international friendlies. This can provide countries with an alternative route to the World Cup and European Championships qualification play-offs.
Popular bets include the winner, top goalscorer, a winner/top goalscorer double, naming the finalists, and predicting which teams will qualify from the group phase.
Betting On European Football
As the world’s most popular sport, it follows that betting on football is a big deal. As home to some of the biggest tournaments in the beautiful game, European football is watched by a global audience stretching to billions every year.
Football in Europe is dominated by the ‘big five’ domestic leagues along with the Champions League and the Europa League played out between qualifiers from individual nations.
Then every four years, the European Championships roll around featuring the major nations which make up UEFA, the governing body of football on the continent.
As well as betting on the results of matches and tournaments, every kick of a ball, every incident in a match, every passage of play and every feat achieved by individual players can be backed in online football betting.
It pays to know which leagues to follow, how each competition works and how to spot a little value that could provide an edge in your football picks to return a profit. Once you understand the basics of football betting, taking a look at European markets can offer a whole new world of options.
The UEFA Champions League is the most glamorous club competition in football. The annual tournament pits the biggest clubs and the best players in the world against each other.
The Champions League plays out in preliminary rounds before the group stage proper. The winners and runners-up of each pool then enter the knock-out stages which run through to the final usually played in late May or early June.
The premier teams from each country tend to qualify from the group stage, but from the round of 16 onwards, almost anything can happen because of the sheer quality of each team that has made it through.
Betting on the Champions League provides a range of opportunities, from selecting the overall winner of the tournament to betting on the outcome and events unfolding in individual Champions League matches throughout the season. And as one of the highlights of the European footballing calendar, Champions League final betting is always popular with fans as the two remaining teams go head to head for the chance to lift the European Cup.
The Europa League runs alongside the Champions League and sits second in terms of prestige. Betting on the Europa League is an entertaining affair thanks to its breadth of competition and unpredictable outcomes.
The Europa League tends to feature some of Europe’s less fashionable - yet mostly still massive - clubs. There’s a huge amount of games (almost double that of the Champions League) and there’s often a lot of goals and plenty of upsets, which means there’s plenty of opportunity to make all kinds of different European football wagers.
The Europa League follows a similar format to the Champions League with the additional edge that teams can move between the Europa League and the Champions League at certain stages of each competition.
Betting On The Biggest Domestic Leagues In European Football
The premier competitions in European domestic football are:
The English Premier League
With fans all over the world as well as in the UK, Premier League betting is one of the most popular markets of any domestic football competition. The Premier League season runs from August to May, with each of the 20 teams playing 38 matches.
The Bundesliga in Germany
With 18 teams each playing 36 games across the season which runs from August to May, there is plenty of opportunities to bet on the Bundesliga, with the top four teams at the end of the season qualifying for a spot in the Champions League.
Serie A in Italy
Italy’s top professional league features 20 clubs including the likes of Lazio, AC Milan and Inter who each play 38 games between August and May. Famous for a slightly slower-paced, defence-orientated style, football in Italy has some of the most passionate fans in attendance and betting on Serie A is popular throughout the world.
La Liga in Spain
Home to giants of club football Barcelona and Real Madrid, La Liga regularly attracts some of the most famous players in the game and has been rated as the top league in Europe by UEFA more times than any other. It’s perhaps no surprise that La Liga betting is also incredibly popular, with 20 clubs each playing 38 games during the season which usually runs from August to May.
Ligue 1 in France
Featuring 20 teams that each play 38 games between August and May, there are plenty of opportunities to bet on Ligue 1, France’s top-flight domestic football league. With some high profile clubs such as PSG, as well as a number of fierce rivalries, there’s always entertainment to be had throughout the season.
The unique nature of betting on the top tiers of European football is the breadth of quality on offer and the unique nature of each league. Which league is best is a debate as fierce as the rivalries which exist in each one:
- The English Premier League (EPL) is the wealthiest top division in the world.
- The Bundesliga attracts the largest average attendances.
