World Cup 2022: Five key takeaways from the group stages

December 05, 2022 / Kambi

The group stages of the World Cup have served up a great deal of entertainment for fans all over the globe, and with that have come extensive opportunities for sports betting operators to capitalise on the buzz the tournament is creating.

Cody Gakpo of the Netherlands can stake a worthy claim to being the tournament’s breakout star so far, scoring three goals and orchestrating the side’s attacking play. Tyler Adams’ steely displays have been a revelation at the heart of midfield for the USMNT, Marcus Rashford has handed Gareth Southgate an England selection headache with two goals against Wales, while France’s Kylian Mbappé has looked a level above the opposition at times.

This has come alongside some noteworthy exits. Germany, the fifth most popular team in the outrights on the Kambi network ahead of the tournament, has been the biggest casualty after failing to get out of the group stages for the second World Cup in succession, while it has seemed like one tournament too far for certain members of Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’. Tipped by many as dark horses ahead of the tournament, Denmark were also unable to rediscover the form that took them to the semi-finals of Euro 2020, exiting thanks to a finely struck finish from Australia’s Mathew Leckie.

The dozens of fixtures we have experienced so far have served up plenty of talking points worth dissecting in this latest edition of Kambi’s World Cup Insights. Below, we take a deeper look at some of the key takeaways as we approach the business end of the competition.

1. The increasing popularity of stats bets

It was always my opinion before the World Cup that stats bets and player props was going to be a key theme of the tournament – and Kambi network data certainly shows this to be the case so far. This was a trend we saw really come to the fore at Euro 2020, which then continued into the current domestic season, and ahead of the 2022 World Cup Kambi vastly increased the number of stats-based markets it offers as a result. As such, we have seen a notable increase in popularity of these kind of bets among players across the network, particularly when combined into a single Bet Builder bet with nearly 20% of such bets containing a new stats bet

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2. The battle for customer retention takes shape

Customer retention is always front of mind for sports betting operators around any major sporting event. Tournaments like the World Cup represent a fantastic opportunity to attract new customers, and having a depth and quality of product which can encourage those players to stick around is paramount. This has been placed into especially sharp focus at the 2022 World Cup, given the comparatively short turnaround between the tournament’s final game on 18 December and the restart of domestic football leagues such as the Premier League and La Liga.

At the conclusion of the second round of group stage games, Kambi found that more than 70% of all non-match pre-tournament bettors placed bets on both rounds of games. What was especially noteworthy was the significance of a quality bet builder for customer engagement: approximately 80% of bet builder users during the first round of group stage games returned to bet on the second round.

The third round of group fixtures also featured concurrent games for the first time at the tournament. These matches emphasised the importance of a strong live offering and the potential for driving additional engagement with the sportsbook that comes with fixtures taking place alongside each other. By way of example, more than half of all live bettors on the Kambi network who engaged with Wales versus England and Iran versus USA placed bets on both matches.


3. The easing impact of extended injury time

The fact that stoppage time has been significantly longer at this World Cup than we have come to expect had heralded a specific set of challenges for sportsbooks. England and Iran’s record-setting 117-minute contest is just one example of games more than going the distance at this tournament.

The benefit of bettors having more time to place live wagers, driving an uptick in activity, also coincided with a need to carefully monitor betting patterns and update our injury time expectancy accordingly. Vigilance and proactivity from trading teams was required as we adapted to this ‘new normal’, but with the trading expertise we have in place and sophisticated modelling the situation is now far more settled.


4. VAR continues to cause controversy

There have been numerous questionable VAR decisions in this tournament so far, but few were more controversial than Japan’s winner against Spain or in the final seconds of the France versus Tunisia match on Wednesday. In the latter game, the reigning champions thought they had snatched an equaliser deep into injury time, and after the full-time whistle had been blown, but the goal was disallowed for offside following an intervention by the VAR team and pitchside review by referee Matthew Conger.

In this instance, and as was the case earlier in the tournament with the increased injury time, our traders had to react at speed to what was a unique situation and is another good example of where human input and trading expertise is required to coalesce with cutting-edge algorithmic modelling.

5.Interest continues to build in the US

The final quarter of the year is a busy one for US sports. NFL has been in full swing since September, the MLB season culminated in a World Series win for the Astros, and both the NBA and NHL seasons got underway in October. While soccer can’t match those sports for popularity across the pond, we are seeing interest in the World Cup continue to build on the Kambi US network.

For example, turnover for the USMNT games is approximately double that of any other games in the tournament, while turnover increased 32% in game two compared to game one and 44% in game three compared to game two. Now the US has made it into the knockout stages, it will be interesting to see just how much appetite American bettors have for the World Cup if they manage to progress even further by beating the Netherlands in the round of 16.


Originally appeared on EGR Intel