Cup finals can often be a minefield for bettors, as there are so many variables in play. Managers often employ different strategies to the ones they used in the league or earlier stages of the tournament; players either thrive in the intense environment or buckle under the overwhelming pressure, and even referees are desperate not to make the wrong call.
With all these things to consider, it’s wise to change your betting strategy for cup finals. Here, we provide an in-depth guide to the things you need to watch out for when betting on knockout stages and finals, and provide useful information to help you when you plan your bets.
Dubious Refereeing Decisions
Referees are arguably under more pressure than the players in cup finals because it’s their decisions that could have huge implications for who wins the competition. If they end up making a mistake, they could incur the wrath of tens of thousands of supporters and end up spending the rest of their days adjudicating in the lower leagues.
But it’s these high stakes that often force referees into making terrible decisions. Therefore, staking on referees to make mistakes could prove fruitful. One of the most common errors in history is allowing goals to stand that shouldn’t have, or not awarding goals that had crossed the line.
There are some prime examples of these occurrences happening in major matches throughout history. England fans will remember their match against Germany in the Round of 16 at South Africa 2010. The Three Lions were trailing 2-1 until Frank Lampard pulled the scores level with a beauty of a strike from outside the area.
The ball bounced in off the crossbar but then struck the upright again and fell out of the goal. It was clearly over the line but referee Jorge Larrionda waved play on and England ended up capitulating in a 4-1 loss.
One of the most famous cases of a goal being given which should have in fact been a sending off was the “Hand of God.”
In the 1986 World Cup quarter-final between Argentina and England, Diego Maradona intentionally struck the ball with his hand to score a goal. The strike was awarded to Argentina who went on to win the match as well as the tournament.
Form Players Often Produce In The Final
You may think that betting on the likes of Lionel Messi to score in a cup final is a sure thing but even the best players in the world can feel the pressure in the latter stages of a tournament. The 2014 World Cup final was a prime example of superstars faltering.
Lionel Messi wasted a golden opportunity when through on goal, while Gonzalo Higuaín also bottled what should have been a sitter. David Villa also failed to score in the 2010 World Cup final despite being one of the top scorers in the competition.
While these historic moments may put you off betting on the obvious choice in the goalscorer markets, it’s wise to see which players have had strong form going through each stage of the tournament in question. They often carry it right through until the end.
For instance, in the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, Brazil’s Ronaldo had scored six goals on his way to the final and was in fine form. In the last match against Germany, he bagged another two to secure the Golden Boot and the World Cup trophy.
Cristiano Ronaldo has proven time and time again to be a reliable bet for doing the business in a Champions League final. He has scored three goals in his last two finals in the ultimate European tournament, and also ended those competitions with the Golden Boot.
In 2010-11, Messi won the Golden Boot and also scored in the final against Manchester United, while Neymar was the joint top scorer in 2014-15 and bagged a goal in the victory over Juventus.
The conclusion here is that betting on form players in the goalscorer markets in the Champions League final often produces returns.
How Often Do Matches Go To Extra-Time?
If you decide to bet on a winner in a cup final, you need to stipulate whether you think that your team will win in normal time or after extra time and penalties. The odds will change for each of these markets. If you bet on a team to win and they prevail in extra time, you may lose your bet if you haven’t specified that you think that team will win the match at any time.
Of the 17 Champions League finals played since the turn of the century, seven have gone to extra time. Six of those seven games also progressed to a penalty shootout to settle the tie.
Five of the matches in question were tied at 1-1 before extra time, while the famous Liverpool and AC Milan encounter of 2005 was knotted up at three goals apiece by the end of the ninety minutes. The only goalless draw that led to extra time was played between Milan and Juventus at Old Trafford in 2003.
Of the twenty World Cup finals played to date, seven of them have gone on to extra time. Two of those seven have been settled on penalties. Over time, there has been a 35 percent chance of the match going beyond the 90 minutes. But in the last six tournaments since 1994, extra time has become more frequent.
In fact, there have been four occasions when the match has gone on past the 90, with two of those games going to a penalty shootout. Three World Cup finals have been tied at 1-1 before extra time, three at 0-0, and one at 2-2.
In the last three finals, the teams have been level at 0-0 twice and 1-1 once. For this reason, betting on a goalless or low scoring draw in the World Cup final in Russia this summer could be fruitful.
These statistics highlight how cup finals are frequently tight affairs which could go either way. The teams that make it to the last game of the tournament have battled and brushed aside strong teams to get there, so the standard of football is always extremely high. In addition to that, neither side wants to let it slip at the pivotal stage.
What’s The Average Number Of Goals Scored?
In the last twenty Champions League finals, there have been 58 goals, giving an average of 2.9 goals scored per game. In that time period, there has only been one 1-0 victory, while the most frequent result is 2-1, of which there have been five.
In six of those twenty games, a team has managed to keep a clean sheet, highlighting how betting on both teams to score in the final can be a fairly sure bet. Again, of the twenty World Cup tournaments played to date, there have been 71 goals scored in the final. This gives an average of 3.5 goals per game.
These stats are slightly skewed by the high-scoring games of old and, since 1990, there has only been one game that has produced three goals or more. It seems that modern sides play much tighter nowadays, and there have only been six goals scored in the last four finals.
While cup finals can often be quite unpredictable, there is the opportunity to have some fun with your bets. Try looking into more obscure markets such as whether players will shave their national flags into their heads, or whether a player will cry. Ronaldo, for instance, was odds-on to shed tears at the 2014 World Cup and bettors were duly rewarded.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*