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The biggest football competition in the world and - until we meet life from other planets and see how good they are at the beautiful game - the universe. The 2018 competition will take place in Russia in what will see each of the World's footballing super powers go head-to-head in pursuit of the sport's ultimate accolade. The tournament is big business for all involved and of course the bookmakers, with a host of enhanced odds and promotions.

Its now the last 16 and everything to play for ahead of the knockout phases of the tournament. The big market movers have been England and Croatia while Germany (out!) and Argentina have underperformed. Will the winning continent be Europe or South America and will there be a new winner of the World Cup?

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World Cup Free Bets 

The World Cup only takes place every four years so there is a new breed of bettor for each tournament. Bookmakers will target potential new account holders by offering a wide range of World Cup free bets. All 64 matches will be shown live on terrestrial television because subscription channels are not allowed to bid for the coverage. Over the days before and during the tournament we can expect an extensive range of free bets for the FIFA World Cup. Bookmakers will be competing to attract new customers with many free bets related to the World Cup. The punters have never had it so good thanks to the potential for many World Cup free bets.


France Win the 2018 World Cup

For only the second time ever and the first time on foreign soil, France became world champions when beating Croatia 4-2 in the final on Sunday July 15th. The French side were unbeaten throughout the tournament winning six and drawing one of their seven games. They took an early lead when Croatian Mario Mandzukic headed a free-kick into the back of the net. That was the fourth game in a row that Croatia had fallen behind but it didn't take them too long to get back on level terms with a cracker of a goal from Ivan Perisic. However, it was France who went into half-time with a 2-1 lead after Antoine Griezmann scored a penalty as VAR made its impact after a handball in the penalty area.

France further extended their lead in the second half with goals from Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe before Mandzukic pulled one back thanks to a blunder by Hugo Lloris in the French goal, That left the Croatian forward as the first player to score at both ends in a World Cup final. France eventually won 4-2 though they weren't at their very best but they did enough to win the title with manager Didier Deschamps becoming only the third person to win the World Cup as a player and a manager. Harry Kane won the Golden Boot after scoring six goals in the tournament, the first English player to win the award since Gary Lineker in 1986. The Golden Ball award for the player of the tournament went to Croatia's Luca Modric.


Belgium Clinch Third Place

The third and fourth place play-off is a game that few support but Belgium took their opportunity to end the Worls Cup on a winning note as they beat England 2-0. A goal in each half from Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard were enough for the Belgians with England listless in the first half but offering more of a threat in the second period. 

Croatia End England's Dreams and take on France in the FinalEngland Reach the Semi-Finals

The dream of reaching a second World Cup final died for England as they lost 2-1 to Croatia. The game had started well enough for England with a Kierab Trippier free kick giving them an early lead. More chances were created as England dominated the first half but they just couldn't put them away as they bid to get that two-goal lead. 

The second half was a different story as Croatia took over midfield and England began to tire. An Ivan Perisic goal took the game into extra time and it was Mario Mandzukic who broke English hearts with a 109th minute winner. Croatia will take on France in the final after they had beaten Belgium in the other semi-final on Tuesday with Samuel Umtiti getting the winning goal in the 51st minute.

World Cup Quarter-Finals

The last sixteen produced some classic games and all were full of excitement in one way or another. Now we're down to the final eight teams in this tournament and they all promise to produce further spills and thrills. The four games take place on Friday July 6 and Saturday July 7.

The first quarter final sees France take on Uruguay at 3pm UK time on Friday July 6. France got through to the last eight with that fantastic topsy turvy game against Argentina with two goals from Kyllian Mbappe.  The French side have only once made it past the quarter final stage since winning the trophy in 1998. They have only beaten Uruguay once in their seven previous meetings and rather worryingly four of the last five games between these two sides have ended goalless. Uruguay are in only their second quarter final in the last six tournaments but have only conceded one goal in four games in this tournament.

The other Friday match kicks off at 7pm UK time and sees Brazil take on Belgium. The Brazilians are getting better as the tournament progresses and have still only conceded one goal and that was in their opening game against Switzerland. They have been eliminated at this stage in two of the last three tournaments but this is a side that has kept nine clean sheets in their last 11 internationals. They will need to show that defensive ability when facing a Belgian side that has already scored 12 goals in Russia and 55 if you include their 10 qualifiers. They looked dead and buried when 2-0 down to Japan, perhaps their name is on the trophy?

Or perhaps it's England's name that is on the trophy? They kick off proceedings on Saturday July 7 at 3pm UK time. After finally learning how to win a penalty shoot-out (though probably best not to let Henderson take another one), they take on Sweden who beat Switzerland 1-0 earlier on Tuesday. England have met Sweden four times in the World Cup and every single one  has been drawn. They have only lost one of their last four games against the Swedes.

