The World Cup has come and gone. For many, it was the best yet, even though it was not short of controversial moments that will remain open for debate down the years.
France were deserved winners on this occasion, with Didier Deschamps becoming part of a rare breed to have won football’s greatest prize as a player and as a manager.
It is here that the first of several talking points, which could influence betting on international football for years to come, comes to light
Vive La France
For France, the twenty years between the nation’s two World Cup wins to date have been tumultuous, to say the least.
In a sad indictment of how wrong the French project went after an additional triumph at Euro 2000, many people will most readily remember the ‘Zidane incident’ as the standout moment of French football in the past two decades.
That has now changed, but a World Cup win may have the opposite effect amongst the more superstitious punter.
It was a run broken in emphatic fashion by the French this year, but until 2014, ‘Les Bleus’ had a curious tendency to alternate ‘bad’ World Cups with good ones.
In 2002, as defending champions, France failed to score a single goal and finished bottom of the group.
Four years later, they reached the final made infamous by Zinedine Zidane, before finishing bottom of their group again in 2010. 2014 was another strong World Cup for France.
While the class of 2018 proved able to break the cycle, the cautionary tale remains. Four out of the last five World Cups have seen the champions fall at the first hurdle.
A German side fancied to storm through a group containing South Korea, Mexico and Sweden was the latest victim of this alarming trend.
Thus, the more cynical neutral may consider putting a lay bet against France progressing from the group stage in the 2022 World Cup. The Qatari climate is like no other and could be potentially disadvantageous to European teams.
Whether in the pub or the studio, no recollection of this year’s World Cup will ever be without some mention of VAR – a.k.a Video Assistant Referee.
Though the technology itself is still relatively young, it is just a question when – not if – VAR will become the norm at club level across the world. For now, it is restricted largely to international football, but VAR-related bets are inevitable and will come sooner than many realise.
Every bookmaker needs a unique selling point, and if ‘Neymar to dive against Costa Rica, but get caught by VAR’ becomes a hot draw, so be it.
Of course, not everyone is convinced by what VAR brings to the modern game. Ultimately, the final decision lies with the referee, and there are some incidents which remain impossible to judge, even with the multiple replay angles granted by VAR.
In terms of VAR’s influence on international football betting, bookmakers may also need to give their customers a way out of an in-play bet on the occasions it is needed.
Indeed, there have already been isolated offers for money back if VAR rules out a decision that affects payout.
Yet, in the interest of corporate stability, a greater sense of diplomacy is going to be needed in the coming years, as VAR seeps into club level football, such as in the Bundesliga, MLS and the FA Cup.
Mbappe vs Neymar: The New Messi vs Ronaldo
Though the exertions of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in the Champions League make them contenders for the Ballon d’Or, the World Cup alone has seen bets on Kylian Mbappe winning it in December becoming rife.
With these two finding their fates entwined at a relatively early age, a 'Brazil-France' each way bet will be popular in the 2022 World Cup, but the effect of this perceived rivalry ripples further than many realise.
Although Mbappe and Neymar were already well-known as superstars, the fact that they are now both teammates shrouded what could be a great rivalry, albeit a friendly one.
Once again, all the talk was about Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, and with the two thirty-somethings being tied on five Ballon d’Or trophies apiece, the 2018 World Cup was supposed to be the one that decided the better man once and for all.
Of course, the reality was very different. They never got that dream matchup, with both men exiting the tournament at the last sixteen, on the same day Mbappe enjoyed a brace against Argentina.
Mbappe continued to wreak havoc, up until the moment he lifted the trophy his exertions richly deserved. While Neymar emerged from the tournament more villain than hero after his infamous dive against Belgium, the fact remains that he is man enough to ignore the jibes, and will once more tear teams apart in next season’s Ligue 1.
In terms of betting, Mbappe’s World Cup performances have merely served to yet further cement PSG’s status as odds-on favourites to win the league in 2018/19.
Additionally, there is currently a culture for backing Paris Saint Germain to complete a quintuple of trophies, starting with the Trophée des Champions.
The club achieved quadruples in 2014/15 and 2015/16, and while no French team has ever won a quintuple, it will either be the PSG squad of today that does it, or nobody at all.
England At Risk Of Relegation?
This autumn will see the first matches of the inaugural UEFA League of Nations take place.
As a refreshing change from pointless, disruptive friendly matches – or a useless ‘training exercise’ against the likes of Andorra or San Marino – this is the tough love that most underachieving European nations have needed for years.
Gareth Southgate’s men, now the fourth-best team in the entire world, are in Group 4 of League A. Winning the group will see the Three Lions proceed to the League of Nations semi-finals in June 2019, which itself is a means to qualification for Euro 2020.
Finishing second will see England staying put in League A, while a bottom-place finish will result in relegation to League B. In that nether realm of this new competition, the only prize is promotion.
On the evidence of the last World Cup, England look to be in danger of relegation. By a cruel quirk of fate, England’s first game is at home to a Spain team that remains a threat, despite bowing out of the World Cup one round before England.
Use #bbcfootball— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) August 27, 2018
Gareth Southgate is set to name his first post-World Cup squad later this week, but has anyone done enough to catch his eye?
How many of England's 23 from Russia will remain?
Will there be any shock or surprise inclusions?
? https://t.co/Kpywq8j8WE pic.twitter.com/T5A4LRMCW5
No England side has beaten Spain (without penalties) in a competitive game since Euro 1980, and worse yet, that game will be followed up by a trip to Zagreb, against their World Cup tormentors Croatia – ably captained by Luka Modric.
For those planning on using the World Cup as a means to placing a bet on a team with odds against their relegation to League B, Germany are also potential candidates.
German teams seldom stay down for long after underachievement, with an appearance at the 2002 World Cup final after group stage elimination at Euro 2000 being a notable example of Teutonic tenacity.
Regardless, the German squad still has a relatively low average age, and only time can tell how much the deposed world champions will be affected by group stage elimination at this year’s World Cup.
Being drawn into Group 1, alongside new champions France and a Netherlands side that cannot fail to improve on the nightmare that has been the last three years, Germany’s place in League A is also far from a given.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*