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How To Bet On World Cup Qualification

Betting on World Cup qualification is a great way to prepare for the World Cup proper. Our detailed guide will show you how to bet on the many and varied World Cup qualification betting markets.

Betting On World Cup Qualifiers: An Introduction

2016 was a big year in international football. We had both the Copa America and European Championships to enjoy over the summer but it is now time to turn our attention to the 2018 World Cup. This will be the first World Cup to be held in Russia and there is always a keen sense of intrigue as players, teams and fans travel to new areas. The World Cup remains the biggest prize in world football and every kid dreams of holding the famous trophy above their head when kicking a ball about in their gardens.

Before the 32 teams who will compete in Russia can be confirmed there is a lengthy qualification process to go through. The format differs quite wildly between the different continental federations and can be a little confusing so this article has been written to help you answer the question, how do teams qualify for the World Cup?


World Cup Qualification Betting Explained
World Cup Qualification Betting Strategies
How Do Teams Qualify For The World Cup
World Cup Qualification Bookmakers
World Cup Qualification Betting Tips
World Cup Qualification Live Streaming
How To Bet On World Cup Qualifiers

1 – World Cup Qualification Betting Explained

World Cup betting odds don’t begin when the finals get underway on 14 June 2018. If you know what you’re looking for there are numerous betting opportunities from the bookies during the qualification process of the 2018 World Cup.

Betting On World Cup Qualifiers In-Play

Let’s start with the in play betting options that are available to you. The first thing to note about the in play offering that the bookies have for World Cup qualifying is that the selection varies massively from confederation to confederation. The bookies now have their own information streams to get as many matches offered in play as possible but the number of markets offered for a UEFA qualifying game is going to be considerably higher than for a OFC match. If you have a particular betting market that you enjoy success from it is always worth cross checking the World Cup qualifiers 2018 schedule with the bookies’ upcoming in play markets before doing any research.

Sometimes the bookies will only be able to offer the most basic markets in play while some of the most obscure matches only have markets that are offered pre-play. If you are looking to make the most of your knowledge of African football for example, you would be advised to stick to the biggest bookies with the best in play offerings. Think the likes of Coral and Betfair. Oftentimes the selection of matches that will be offered in play comes down to luck so make sure to check the available markets first before doing too much research on an individual match.

World Cup Qualifiers Outright Betting

Of course, if you do have a particular insight into one part of the qualification process you can always wager on the various ante post and outright markets that the bookmakers have priced up.

The markets that are available depend on the format of the individual federations. For example, you’ll find a lot of markets when it comes to the group stage of UEFA’s qualification campaign (e.g. group winner, to qualify, top goalscorer) but there are fewer such markets with federations who have more knockout ties in their qualification format. When it comes to betting during qualification for the 2018 World Cup, group stages are your friend. From the moment that the World Cup qualifying 2018 draw was made the bookies put markets up allowing you to take advantage of your insights straight away. The nature of group stages means that there are always highs and lows which each bring about their own opportunities.

World Cup 2018 Betting Markets

Of course you can also make the most of the ante post markets for the World Cup already. The bookies currently include a large number of teams who can still qualify for the tournament with the runners being settled as losers as their chances of making it to Russia are ended. It is well worth having a look through the bookies’ odds for World Cup glory at this early stage as there is much value to be had.

2 – World Cup Qualification Betting Strategies

Understand The Qualification Process

Before you formulate any betting strategy to beat the bookies during qualification for the 2018 World Cup it is absolutely vital that you understand the various formats and intricacies of the different federations. You cannot approach the betting for UEFA qualification as you would CAF qualification. That point stands both for outright markets and markets for individual matches. Because of the various formats, different World Cup qualifying fixtures have different pressures and different requirements (depending on whether they are knockout or group stage match for example).

Look For Momentum

For federations that have a main group stage (think UEFA and CONMEBOL) it is well worth having a look at the way the fixtures have been drawn. International football is a strange game. Apart from major tournaments, managers have to try very hard to get any sense of momentum so when a team builds it up you should take note.

Wales are a very good example of this. They began their qualification campaign for Euro 2016 with three relatively easy matches before they had to face a tough spell of games. The confidence that Wales had gained from their good start helped them go on a run of form where they got seven points from two games against Belgium and one against Israel. Wales’ odds to qualify for Euro 2016 shortened considerably after that three game spell but if you had paid attention to the way that they started their campaign you could have been rewarded handsomely from that knowledge. 

Who is injured? Who is absent?

Similarly, the World Cup qualification 2018 tables will change quickly. Sticking with Wales, what would happen if they lost Gareth Bale to injury or suspension? Their form and results would undoubtedly suffer. As that happens, their odds to qualify for the 2018 World Cup will lengthen. That could be your time to pounce as you take the view that those odds will shorten when the talisman returns. Along with fixtures, make sure to stay abreast of the latest news regarding players’ absences.