If England do make it through to the last four, they will face the winners of the Russia v Croatia match that kicks off at 7pm UK time on Saturday July 7. The host nation have surprised everyone by making it through to the last eight but haven't got any further than that since 1966. They take on a Croatia side that looked impressive in their first two games but have struggled since and beat Denmark in a dire game (apart from the first four minutes) on Sunday. The two sides have only met three times and Croatia are yet to lose with two of the matches ending goalless.


World Cup Last 16 Ties


France taking on Argentina in the last 16 of the World Cup looks to be one of the most exciting games in world football with some of the best attacking talent on the planet. With the likes of Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann amongst many others on display, we can expect goals, especially with Argentina’s very ropey defence. Both teams to score looks likely in this contest with so much of a goal threat and with the safety net of the group stages being tugged away. 

Portugal have flattered to deceive in this competition so far thanks to the brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo, but this will catch up to them against the crafty operators of Uruguay. The South Americans have not conceded a goal yet and with Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani up top, Uruguay look a very decent bet to beat Portugal on Saturday. It might not be the prettiest of encounters, but expect to see the Godin and Gimenez doing a serious job on CR7 this weekend.

There was a fear before the World Cup that Russia would become just the second hosts in 22 World Cups not to qualify for the second round. However, they had a kind draw and were able to achieve wins against Saudi Arabia and Egypt but came up short against Uruguay. Russia play Spain in the round of the last 16 and will struggle to beat a side of such quality and face elimination. Spain can keep their dream alive as they try to win the World Cup for the second time.

Croatia have emerged as a squad that could go deep into this World Cup and they have the unity and skill to win the tournament. Eight different nations have won the World Cup but Croatia could be new winners this time. They won maximum points in the group stages and now have a winnable tie against Denmark in the round of the last 16. Denmark rely heavily on Christian Eriksen but the style of play does not suit his game so Croatia can win this tie and progress to the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

Brazil taking on Mexico could be one of the stand out games of the last 16 between one side that will be going forward at every opportunity and another that is adept at counter-attacking. The Brazilians are obviously going in as the favourites (as they are favourites to win the whole tournament) but we can expect a lot of goals in this one.

The most convincing holders of the 'dark horses' tag in the World Cup are Belgium after they came through Group G with three wins from three, scoring nine goals in the process. They take on Japan in the last 16 who were lucky to reach this stage, only qualifying on fair play points. This should be a very straight forward outing for the European side and they look good value to win comfortably.

England return to action on Tuesday evening against Colombia and they should be raring to go after resting most of their big players in the final group match against Belgium. Colombia have been far from convincing so far and a refreshed England look well worth backing to win this one and move into the quarter-finals.

Sweden and Switzerland might well play out the least exciting last 16 contest, but the world will still be watching as the winner will go on to facec either England or Colombia in the last eight. There is very little to choose between these two teams and it would not be surprising to see this one slide into an extra period and maybe even some spot kicks.

World Cup Final Group Matches


The final fixtures in Group A bring together two teams who have won both matches and two teams that have not won a point. Due to a superior goal difference a draw will suffice for Russia to win the group and they can achieve that outcome.

Spain and Portugal will probably finish in the qualifying positions in Group B and play the qualifiers from Group A. Based on world rankings they should not be opposed against Morocco and Iran and the double on the two favourites is the most likely outcome.

In Group C it seems like Denmark and France would be happiest with a draw, which would see them both into the last 16 and send Australia and Peru on the plane home. With that looking good for the both of them, why wouldn't it happen?

Croatia have already guaranteed progression from Group D, but the runners-up spot is up for grabs and all three of Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland can grab it. Somehow, Argentina are favourites to do so, but Nigeria look great value to manage it.

Any of three teams could win Group E or finish second. Costa Rica do not have a goal or points from the first two matches so are out. Brazil are still the favourites to win the group and a win over Serbia would get the job done. If both matches are drawn Brazil and Switzerland would qualify for the round of the last 16 and Serbia would be on the way home. Costa Rica cannot finish in the top two in Group E. 

The final fixtures in Group F will decide which two of three teams will qualify for the next round. Wins for Germany and Sweden against South Korea and Mexico could change things. It could come down to goal difference but a draw for Mexico and win for Germany would see those teams move on to the round of the last 16 and Sweden would be eliminated.

Group G has little to play for with England and Belgium already qualified and both Tunisia and Panama already eliminated, but there is the small matter of who will top the group and who will finish runners-up. There could be a strange situation between the Three Lions and the Red Devils in which a runners-up spot would be preferential and very odd things could happen in that contest.

