Our debut Summer Olympics preview took time to lament the lack of futures odds on major sports, including soccer, baseball, and the 100-meter dash. Candidates to supplant Usain Bolt as the fastest Olympian in the world aren’t yet handicapped in London or Las Vegas, and neither is a hardball tournament that will include Team USA thanks to an unbeaten performance in the Americas Q-tournament for Tokyo.
But there’s good news – we’ve got a line on 1 early batch of futures soccer odds, or odds on Men’s Football and Women’s Football as the sport is branded by the IOC.
Let’s keep the source of these Olympics odds on the down-low, though, because the source is (as your woke work-buddy might say) problematic.
DraftKings is not in WagerBop’s network or your blogger’s personal network. In fact, it’s a direct competitor with our pals at FanDuel Sportsbook. But the bloggers at ESPN write about games broadcast on Fox Sports all the time. Maybe the same unwritten rules should apply to sports handicapping and prediction sites. After all, we’ve got to get Olympic futures odds from somewhere, and DraftKings appears to be the only bookmaker to think of the soccer teams already. Even the UK exchanges, notorious for offering bets on what the Royal Family will have for dinner on Wednesday, have been dodgy about releasing markets for Football events in Tokyo.
Besides, listing the odds from a sportsbook isn’t necessarily an endorsement of new clients signing-up there just to wager on a certain event. Betting lines, especially odds on the Olympic Games, tend to homogenize over time and wind up alike at various gambling books and retail counters when the torch is closing-in on the host venue. Even if DraftKings’ soccer odds turn out to be very different from other sites’ opening Men’s and Women’s Football odds when they appear, that just gives our readers the option to pick whichever sportsbook on which their particular favored teams are offered at the best prices.
So with a clear conscience and a clean slate, and with no alternative odds to compare, we’ll take the opportunity to focus on the U23 national teams traveling to Tokyo. Sports analysis is where all betting analysis begins and ends, and Olympic soccer is set up as a test of each nation’s sporting culture as much as a test of its star footballers. Only a handful of lucky Premier League and UEFA league players are fortunate enough to take part.
That puts depth at a premium for each squad. It also invites close scouting of young footballers who are stars in humble club markets in the Western Hemisphere or Asia, and preparing to break into the big-time in Europe by 2022. Like up-and-coming Finnish or Swiss players in international hockey events, U23 players who aren’t physically mature or stout enough to take the punishment of Liverpool’s schedule and training commitment at present can run free in a rapid-fire tournament setting such as the Olympic Games, and wreak havoc vs favorites with fresh legs and little to lose.
At the same time, any case of thinned-out national team ranks means another crucial angle is always in play. An upstart footballer who is already faring pretty well in the Premier League or in Serie A – especially a footballer with good pace – can look like a million bucks against youthful Olympic squads and lead the event in goals, taking over medal-round matches as if they were Ronaldo or Alex Morgan. If a U23 national squad happens to have an up-and-coming Ronaldo or Alex Morgan, and not just somebody who looks a superstar vs reserve athletes on occasion, then the above angle can become prohibitive when gambling on the Games.
Tokyo Olympics Odds: Men’s Football Outright Winner
(Men’s Football Gold Medal Odds Courtesy of DraftKings – Group A Teams Listed in Bold)
Ivory Coast (+2500)
South Korea (+20000)
Saudi Arabia (+30000)
South Africa (+30000)
New Zealand (+100000)
If the Tokyo Olympic soccer field looks a little wacky to you, you’re not the only one. Sure, legacy football nations like Brazil and France are given solid chances to win gold, but the IOC’s worldly qualification bracket has weeded-out dozens of highly-ranked FIFA nations from Europe and South America. Belgium is not competing in Men’s Football. Neither is England, Italy, Uruguay, or Portugal.
From a betting point of view, it’s also stunning to see Ivory Coast drawing more outright-winner bets at DraftKings than U-23 El Tricolor of Mexico, for instance. Or to see Team Romania drawing almost as much action as the young Samurai Blue of U23 Team Japan. Romania did not qualify for UEFA’s Euro 2020 and hasn’t played in a 21st century FIFA World Cup.
Strange circumstances are the culprit as much as any roster woes caused by UEFA competitions and players growing older. Summer Olympics soccer is a great spectacle but not considered as prestigious as continental Federation titles, putting the Olympic Games in a category comparable to the FA Cup and Carabao Cup’s struggle to inspire top-quality lineup choices in early rounds.
No amount of talent can compensate for a lack of institutional focus. Soccer nations reach the Olympics because their Federation puts a higher priority on it. Cohesive squads of humble club professionals and international workhorses can find winning formulas vs favored national teams who’re too distracted with lineup drama – caused mainly by the pricey European club contracts for young stars – to defend the shield as usual.
Consider how the Great Britain National Men’s Ice Hockey team has managed to climb into the IIHF’s elite ranks while rather amazingly having no active club league at home. While other hockey nations are sweating over who can suit up for the next championship (and watching them bang-into each other in a quest for the Stanley Cup or Gagarin Cup), the Brits are practicing like mad with an organized unit. Romania’s soccer program is so far down the FIFA totem pole that its squads aren’t worn down by matches with Germany or France. Most of its Under-23 candidates to play are willing, able, and quite focused on the Olympics, a recurrent factor that often shows up in IOC underdogs.