- La Liga has the two richest clubs in the world.
- Ligue 1 can claim to be the fastest improving - propelled by the successes of the national team and Paris St Germain.
- Serie A is enjoying a huge renaissance in the quality on offer and its pure competitiveness.
Some of these leagues are dominated by one or two clubs such as Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain. Others have a handful of clubs likely to be in the running for the title each year such as the ‘top four’ in England. That can mean that the biggest teams are usually priced at short odds. It also means that an upset with a less likely winner could return a healthy profit.
Beyond the dominant clubs in each European league, there is enormous competition between those who tend to occupy the midtable positions and those who perennially battle against relegation. The annual fight against the drop in the EPL is as intense as the race for the title and generates almost as many column inches in the press.
Scouring Europe’s Other Leagues For Value Bets
It’s also worth looking further afield for some of the most exciting football in Europe. Take the Turkish Süper Lig which is renowned for the passion of its fans and the intense competition between the clubs of Istanbul - Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Besiktas.
The Portuguese Primeira Liga annually produces some of the finest young players on the continent plus teams who regularly perform better than the odds suggest in European competitions. Meanwhile, the Dutch Eredivisie has a legion of loyal followers who lap up the action for the entertaining football on offer.
To really gain an edge when betting on football it can even pay dividends to become an expert on one of the lesser-backed leagues. The Polish Ekstraklasa, Scottish Premier League and the Championship in England are as varied in the football on offer as they are the individual intrigue as to which teams will prosper.
Europe’s Best Cup Competitions To Bet On
Alongside league football in Europe, each nation has an assortment of cup competitions that operate on a knock-out format.
The FA Cup is the oldest cup competition in the world. Played in a one-leg format, the FA Cup is renowned for its ‘magic’ which regularly produces surprise results with the big clubs being knocked out by lesser opposition, and FA Cup betting can sometimes provide unlikely wins. Likewise, the Coupe de France is played in a similar format and actually tends to produce more upsets than its English equivalent.
Spain’s Copa del Rey differs in that all ties from the round of 32 to the semi-final stage are played over two legs. That means the top sides tend to be favoured as they are less likely to be knocked out by weaker teams.
The Coppa Italia only pits teams home and away in the semi-finals while the DFB-Pokal in Germany seeds teams in the early rounds meaning top Bundesliga sides are guaranteed to come up against opposition from the lower leagues. This either produces a near-certain outcome or a massive shock result.
How To Bet On European Football
The breadth of European football means there are dozens of competitions to bet on and thousands of matches every week. Once you’ve picked your league, competition, team or player to follow, the best chance of making a profit is to understand the bets on offer.
European Football Outright Bets
One of the most popular bet types is simply backing a team to win a tournament. This type of wager is known as an “outright”.
You don’t necessarily need to pick a winner before the competition starts. You can bet on a victor as the competition progresses but the odds will tend to fall as the likely eventual champions become clearer.
Match Result Bets In European Football
Match result markets are self-explanatory. The options are for a team to win the game within 90 minutes or you can bet on the outcome being a draw.
A double-chance bet allows you to cover two out of three outcomes of a match. You can back the home team or a draw, or the away team or a draw. The likelihood of a successful bet increases but the odds will be lower.
You will also find half-time/full-time bets. You are gambling that a team will be winning, drawing or losing at half-time, followed by them winning, drawing or losing at full-time. The odds on this type of bet tend to be higher than straight match result picks.
Over/Under Bets in European Football
The most popular type of bet in the over/under betting market is to predict that there will be over 1.5 or 2.5 goals in a match but it can be a higher number.
This is where research into the form of the teams can really pay - both in attack and defence. If a strong side with in-form goalscorers is coming up against a weaker defence, then over bets might be the ones to pick. If two defensive line-ups are facing each other, the under will often be the ones to look at.