Few groups will be as tense in their final round as Group H as Japan, Senegal and Colombia can all make it through to the last 16, but none have confirmed their progression already. Senegal taking on Colombia will be especially tense, whilst already eliminated Poland could spoil the party for Japan.

World Cup First Phase News

Odds quoted below are as at June 22nd 2018 and are subject to change. 

Belgium cantered to victory over Panama in their opening Group G fixture and we can expect another pretty straight forward day at the office for them when they meet Tunisia. The scoreline may have been close when the Tunisians lost to England but the gulf in quality was clear and the difference between Belgian and Tunisia is also vast. Belgium look good v to win to nil at EVENS with Ladbrokes.

After a tense 90 minutes, England got what they needed in their first match of Group G and now should stroll into the second round with another three points on Sunday. England and Panama should not be a close contest and we can expect goals from the Three Lions. Likely to get on the scoresheet is Jesse Lingard after he fluffed a few excellent chances against Tunisia, back the Manchester United man to grab a goal at 13/10 with William Hill.

In Group H there were two surprise results on the opening day as both Senegal and Japan picked up three points. The African side comfortably beat Poland whilst the Far East outfit did enough against 10-man Colombia. Of the two, it was Senegal who were the more impressive and we can exepct another win for them on Sunday. Senegal look good value for victory at 5/4 with Coral.

This makes the Poland v Colombia clash absolutlely massive as the loser could be eliminated a lot earlier than anyone expected from the World Cup. Both teams have got to come out and try to win the match so we should expect goals from this one. It is very hard to see which way it will go, but over 2.5 goals looks good at 21/20 with Bet Bright.

It’s the second round of fixtures in Group E and the first match brings together Brazil and Costa Rica. Brazil are still the favourites to win the World Cup despite not playing well when drawing with Switzerland on their opening night. There is no exceptional team so far in the tournament so there is everything still to play for at the group stage. The European teams have looked better than the South American nations but Brazil are still 9/2 with Ladbrokes to win the World Cup.  

In the other fixture in the group and Serbia and Switzerland are well matched. A draw would not be a bad result for either side but Switzerland’s need is greater. After 20 matches in the group stages there has not been a goalless draw and that outcome in this fixture is 11/2 with William Hill. Neither side gives much away at the back and lack something up front which suggests a stalemate with no goals is on the cards. We can assume that Brazil beat Costa Rica in the other match which means these two sides could be playing for second place in the final group phase.

The fixture between Mexico and South Korea matches the best team from the first phase and the lowest ranked team in the group and the former should prevail. Mexico were impressive in beating Germany in their first match and are now not without a chance of going all the way in this tournament. That process can continue with three points against South Korea. Mexico have never qualified for the third stage in a World Cup away from home but they are no forlorn hope at 40/1 with Paddy Power to actually win this World Cup.   

The match between Germany and Sweden could be huge in the context of the winner of the World Cup. If Germany lose this fixture they will almost certainly be out of the World Cup with no points from two matches. They are the defending champions and the squad is strong. However, if there are problems off the field Sweden are good enough to take advantage. The unthinkable could happen and Sweden are 8/1 with Betfair to beat Germany.   

Odds quoted below are as at June 19th 2018 and are subject to change. 

France may not have looked especially good against Australia in their opener but they got the win and are sure to improve from here on in. In contrast, Peru looked decent in their first match but lost it to Denmark and are now a touch desperate for points. France and Peru now meet and we can expect Didier Deschamps' side to win this one with over 2.5 goals (13/8 with William Hill) as the South Americans take more risks.

Denmark and Australia is unlikely to become a World Cup classic but it could be crucial for the outcome of Group C of the competition. The Danes are rightfully favourite as they are now unbeaten in five, including matches with Chile, Sweden, Peru and Mexico and look good value to see off the Aussies.

With the attacking talents Argentina have at their disposal it is surprising they can be odds-against for any match in this tournament, but that's exactly what they are when they meet Croatia. Such is the disjointed nature of their play and their dodgy defence, the best bet here looks to be both Argentina and Croatia to score at EVENS with Unibet.

Iceland have been so impressive since their arrival on the big stage at Euro 2016 that they go into their match with Nigeria as favourites and they thoroughly deserve to do so. Not too long ago, the African nation would have been odds-on to win this match, but no more, and Iceland actually look tremendous value to win this one (17/10 with Sporting Bet).

Russia got off to a great start in their World Cup by beating Saudi Arabia in the first match and they are now 66/1 with Ladbrokes to win the tournament. Russia meet Egypt in the second phase of matches and could be facing Mo Salah if he is fit to play but should secure three points which should clinch their place in the round of the last 16.

