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World Cup: TradeSports' World Cup Contests

Jerry Donabedian

Jerry Donabedian

Jerry Donabedian writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.


With the World Cup headed for the quarterfinals and baseball season in full swing, things are heating up over at TradeSports, the stock market for daily gamers to buy and sell shares in outcomes of sporting events. While I’ve mostly looked at pre-game MLB contests in past iterations of the article, this time around we’re going to focus on the World Cup, delving deep into just one contest.

Now, I’m no soccer expert and probably can’t name more than a handful of players on Colombia’s roster, but you don’t need to be a diehard to gain an edge. By applying some of the concepts gleaned from MLB contests and other daily gaming experience, I think I’ll hold my own in a pre-game contest based on Friday’s highly anticipated matchup between Colombia and Brazil.

For past articles, I typically waited for the games to end before finishing my write up, but this time around there will be no waiting. It shouldn’t change much from an analysis perspective, but there obviously won’t be a section recapping how my decisions played out.

Colombia vs. Brazil
Friday July 4, World Cup Quarterfinal
$5.50 entry, 10 players, 50/50 payout ($10 each)

Stock Options

-Brazil to win in regulation (90 min. + stoppage) – $39
-Brazil to win in extra time or penalties – $22
-More than 3.5 total goals scored in match –$50
-Brazil to be winning at halftime – $42
-Neymar to score a goal – $41
-Brazil to attempt more than 9.5 corner kicks – $48
-Colombia to have more than 17.5 fouls – $45
-Colombia to attempt more than 8.5 corner kicks – $49

Requirement: You must have $2,000+ frozen on 4 stocks when trading stops.

Budget: $50,000

The first thing that sticks out to me, both in terms of this contest and public perception, is that Colombia seems to be overvalued. After breezing through a joke of a group, Colombia is now being mentioned in the same sentence with the likes of Brazil, Germany and Argentina. Yes, the Colombians have won all four of their games by a combined score of 11-2, but they faced Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan and a Suarez-less Uruguay. Not only that, but a deeper look into the statistics reveals that Colombia has not been nearly as dominant as the goal differential might lead you to believe.

Colombia actually lost the possession battle in each of its three group games, and lost the shots and shots on goal battles against both Japan and Ivory Coast. The individual brilliance of attacking midfielder James Rodriguez and goalkeeper David Ospina went a long way, but the Colombians simply don’t have the top-to-bottom talent to match up with elite teams. ESPN’s Soccer Power Index (SPI) gives the Colombians a 28 percent chance to take down Brazil, indicating that the hosts are a heavy favorite, just like Netherlands against Costa Rica and Argentina versus Belgium. Not to say that SPI is the be-all and end-all of judging a team, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the official FIFA rankings, which can be considered worthless for all practical purposes.

Keeping all this in mind, the TradeSports stocks imply that Colombia has a 39 percent chance to advance, given that the first two stocks add up to $61. I think SPI’s 28 percent is a bit low, but I have little doubt that 39 percent is too high. ‘Brazil to win in regulation’ at $39 looks like an absolute steal, though I’ll be staying away from ‘Brazil to lead at halftime’ for a pricier $42.

Now, as enthusiastic as I am about backing Brazil to win in regulation, the best values actually lie elsewhere. 3.5 goals is a high total for any match, particularly one that features the stifling defense of Brazil, not to mention two teams with major question marks up front. The Round of 16 produced exactly zero games with more than three goals, and there were only 18 total goals in eight games, with seven of those coming in extra time. For all the fanfare about higher-scoring games during the group stage, the scoring took a nosedive with most of the weaker sides weeded out.

Last but not least, the corner kick totals for both teams appear to offer bargains on the ‘sell’ side. Colombia is listed at 8.5 and Brazil at 9.5, but some quick research reveals that there were slightly fewer than 10 corners per game (for both teams) at the last World Cup, and about 10.5 per English Premier League match. Colombia took just 11 corners across its three group-stage games, then three more against Uruguay for an average of 3.5 per game. Brazil has earned quite a few more, but is still averaging just seven per game, despite taking nine in a Round of 16 game against Chile that went to penalties.

While I don’t think it’s a bad idea to sell stock in ‘Brazil to attempt more than 9.5 corners’, I prefer to sell ‘Colombia to attempt more than 8.5’. Brazil not only figures to win the possession battle by a sizable margin, but also has already shown a knack for earning corners. While 10 corner kicks is a ton to ask for in a 90-minute game, it isn’t an unreasonable target should the match go to extra time. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine Colombia reaching nine, even if things are knotted up at the end of 90 minutes.

Now, having laid out my thoughts on most of the stocks, it’s time to make some picks. One that I’ll definitely be ignoring is ‘Neymar to score a goal’, as I’m not really sure what a fair price would be, but $41 sounds about right. He will probably take the penalty if his team earns one, and he has 35 goals in 53 appearances for Brazil’s senior team, but none of those appearances came in the quarterfinal of a World Cup.
In any case, since the format is 50/50, I don’t need to be too focused on shooting for upside, yet with so many friendly options I imagine that the scores will be fairly high. Turning my $50,000 budget into $75,000 may not be enough, though it would almost always get the job done in a pre-game MLB contest. Here are the stocks I chose:

-Buy 250 shares of ‘Brazil to win in regulation + stoppage time at $39; risking $9,750 to win $15,250
-Sell 40 shares of ‘more than 3.5 total goals’ at $50; risking $2,000 to win $2,000
-Sell 40 shares of ‘Brazil to attempt more than 9.5 corner kicks at $48; risking $2,080 to win $1,920
-Sell 709 shares of ‘Colombia to attempt more than 8.5 corner kicks at $49; risking $36,159 to win $34,741

I’ve used all but $11 of my $50,000 budget, and have a potential profit of $53,911. I’m obviously toast if Colombia manages more than 8.5 corner kicks, but that seems like a long shot to put it kindly. I decided that the second-best value lies in backing Brazil to win, as the stock pays off more than $1.50 for every $1 invested. Should Brazil win in regulation while holding Colombia to eight or fewer corners, I’ll very likely finish in the top half of the contest. While I like the other two stocks just fine, I ultimately decided that they didn’t represent as good of a value, so I essentially just used them to fill out the four-stock requirement. Still, what happens with those two could make the difference, if Colombia falls short of 8.5 corners but doesn’t fall in regulation.

Final Thoughts

While the World Cup will be finished a week from Sunday, the process of selecting stocks can be applied to other contests based on real-life games in other sports. The number of users on TradeSports is clearly growing, as the site seemingly offers more contests each day, with the options getting increasingly diverse. There’s a contest for Wimbledon, and last weekend there was one that spanned across a three-game Yankees-Red Sox series.

Thursday night featured a baseball contest called ‘Thursday MLB Pitching Winners”, which allowed users to trade stocks based on which pitchers across the night’s slate of games would come away with wins. You could buy/sell stock in either starting pitcher, or buy/sell stock that the win would end up going to someone from one of the team’s bullpen. Long story short, TradeSports is making a concerted effort to diversify the offerings, and there’s seemingly something for everyone, from soccer fans to MLB fans to tennis junkies. Personally, I’m excited to see what’s in store for NFL season.