Analyse Previous Qualification Campaigns

Before taking any of the World Cup qualifiers odds to progress to Russia, make sure to have a look at the team’s form in similar qualifying campaigns. For example, there is a general malaise around the England team following their shockers at both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 European Championships but generally, England are a good side in qualifying. Poor performance in a major tournament does not necessarily mean poor performances in the next qualifying campaign.

3 – How Do Teams Qualify For The World Cup?

It is hard to overestimate the size of the logistical challenge posed by World Cup qualification. There are 210 FIFA member associations, all of whom registered to qualify for the World Cup (except Russia who qualify automatically as the tournament hosts).

Top 20 Nations In Order Of World Cup Appearances

Team Appearances Record Streak Active Streak Debut
Brazil 20 20 20 1930
Germany 18 16 16 1934
Italy 18 14 14 1934
Argentina 16 11 11 1930
Mexico 15 6 6 1930
Spain 14 10 10 1934
England 14 6 5 1950
France 14 5 5 1930
Belgium 12 6 1 1930
Uruguay 12 4 2 1930
Serbia 11 4 0 1930
Russia 11 4 2 1958
Sweden 11 3 0 1934
United States 10 7 7 1930
Switzerland 10 4 3 1934
Netherlands 10 3 3 1934
South Korea 9 8 8 1954
Hungary 9 4 0 1934
Czech Republic 9 3 0 1934
Chile 9 2 2 1930


Qualification is split into six geographic areas so let’s have a look at what it takes to qualify from each jurisdiction.

World Cup Qualifying 2018 Africa

Qualification for African teams is overseen by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). In total there are 53 national sides fighting for five places at the finals in Russia. The first round of qualifying sees the lowest ranked 26 teams (as set out by the FIFA rankings) play 13 two-legged, home and away ties with the winners advancing to the second round where the rest of the teams are introduced. Again there is a two-legged tie played both home and away before the winners go through to round three. The final 20 teams are divided into five groups. After a round robin format the five teams who top their group come November 2017 will book their place in Russia.

World Cup Qualifying 2018 Asia

The Asian Football Confederation oversees the World Cup qualifying for sides from Asia and Australia. The AFC has a mammoth 46 teams all battling for a place at the World Cup and their qualifying campaign also starts with a two-legged first round between the confederation’s 12 lowest ranked national sides. The six victorious sides are added into a group stage which has eight groups of five teams. After a round robin format the eight group winners and the four best runners-up will not only advance to round three but also into the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. Round three is also a round robin, this time with two groups of six. The nations who finish in the top two will qualify for the World Cup with the two third-placed teams going into the inter-confederation playoffs. These playoffs mean we don’t yet know exactly how many World Cup qualifiers Asia will have at the finals.

World Cup Qualifying 2018 Europe

13 teams will make it through the World Cup qualifiers Europe holds, overseen by UEFA, the continent’s governing body. Unlike many of the other federations, UEFA do not have an early round of fixtures requiring the lowest ranked nations to enter the group stage. Instead there are only two rounds. The first round sees 52 teams seeded and divided into nine groups (with seven groups of six and two groups of five). The teams will play against each other home-and-away in a round robin format. Only the winners of the groups can be guaranteed of a place in the World Cup finals while the eight best runners-up will move to the playoff stage which sees a home and away tie of two legs deciding the final four teams who will be travelling to Russia in the summer of 2018.

World Cup Qualifying 2018 North America, Central America and the Caribbean

The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (known as CONCACAF) has 35 teams vying for just three guaranteed spots at the 2018 World Cup. There is a fairly convoluted process which begins with the 14 lowest ranked teams according to the FIFA rankings being drawn to play each other in a two-legged knockout tie. The seven winners are added to the teams ranked between ninth to 21st for another two-legged knockout round. That leaves 10 teams plus the seventh and eighth ranked teams for a further six two-legged knockout ties. The fourth round sees the remaining teams added to the six winners from the third round. They are split into three groups of four for a round robin group stage. The top two teams at the end of the fourth round progress to the fifth round which is often known as the ‘hexagonal’. That’s because the final round is one big group of six teams who play each other both home and away. The top three teams will qualify for the World Cup while the fourth placed team go into the inter-confederation playoffs.

World Cup Qualifying 2018 South America

The qualification process it is a lot more simple when it comes to CONMEBOL, the federation of South American football. As there are only 10 teams in CONMEBOL, there are no qualifying rounds to worry about, it’s straight into the action with one huge round robin group stage. After the 10 teams all play against one another both home and away the top four teams will qualify for a spot at the tournament in Russia while the fifth placed team go into the inter-confederation playoffs. The quality of the teams means that the World Cup qualifiers South America send to Russia will all have a decent chance of success at the finals.