Even though the odds are short you can’t ignore the obvious and Portugal are the team to back in the meeting with Morocco at 8/13 with William Hill. In Cristiano Ronaldo the favourites have the best player in the world and he must be a good bet to score two goals or more for Portugal against Morocco.

The evidence in the preview of the match between Uruguay and Saudi Arabia points to a victory for Uruguay without Saudi Arabia scoring. There is a gulf in class especially up front where Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez are two of the best strikers in the game. They are both 4/9 with Coral to score at any time. 

Class should prevail in the match between Iran and Spain. Iran are a relatively strong outfit in their part of the world but Spain have much more ability and experience at the highest level. Spain have world class players in all areas of the pitch and one of them, Diego Costa, 13/5 with Paddy Power to score first.

World Cup Betting News

Odds quoted below are as at June 13th 2018 and are subject to change. 

England, France and Spain are the only nations to have won one World Cup. The other five world champions are multiple winners and Brazil are the most successful country with five trophies. Here is an analysis of the record of the 32 teams playing in this World Cup. In 1958 they became the first team from South America to win the tournament in Europe. Spain (2010) and Germany (2014) are the only other teams to win the World Cup out of their continent. Spain have produced some decent results under a new coach and can conquer the football world again and that outcome is 6/1 with BetVictor. They have a skilful, defensively sound squad with a good balance between youth and experience. Spain have an excellent squad and in David De Gea the best goalkeeper in the world.

Odds quoted below are correct as at June 13th 2018 and are subject to change.

England have completed their programme of friendly matches before the 2018 World Cup and the real action begins on Thursday 14th. Russia play Saudi Arabia in the opening match while England are first in action against Tunisia on the following Monday. There is always hype and optimism before major tournaments and then England underperform when it matters most. However, on this occasion the players seem relaxed and at ease with the coach and they appear to respect Gareth Southgate. He gave all 23 members of the squad some game time during the two wins against Nigeria and Costa Rica and the various combinations worked well. Southgate believes in his system and there is competition for places in all positions. England have one of the most youthful and inexperienced squads and Gary Cahill has played most internationals and he has 59 caps. ENGLAND are 16/1 with William Hill to win the World Cup.

Odds quoted below are correct as at June 11th 2018 and are subject to change.

At the time of writing there are just three sleeps before the start of the World Cup in Russia. The news has been dominated by a tattoo on Raheem Sterling’s leg. There always seems to be some non-football related issue with the England squad before the World Cup and European Championships. In most other countries these are side issues and the focus is on how the team will perform. The press go into meltdown when something that could be considered as relatively trivial gets all the attention. The rights and wrongs of Sterling’s tattoo are debateable and now its time to focus on the football. RAHEEM STERLING is 100/1 with Betfair to be the leading scorer in the World Cup. Lets hope he finds the back of the net a few times. Sterling has been transformed into a goal poacher for Manchester City by Pep Guardiola and England fans are hoping the national team will benefit in Russia.    

All odds quoted below are correct as at June 1st 2018 and are subject to change.  

With the Champions League final ending the domestic season in Europe the focus will now be on the World Cup and two key issues regarding England. At the European Championships in 2016 Harry Kane was told to take the corners on the basis of being the best footballer in the team. It seem to have been lost on Roy Hodgson that Kane was also the best striker and the team was best served by him being on the end of corners and not taking team. Gareth Southgate has made Kane his captain and he is 10/11 with Ladbrokes to be England’s leading scorer. 

Jordan Pickford is the favourite to start in goal against Tunisia in England’s first match. He has not had a brilliant season for Everton but is still ahead of Jack Butland and Nick Pope and in the pecking order. Pickford was good enough to be an outfield player so feels comfortable sweeping up and starting attacks. The omission of Joe Hart led to some comments about the lack of an experienced keeper. However, Hart is now not good enough based on his form since Euro 2016 and the third keeper in a tournament is generally there for the ride and is unlikely to see any action.

All odds quoted below are correct as at May 26th 2018 and are subject to change.   

Now that the Premier League season is over and the FA Cup Final and Champions League Final are imminent attention will soon be turned to the most popular and watched sports event around the world. The summer Olympics attract a huge global audience but that is a multi-sport occasion with many niche events which are only of interest to a specific group. The big track and field finals in athletics are watched all around the world but the football World Cup is bigger for viewing and betting. There are 32 competing nations split into eight groups of four teams. The top two teams in each group progress to the knockout matches which could be decided on penalties. Brazil are the current favourites at 9/2 with Ladbrokes to win the World Cup.   

