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In 2018 the 21st FIFA World Cup finals will be held in Russia for the first time, but the action actually starts long before then. Qualifying games are played in the six FIFA continental zones of Africa, Asia, North and Central America and Caribbean, South America, Oceania and Europe over the 3 years before the finals. The World Cup Finals consists of 32 teams, divided into 8 groups of 4. Those 32 spots are allocated to the FIFA zones in advance. In Europe, for instance, the allocation is for 13 teams from UEFA, plus Russia as the hosts, who qualify automatically. In the UEFA qualifiers 9 groups of 6 teams play home and away matches and the winning teams from each group move forward to the Finals. The best 8 runners-up then proceed to play-offs in November 2017 to decide the final 4 places.
About 70% of the sports betting industry is estimated to come from betting on Football, which makes the FIFA World Cup one of the biggest events in the sporting calendar for betting. During qualifiers popular bets are on the outcomes of group games, the winners of each group and which countries will qualify for the 2018 finals. Once we reach the finals themselves the most popular bet is on the outright winner of the tournament. Each way betting on a country to reach the final or win is also popular. In the group stages bets can be placed on the winner of each group. Throughout the tournament bets can be placed on the final score of individual matches, top goal scorers and even what players will be on individual squads.
Since the tournaments inception in 1930 there have been 8 winners of the World Cup. Brazil have won 5 times, Germany and Italy 4 times each, Argentina and Uruguay twice and England, France and Spain once each. 6 of the 8 have won at least one of their titles whilst playing as the host nation. The exceptions being Spain who went out in the second round when they hosted in 1982, and Brazil. Brazil hosted the tournament twice, losing in the Final in 1950, and then their dramatic 7-1 Semi-Final loss against Germany in 2014, despite being the favourites to win. Eight bets were placed on this exact score, forcing many bookmakers to pay out large sums. Brazil are the only team since 1986 to have lost in the final after having better odds to win than their opponents. France's only World Cup win was against Brazil on home turf in 1998, despite being the underdogs. England also achieved their only World Cup win while hosting the tournament and many other teams have achieved their best tournament performances while hosting. Since 1986 the team with the longest odds to become overall winner of the tournament was Italy in 2006 with odds of 10/1. Teams playing on their home continent have greater odds of becoming the overall winner, in 15 of the previous 20 World Cup finals the winner has been playing in their host continent.
World cup qualifying matches commenced at the end of 2016 and will take place throughout 2017 with all games scheduled to be completed by the end of November 2017. The opening match of the 2018 World Cup Finals will take place on the 14th June 2018 and the final will take place in Moscow on the 15th July 2018.
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