Correct Score Betting In European Football
Difficult to get right, but the rewards can be high if you predict what the final score will be after 90 minutes of play. However, sometimes certain teams have a tendency to play out certain scorelines. For example, sometimes sides will have a tendency to gain a 1-1 draw. This could be as a result of the pattern of their play. Some teams go a goal ahead then try to hang on and later concede, while some have a habit of snatching a last gasp equaliser. Take a look at the form of each team and see if there is a trend like this.
Individual Player Markets In European Football
There are a huge number of bets you can place on individual players in games doing certain things. The most common is who will be the first goalscorer, the last goalscorer or will score at any time during the match.
You might find really good odds offered on a defender scoring who tends to come forward during attacking set-pieces or a player who is the manager’s favoured taker of penalties.
You will also find bets offered on who will receive a yellow card, who will be sent off or even how many shots on target a player will have. Some players are simply disciplined more often during a match than others or some will shoot on sight of goal and have more shots per game. Researching player stats can reap rewards with these types of bets.
Handicap Betting In European Football
Handicap betting is now incredibly popular in European football markets. A handicap is applied in a way that effectively levels the playing field between two teams.
Typically a strong team will have a -1.5 handicap against a weaker team, who will, in turn, have a +1.5 handicap. Simply this means your team would need to win by two goals or more when betting with a -1.5 handicap. If you choose to bet on the +1.5 handicap, your bet would win if your team won, drew, or lost by only one goal. All manner of other handicap levels are usually available on matches, including Champions League handicap betting options.
Accumulator Bets In European Football
Accas are massive in football. You combine multiple selections from more than one market and the odds will be multiplied to create a potentially massive payout, even on relatively small stakes. Lots of research here can really pay off if you pick a winning combination, and of course, it pays to understand how accumulator bets work before making your picks.
European Football In-Play Betting
Another type of betting which is now huge during football matches is gambling on outcomes as the match plays out live. The number of options you can bet on as the game is “in-play” can be enormous and adds to the pure entertainment of watching a fixture. With the quality of football on display in competitions such as the Champions League, in-play betting only helps to make the action on the pitch even more engaging.
How To Find Value In Betting On European Football
In its simplest terms, finding value in football betting means identifying an edge to help pick a market that will return a profit.
Because there are so many games in European football, with so many individual outcomes of competitions, matches and events during play, there is always value to be found somewhere.
There are all manner of calculations and strategies used by experienced punters to find value. But the basics of finding value in European football betting are to:
Identify underdogs who have a chance of victory.
Research results to find a team who may be coming into form at just the right time to upset the odds.
Identify a team whose likelihood of victory has been “underplayed” by the odds.
Follow football stats services to identify certain traits of teams. For example, a team may get a lot of corners in a match or more than the average number of yellow cards.
Monitor in-play betting markets to spot opportunities where odds change to provide better value.
All of that barely scrapes the surface of how to bet on European football. But that is the beauty of the beautiful game. Betting on football can be as simple or as in-depth as you make it, just like the game itself. Above all, have fun when betting and know your limits.
Betting On Domestic Football Leagues
As a global sport, domestic competitions take place all around the world and it’s usually possible to place bets on matches taking place in a range of different domestic leagues.
These leagues - such as the Premier League in England, Serie A in Italy, La Liga in Spain, Bundesliga in Germany, and Ligue 1 in France - can be considered the 'bread and butter' of our football diet, giving us a steady stream of fixtures across most of the year.
For example, Premier League betting, provides opportunities to bet on all of the games that take place over a season, as well as which team will be crowned champions once the season is over. The same is also true for Serie A betting for the Italian football season and La Liga betting for Spanish domestic football.
Popular domestic league football bets include the winner, which teams will be relegated, top goalscorer, next manager to leave their post, and if a team will finish in the top four.
So whether you’re a die-hard football fan or someone who is simply interested in finding the best betting options, this amazing sport continues to give us so much joy and excitement, along with a world of betting opportunities season after season. And while there are always teams who are considered to be the elite of world football, upsets do happen, which means that sometimes even the most unlikely of bets can pay off.