Gareth Southgate has announced his 23 man squad and two facts stand out. There are only 5 survivors from the 2014 squad and Gary Cahill is the only player who has won more than 50 caps. England play Tunisia in their first match and Panama are their second opponents before a meeting with Belgium which should decide which team wins the group. In the past England have stumbled through the group and come up short against stronger opponents. It would be far better to score goals and gain some momentum in the first two group matches which would build up confidence for the tougher fixtures later in the tournament. Expectations are low and Harry Kane must be at his best and even then reaching the quarter-finals is probably the best that can be expected. England are 16/1 with William Hill to win the World Cup.

World Cup Statistics 

The 2018 World Cup could not have started better for the hosts or statisticians. In beating Saudi Arabia 5-0 Russia scored most goals for any team in the opening match and the nation hosting the tournament. Lets see what the average is after today's three fixtures but it won't be 5! 






















Over 0.5



Over 1.5



Over 2.5



Over 3.5



Over 4.5















Win To Nil




World Cup Special Markets

For all bookmakers listed below: 18+ Ts and Cs Apply. 

The odds quoted below are correct as at May 26th and are subject to change.

The World Cup will be a betting bonanza with bookmakers expected to promote a wide range of offers. As announcements are made this page will be updated and the key area will be the Offers table. We will display all the current concessions for the biggest football tournament in the world. With punter-friendly kick-off times all betting records should be broken and we will be right on top of all the pre-match and in-play offers. This section will be updated on a daily basis during the tournament so is your one-stop-shop for the 2018 World Cup.  

Brazil are the current joint-favourites to win this year's World Cup (9/2 with Ladbrokes), just four years on from hosting the event and suffering one of the most embarrassing exits in the history of the competition, especially for a side of their stature. The other favourites, Germany, annihilated the five-time World Cup winners 7-1 on their own soil and went on to lift the trophy - they're available at 9/2 with Betfair.

Plenty of intriguing markets have unfolded in the run-up to the finals and now that every nation has revealed their preliminary squads at the very least, the bookies have revealed who they feel are primed to perform best from their respective continents.

While Mexico (1/3 with Coral) are quite naturally the favourites to reign supreme in North America ahead of Panama and Costa Rica, things are a lot tighter in Asia and beyond. Japan are fancied at 7/4 with William Hill to be the Asian team to go the deepest in Russia while South Korea - appearing in their first World Cup finals since their semi-final exploits on home soil back in 2002 - are the fourth favourites at 7/2.

In Africa, Sadio Mane's Senegal (9/2 with Coral) are the joint-favourites to best represent the continent with of Liverpool teammate Mohamed Salah's Egypt (9/4 with Paddy Power). Tunisia, who are in England's group, are the least likely to go far according to the bookies.

Brazil (6/5 with Betfair) are just ahead of Argentina in South America while in Europe, Germany are 3/1 with Paddy Power just aheadd of France, Spain and Belgium in a stacked field.

Speaking of Brazil in Germany, the bookmakers have that matchup as the most likely final in the tournament. Betfair will give you 11/1 for those teams to clash on July 15, but Brazil versus Spain and Germany versus France are not too far behind and perfectly plausible.

We haven't seen the winning country also boast the tournament's top goalscorer since Ronaldo led the scoring en route to Brazil hoisting the trophy back in 2002, but Neymar is the favourite to replicate his compatriot's feat in Russia at 25/1 with William Hill. Lionel Messi is 33/1 - also with William Hill - to lead Argentina to glory and pick up the Golden Boot.

England's World Cup Prospects

For all bookmakers listed below: 18+ Ts and Cs Apply.  

The odds quoted below are correct as at May 8th and are subject to change.

With domestic seasons around Europe now complete and the Champions league taking place before the end of May, focus will soon turn to the World Cup and England’s prospects. Qualifying is usually not a problem in major tournaments and then England let everyone down when it matters most. The team play with fear and the pressure of expectations gets too much. The media hype up the team but this time England are 16/1 with William Hill to win the 2018 World Cup. 

England’s group has a familiar look in that the first match is against opponents they should beat. England should go out in the first half against Tunisia and put the game to bed. Scoring goals creates confidence and momentum but a stuttering draw means the next fixture becomes a must win match. Tunisia should be there for the taking and a convincing win would set things up nicely for the second match. However, on past history the match will end in a draw and that outcome is 7/2 with Ladbrokes. 

England play Panama in their second group match and the result of their first fixture will set the tone. These are opponents England should be beating nine times out of 10 but it wouldn’t be a surprise if Panama avoided defeat. England have been given great chance to earn maximum points from two matches but Panama are 17/1 with Unibet to cause a huge upset and stranger things have happened in the World Cup. Losing to Panama would be worse than the Iceland debacle in Euro 2016.   