World Cup Qualifying 2018 Oceania

The Oceania Football Confederation is the final section of qualifying for the World Cup although they do not offer a guaranteed spot for the finals in Russia – only a spot at the inter-confederation playoffs. The first round was completed between 31 August to 4 September 2015 when Samoa topped a round robin group that also included American Samoa, the Cook Islands and Tonga. The second round of World Cup qualifying doubled up as the OFC Nations Cup. The tournament was won by New Zealand but the teams who finished in the top three positions of the tournament’s two groups qualified for the third round of qualification. Those six teams are divided into two groups of three with the two winners meeting in a two-legged tie to decide who will get a chance at the inter-confederation playoffs.

Inter-Confederation Playoffs

The format for the matchups of the inter-confederation playoffs have already been decided. The first playoff will be between the fourth placed CONCACAF team and the fifth placed AFC team. The second is between the OFC winners and CONMEBOL’s fifth placed side.

4 – World Cup Qualification Bookmakers

The bookmakers know that football betting remains incredibly popular and they are always looking to improve the offering for their customers. However, much of that improvement in coverage is focussed around the domestic side of the game. When it comes to international football it is well worth sticking with the best bookies for football betting.

Some bookmakers, for example, have an almost unrivalled number of markets and some great value for the World Cup qualifiers. They are also the most reliable bookmaker when it comes to in play football which is very important for the more obscure games. The Betfair exchange is also well worth keeping your eye on as there are some massive prices that you can take advantage of if you are savvy enough.

As we’ve seen, the opportunities you’ve got are not just limited to in play betting. Outright betting can be highly lucrative if you have accounts with bookmakers who have a complete offering. The traders at both Ladbrokes and Coral have priced up a huge selection of markets for World Cup qualifying.

It’s not just the markets and odds though. When you place a bet on an outright there is always the risk that your betting balance will be tied up in the market for a long time. For that reason, it pays to have accounts either with the exchanges or with traditional bookmakers who allow you to cash out of your positions. That extra bit of control is a huge weapon to add to your betting arsenal as you can withdraw your funds or reinvest them into further betting opportunities.

5 – World Cup Qualifying Betting Tips

In Europe the draw for the qualification group stage was made in July. Because of the varying difficulty of the World Cup qualifying groups 2018 should provide a good summer for some of the continent’s biggest nations.

The new England manager has been given a great chance to get his feet under the desk with a number of winnable games. England will have to get through two highly charged games against Scotland and beat Slovakia (something they couldn’t do in Euro 2016) but heading into qualification they are a great price to win their group and they should oblige.

Wales too have been given a fairly good draw. There are potential pitfalls with the likes of Serbia, Austria and the Republic of Ireland to play but Chris Coleman’s men believe that they belong at the elite level after their performances at the European Championship.

The last of our World Cup qualifiers betting tips from UEFA concerns Group A where France and the Netherlands have been drawn against each other. The Dutch will be desperate to make it through after missing out on the Euros but this is a talented French team who can top the group.

Over in the CONCACAF region, Mexico are looking a very tough side to stop. They’ve come through every challenge they’ve faced so far seamlessly so make sure to bet on them booking a place at the 2018 World Cup.

For more betting tips, check our 2018 World Cup Qualification betting tips page. With such a diverse tipster community, our tipsters have a keen eye on all upcoming World Cup qualification action.

6 – World Cup Qualification Live Streaming

The nature of qualifying for the World Cup means that there is no one place that will broadcast all of the matches.

In the UK, the coverage will be split between ITV and Sky Sports. ITV have the rights for England matches both home and away while Sky Sports will cover the other home nations as well as providing highlights of games involving England and all other teams taking part in qualifying.

A number of online bookies stream live football for their customers and it is always worth keeping an eye on in the lead up to individual matches to see where you can stream qualifying matches for the 2018 World Cup.

For more information on bookmaker live streams, please read our guide to accessing bookmaker live streams.

7 – How To Bet On World Cup Qualifiers

The qualifying process for the 2018 World Cup is, as you have seen, a complicated and drawn out process. Each individual confederation has their own rules, regulations and formulas for teams to qualify for the finals in Russia. However, by understanding the different hurdles that teams have to navigate in order to qualify, you can better get a handle on the process and make some informed World Cup qualifiers predictions.

One of the best things about the various processes that the teams have to go through is the plethora of different betting markets available to us. You can get involved in hundreds of individual matches, each of which have multiple betting markets, and you can take advantage of the changing broader picture by heading to the many outright betting markets that have been priced up.

As we have seen, it is vital to keep abreast of the latest news and form before having a bet on any of the World Cup qualifying action. The situation can change quickly as can the actual make-up of the teams. Unlike club football, international managers have a large pool of talent that they can draw from. Often times, the team that plays in the first match of qualifying will be vastly different from the team that plays in the first match of the finals. As the team changes, you can step in to place some winning bets.

There are sure to be many shocks from now until the end of qualifying, if you take the lessons from this article you can hopefully approach the World Cup finals with a boost to your betting balance.