Could a team headed for the medal round suddenly stack its roster as the Tokyo tourney gets underway? IOC rules vary on the issue, especially given the rigid travel restrictions and quarantine guidelines that Olympic athletes face in 2021. But the qualifying rounds have already shown how less-valuable a footballer can be to his squad on a fly-by-night basis. Players with the best chance to dominate at the Tokyo Olympics are training for the event in advance and are well-supported by team moxie.
We’ll utilize teamwork to take a closer look at each Summer Olympics soccer squad over the next fortnight, starting with the illustrious U23 national teams of Group A.
Tokyo Summer Olympics: Men’s Football Group A Preview and Odds Forecast
There are no Group Stage winner prop odds at DraftKings at this time, but it’s easy to extrapolate from the outright-winner odds just who the favorite to win Group A will be. France could well be a minus-odds bet to prevail with the best record in round-robin stage, a simple World Cup style schedule of 3 games beginning on July 21st in 4 locations near Olympic Village.
Most of the attack for the U-23 French comes from Celtic striker Odsonne Edouard, who has scored 17 goals for his country’s youth team since 2018. Edouard scored 2 of France’s 5 goals in a disappointing performance at the U21 Euro tournament, and he’s coming off a combined 37 goals in the Scottish Premiership over the past 2 years.
The other key scoring threat is Amine Gouiri, who scored 16 goals and assisted 7 others in 39 matches for Nice this season. In goal for should be Alban Lafont, who posted 2 clean sheets in the group stage of the aforementioned U21 Euro, and started all 38 matches for Nantes this season in Ligue 1.
How many Premier League rookies will the richest league in the world let go for Les Bleus? Leicester City back Wesley Fofana is only 20 years old and plenty eligible, but whether the rising UEFA contender will allow one of its key defenders to miss preseason and even the start of the 2021-22 season is an open question and cause for concern.
Arsenal still owns the rights to midfielder Mattéo Guendouzi, who’s going to be on the tail end of recovery from a metatarsal fracture. Serious injury problems and Olympic appearances don’t mix, at least not on the Men’s Football side of things.
Team Japan will have one of the most experienced defenses in the tournament, with several senior national team members serving on the roster. Takehiro Tomiyasu has earned 23 caps for the Blue, but is only 22 years old. Meanwhile, veteran defender Maya Yoshida has been brought in as a mentor for the younger group having spent 9 seasons in the Premier League and 2 in Serie A in addition to triple-digit appearances for the national program.
Japan’s attack could be led by Getafe midfielder Takefusa Kubo, who scored in both warmup matches in June. The 20-year-old was mostly a reserve player for Getafe this past season, but did appear in 31 La Liga contests and 5 Europa League matches for the Spanish club.
Kubo is joined in midfield by Stuttgart’s Wataru Endo, the 2nd overage player on the Japanese roster (teams are in-fact allowed to add up to 2 veterans at the Olympic Games) and Ritsu Doan, both of whom will play attacking roles in Japan’s 1-striker formation.
Recommendation: 1-unit bet at underdog Group Stage Winner odds
2012’s gold medalists once again have a strong attacking squad featuring players from Mexican professional clubs. Sebastián Córdova led the Mexicans with 4 goals and 2 assists in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament. Uriel Antuna scored 3 times in qualifying, and Jesus Angulo scored twice in Mexico’s last 3 tune-up matches.
Though most of the attacking flair has come from the midfielders (kind of like another North American side readers might be familiar with), striker Alexis Vega plays a key role in Mexico’s pass-happy system, a sign of maturity from a rising talent.
It should come as little surprise that among Mexico’s overage callups is goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, though it is uncertain that Ochoa will be the starter. Luis Malagón was the Mexican goalkeeper in the Olympic qualifying tournament until injury sidelined him, but the 24-year-old returned and has started 2 of the 3 friendlies Mexico played in June.
Mexico will need to clean up a bit of its defending in front of goal, but you’ve got to love the options between the goal posts.
Recommendation: 1-unit bet at underdog Group Stage Winner odds
South Africa’s gold medal odds at the Tokyo Olympics aren’t 1000/1 because the team has given up a million goals. Obviously, if one peers at the Men’s Football ledger on July 20th, Bafana Bafana will be right there beside 14 other survivors (and the host Japanese). From a supporter’s POV, a national team that’s missed 3 out of the last 4 World Cups is on a streak of glory.
But a healthy number of goals is usually required at the Summer Olympics, and scoring has been a mighty struggle for the South Africans over the last 2 years. The team has exactly 3 tallies credited to its own players in the past 9 matches.
You know the Yankee phrase “all kinds of awesome?” Well, 0.33 non-own goals scored per match over a wide sample size is all kinds of prohibitive. South Africa could be worthwhile to
DraftKings FanDuel clients only as a handy “Under” O/U pick.
Kamohelo Mahlatsi and Tercious Malepe played the most minutes for South Africa when it qualified for the Olympics, and it is no surprise that the 2 of them scored goals for the squad. Mahlatsi will play in the midfield for South Africa while Malepe will line up on defense or in a defensive midfield role depending upon the formation coach David Notoane utilizes.
The irony of South Africa’s scoring woes is that most of the players who play for clubs outside the nation’s border are on the attacking front, with strikers Luther Singh (Portugal), Lyle Foster (Portugal) and Liam Jordan (Denmark) available to the squad.
Speaking of club football, it’s possible that South Africa’s attack could suffer from a reverse “Paul Pogba Syndrome” as swift attacking players score for their club teams but feel altogether too hemmed-in by the rigid system of a national team, in a vice-versa scenario from how Jose Mourinho’s playbook made Pogba look like an OK striker vs Pogba’s terrific form for Les Bleus.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.