The third match against Belgium should be the group decider and the result will determine who England meet in the last 16. On all known form Belgium and England should win their first two matches and this fixture is important in the context of who wins the group and potentially have an easier match in the next round. Belgium’s golden generation have failed to deliver but a team full of Premier League players are 5/6 with Coral to win the Group G. A draw means the group would be decided on goal difference. 

Harry Kane, now confirmed to be England's skipper in Russia, is the clear favourite to be Three Lions' top goalscorer. In the 2014, England scored just two goals so this market was a dead heat between Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge. If Kane scores twice that should be enough because Jamie Vardy is unlikely to be in the starting 11 and will be used coming off the bench. Barring injuries Kane will play in every match and looks a good bet to score most goals for England in this World Cup.  

If you're someone that buys into the notion that Kane's goals could carry England deeper than recent memory would allow you to recall - and he has 12 goals in 23 caps for England on top of outscoring Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in 2017 with 56 goals - then you may want to look at the Spurs striker winning the Golden Boot. For that to happen, Coral are offering odds of 16/1 on Kane outscoring his top-class peers. 

What can I use World Cup free bets on?

In the build up to the tournament, there is the lengthy qualifying procedure. During this period there are a host of games to bet on, as well as the opportunity to wager on which sides will and will not make the tournament. When the World Cup is on there are hundreds of markets on all the televised games (which is all of them) as nearly every bookmaker looks to make the most of the tournament’s popularity.

The most popular markets people use their free World Cup bet on include overall winner, top scorer and player of the tournament. A lot of markets focus on individual nations and who will be their top scorer as well as which stage of the competition that team will exit.

All sorts of specials will also be available on silly things like ‘Will Luis Suarez bite anyone again?’ and ‘Will Cristiano Ronaldo cry at some point?’

Other markets on during the World Cup include:

  • Highest scoring team
  • Team to get most red cards
  • Total corners in tournament
  • Total penalties in tournament
  • Number of goals from headers

2018 World Cup All You Need To Know

With the play-off stages having now concluded, we now know the identity of all 32 teams that will be heading to Russia next summer! 

In Europe, there are nine teams to have confirmed their spots after winning the respective qualifying groups. The big guns in Germany, France and Spain will all be amongst the favourites by the time the competition rolls around whilst England will also be there to make up the numbers! European champions Portugal ended up winning their group ahead of Switzerland to be assured of their spot whilst the other group winners include Serbia, Poland, Belgium and Iceland. Iceland who did so well at Euro 2016 have now become the smallest ever nation to qualify for the World Cup, despite having a population of just 330,000. 

In the play-offs, Croatia, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland all made sure they would be occupied over the summer months. The Croatians put their feet up after thrashing Greece 4-1 in the first leg in Zagreb. It was just a case of seeing the job through in the second leg and they claimed a 0-0 draw to ensure the likes of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic will be gracing the tournament. Sweden pulled off the biggest upset of the European play-offs as they beat Italy 1-0 on aggregate. That result means the Italians miss out on the competition for the first time since 1958 as Gianluigi Buffon's illustrious international career ended in heartbreak. Switzerland were also involved in a closely fought tie as they beat Northern Ireland 1-0 over the two legs. The Swiss victory came courtesy of a controversial penalty in Belfast but regardless of how they got there, they will be in the hat for the group stage draw. Republic of Ireland's hopes of a first World Cup since 2002 came crashing down as they were hammered 5-1 at home to Denmark. A 0-0 draw in Copenhagen saw things evenly poised for the return leg in Dublin but a Christian Eriksen hat-trick inspired the Danes to victory.

There was a lot of focus on South America at the end of the qualification process as it looked as though Argentina may miss out. The Argies went in to their final game away to Ecuador needing to win and got off to the worst possible start as they went behind after just 30 seconds. However in their time of desperate need, Argentina could rely on their talisman Lionel Messi to dig them out of a whole as the Barcelona icon hit a hat-trick to ensure his nation's qualification. The 3-1 victory meant Argentina finished third in the South American qualifying table and would progress along with Brazil, Uruguay and Colombia.

In Africa, Egypt and Nigeria confirmed themselves as qualifiers early and were joined by Tunisia and Senegal look likely to join them. The Ivory Coast and Morocco met in November in Abidjan with Morocco winning 2-0 to claim the fifth and final spot from the African region.

From the Asian region Japan, Iran, South Korea and Saudi Arabia are all assured of their places in Russia next summer.

In the inter-continental play-offs, Australia ensured they would make a fourth tournament in a row after they beat Honduras 3-1 in Sydney. A 0-0 draw in the first leg meant it was all to play for in Sydney but a hat-trick for Mile Jedinak ensured a safe passage for the Socceroos. The Aussies will not be joined by their near neighbours New Zealand however. The Kiwis were beaten 2-0 by Peru in Lima after drawing the first leg 0-0 in Wellington.

World Cup Draw

The draw for the group stages took place on December 1st and this has made the betting markets for the 2018 World Cup will become really interesting as the countdown begins to the opening fixture between Russia and Saudi Arabia on June 14th. It was a decent draw for England who have to play Tunisia and Panama before taking on Belgium.

Group A -  Russia Saudi Arabia  Egypt Uruguay

Group B -   Portugal Spain Morocco Iran

Group C -  France Australia  Peru Denmark

Group D - Argentina Iceland  Croatia Nigeria

Group E - Brazil Switzerland Costa Rica Serbia

Group F - Germany Mexico Sweden South Korea

Group G - Belgium Panama  Tunisia England 

Group H - Poland  Senegal Colombia Japan

The Early Favourites

The market for the winner of the tournament is already open despite the fact we only know a handful of the teams set to be involved. However when observing the different qualification groups, it's clear to see which nations are in strong positions to qualify. With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the teams expected to be amongst the frontrunners for the big prize come the start of the tournament.


The reigning World Champions are currently the shortest price to retain their trophy and were victorious in the 2017 Confederations Cup. That tournament serves as a bit of a dress rehearsal ahead of the real McCoy the following summer and what was particularly impressive about that victory is that Joachim Low picked a very youthful squad. Despite the fact there was no Manuel Neuer, no Toni Kroos, no Matts Hummels, no Mesut Ozil, no Jerome Boateng, they still managed to lift the trophy. It shows just how much quality they can call upon and with the triumphant members of the Confederations Cup combined with those more experienced heads, they are going to take some stopping


Always there or there abouts when it comes to a list of favourites for a World Cup, the five time winners will be eager to right the wrongs of 2014. The 7-1 defeat they suffered in the Semi-final's at the hands of Germany will go down as one of the most shocking results in football history and they will be desperate to avenge that humiliation. There's plenty of talent in the squad and let's not forget they were missing their two most influential players, Neymar and Thiago Silva, in that Germany defeat. Can Neymar inspire his country to victory? We think it will be tough for the Brazilians on Russian soil and don't see the value in backing them.


The runners-up at Euro 2016 on home soil, the French will be hoping to go one better as they head east for the World Cup. Much like Germany, they have a squad bursting at the seams with talent and it's going to be interesting to see if Didier Deschamps can finally find away to extract the very best from each of his key players. Nonetheless it's a task that many international managers will envy given the players at his disposal including the likes of N'golo Kante and Paul Pogba in midfield and Antoine Griezmann in attack. That's not too mention the abundance of talented youngsters to have emerged in recent years with the likes of Corentin Tolisso, Thomas Lemar, Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappe. The issue at the Euros, despite their run to the final, was a disjointed looking team relying on moments of individual brilliance rather than a fluid, functioning team performance. If they click however, the French are going to be frightening.


For so long the dominant force in World football, Spain's reign came to an abrupt end at the 2014 World Cup when they were thrashed 5-1 by Holland in their opening game and were eventually knocked out at the group stage. Their performance at Euro 2016 was not much better as they were eliminated in the last 16 stage but could they possibly get back to the summit of World football in Russia? Many of the players from their previous successes are now in to their 30's and the new crop, whilst talented does not appear to match up to some of the other sides set for Russia 2018.

Outside Bets


The Poles topped their group in qualifying, winning eight of their 10 games and scoring plenty of goals in the process. Robert Lewandowski scored 16 times in qualifying, making him the top scorer in the European section and the Bayern Munich frontman is one of the main reasons that Poland could be considered an outside punt for the tournament. It's a talented group with Lewandowski the undoubted star and it's also worth noting that they only went out of the Euro's on penalties at the hands of eventual winners Portugal. Their fans are sure to travel in large numbers across to Russia so they'll be backed by huge support so they could be worth a pound or two.


After finishing behind only Brazil in the South American qualifying section, Uruguay should not be underestimated by any stretch of the imagination. After all, any side that boasts a strikeforce of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez is going to be a dangerous prospect. With Atletico Madrid duo Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez at the back, there's defensive solidity to boot and you won't find too many sides that can boast star names like those at the price of Uruguay.

The best options for your free World Cup bet...

When play kicks off the usual markets will be available and after the success of underdogs Colombia, Costa Rica and Chile in Brazil 2014, there could be value in backing some unfancied teams again. Hosts Russia will be keen to prove they can be a world beater after some disappointing performances in recent tournaments, but depending on how the groups fall there will likely be teams like Ukraine and Poland hoping to be the 2018 version of Costa Rica.

As ever the tournament will have its very own ball commissioned and as has become customary in recent years it is incredibly light and apparently difficult to use. The tournament organisers seem to want to encourage spectacular long-range goals but while it seemed to end up with lots of wayward shots in 2010, in 2014 there were some spectacular goals (including James Rodriguez's thunderbolt for Colombia) so there will no doubt be world cup odds on the number of long-range goals in 2018 in Russia.

Claiming your World Cup free bet

Making use of your free World Cup bet couldn’t be simpler. Begin by picking out which of the sign-up offers best suits your punting style and budget, then register for a new sports betting account with that bookmaker by clicking on a link or banner that you see on and entering your details. Once you have registered you’ll need to make an initial deposit (unless your chosen free bet offer states that no deposit is required) and place a bet.

Once your initial bet has been placed and settled, your free bet will be released. Then in order to utilise your free bet tokens simply place a bet in the same manner as you would normally, but select the ‘free bet’ icon before confirming.

Free bets on the World Cup can be used on anything from backing a team for relegation or a top four finish, to betting on the first goalscorer in any particular game, the match result or the number of corners taken.

The World Cup is the pinnacle of global football and the biggest prize a footballer can hope to win. Only a few players have managed to get their hands on the famous trophy which has been handed out every four years since 1930 (except in 1942 and 1946 when it was not held due to the Second World War). It has always, though, run during the summer when the domestic football campaign isn't playing.

The format for the World Cup has evolved in the 84 years it has been going. Originally just thirteen teams took part in the first tournament in 1930, now the competition is preceded by a three-year qualification phase. At the World Cup Finals 32 teams, including the automatically qualifying host nation, compete in a month-long orgy of football until there is one team still standing.

Unsurprisingly, given it is the biggest competing for the world’ most popular sport, it brings in huge television audiences. The World Cup is the most widely viewed and followed sporting event in the world, exceeding even the Olympic Games. The cumulative audience of all matches of the 2006 World Cup was estimated to be 26.29 billion with around 715.1 million people watching the final match. To put it into perspective that is a ninth of the entire population of earth.

Some of the greatest games of football ever witnessed have been at the World Cup with players going beyond the call of duty for their nations on the biggest stage. The last World Cup was in 2014 and was won by Germany. The next two tournaments will be fairly controversial, being hosted Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. Both choices have been criticised and will be heavily scrutinised; Russia in light of the 2014 Crimean crisis and Qatar for allegations of vote-buying and poor working conditions for foreign workers. FIFA have admitted the Qatar World Cup might even have to be played during the winter because of the extreme heat in Qatar in the summer.

The World Cup has broken new ground in recent years having ventured to the Far-East with Japan and to South Africa in 2010 but they returned to more traditional footballing shores in 2014 as it headed to Brazil. The South American country had hosted the competition once before all the way back in 1950 when they famously lost out to Uruguay in the final in front of nearly 200,000 people in the Maracana. The 2014 competition did not end much more favourably as the Brazilians were humiliated by eventual winners Germany 7-1 in the semi-final in one of the most incredible World Cup games ever.

Who has previously won? 

Only a few teams despite the hundreds who have tried to qualify over the past 80 or so years. There have been 20 World Cups in that time and they have been won by just eight different teams; Brazil the most with five; Germany and Italy with four, Argentina and Uruguay with two and France, Spain and England with one. Brazil also hold another record as the only team to have entered every tournament since 1930.

The 20 World Cup tournaments have been won by eight different national teams. Brazil have won five times, and they are the only team to have played in every tournament. The other World Cup winners are Italy and Germany, with four titles each; Argentina and inaugural winners Uruguay, with two titles each; and England, France and Spain, with one title a piece.

Germany hold a fair few records, having played the most World Cup matches (106) and appeared in the most finals (8), semi-finals (13), quarter-finals (16) as well as scoring the most World Cup goals (224). They can also boast having the World Cup's all-time top scorer, with Miroslav Klose having scored 16 times in the competition.

Some of the greatest players ever to kick a ball have graced and won the World Cup, and going though them is a veritable Who’s Who of world football. Pele, Roberto Baggio, Franz Beckenbauer, Lionel Messi, Garrincha, Johan Cruyff and Diego Maradona have all done their stuff on the biggest stage of all (although only some of the have been lucky enough to be winners by the end of it). Messi and Baggio both single-handedly dragged their teams to the 1990 and 2014 finals respectively but both ended up losers in the final.

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