World Cup 2018: Bookings-based opportunities to exploit


CARD KING Gavin Murphy (@GamePlanGavin) shares his verdict on the best pre-tournament bookings markets at the World Cup.

World Cup 2018: Card-happy punting

The 2018 World Cup is nearly upon us and I have been evaluating some of the novelty card bets that are being offered.

Let's start with a bit of history:

  • Legendary World Cup winners Zinedine Zidane and Cafu have collected the most cards in the competition’s history (6).
  • Thiago Silva picked up the most cards in the 2014 World Cup with three yellows.
  • Brazil received the most team cards in 2014 with 14.

So, what can we expect in 2018? Well, history is showing a clear pattern for fewer cards.

In 2006, the average was an eye-watering 6.27 cautions per-game. In South Africa back in 2010, this dropped to 4.61 per-match and in 2014 the average was just 3.08 bookings per-game.

If this trend continues, then the bigger-hitters among you might fancy the 7/5 that Bet365 are offering on Under 225 Yellow Cards.

To put this into context, 2006 saw 345 yellow cards, 2010 had 261 yellows and 2014 just 187. Of course, this time around VAR is in-play and is an unknown quantity.

With referees chief Pierluigi Collina still pulling the strings and having assessed the referees which have been selected, I would still expect a tournament with a low number of cards.

7/5 (Bet365) for a tournament bet won't get the pulses racing for me and, I suspect you, so I have considered some of the player markets as alternatives at much bigger odds.

Big-Priced Fancies

SkyBet have opted to price up which player is likely to get the Most Tournament Bookings Points for some of the countries involved.

By way of the rules, 10 points are awarded for a yellow card, 25 points for a straight red and 35 for a second yellow that equals a red card.

As dead heat rules apply, I feel it is well worth considering players at larger prices. Normally in these markets you would target defenders and defensive midfielders as they are the most likely offenders.


The village idiot, Sergio Ramos, heads the market but with one card in 712 minutes during qualification and at just 7/2, he represents little value.

Dani Carvajal would have been my original choice but, now injured, I am looking elsewhere.

I noted that Manchester City's David Silva has been chalked up at 16/1 and with a card every 365 minutes during qualification, he is the most likely from a stats point of view.

However, with perhaps three cards being sufficient to win this market, I am going for Atletico Madrid schemer, Saul.  He generally comes on for Iniesta after half-time.

Saul has collected 14 cards in 47 appearances at all age groups internationally and received seven cards in 12 matches when he was arguably the star of the UEFA Under-21 Championship in Poland in 2017.

In 2017/18, Saul was on the receiving end of 14 cards so at 20/1 he is well worth a poke at SkyBet.


The usual suspects (Casemiro, Fernandinho and Miranda) are at the top of the betting but they don't interest me.

Statistically, Marcelo (four cards in seven matches during qualifying) and Neymar (six in 14) are the guys to pencil in.

Of the two, Neymar is 11/1 and that looks a decent bet as he is the talisman of the team and has a history of petulance.

In the 2017/18 season, he collected nine cards in 30 games, so a very good strike rate for a forward player. This included a red card against Marseille in October when he was yellow carded twice in just three minutes.

Indeed, he has had an early bath eight times in his career so I quite like the 18/1 that PaddyPower offer on Brazil's star man getting a red card during the knockout stages.


Once again, defenders and midfielders such as Eric Dier, Kyle Walker and Ashley Young lead the way and are offering little appeal.

With England in particular, two cards would put you in with a great shout of seeing some profit. With that in mind, I am putting up Raheem Sterling at 25/1.

He was carded against Nigeria on Saturday for diving and I was surprised to see that he has been carded 10 times in 53 appearances across all international age groups. I think SkyBet might have underestimated him.

Of course, it wouldn't be a World Cup without some kind of English controversy (such as a sending off – think of David Beckham 20 years ago) and Sterling is a candidate for such drama having been sent off at Bournemouth earlier this season.

Naturally, these markets are a bit of fun and not one for the family treasure. They do give a different perspective to the matches though and I shall certainly been getting involved at some tasty prices.

Best Bets

2018 World Cup – Under 225 total yellow cards (7/5 Bet365)

2018 World Cup – Saul to pick up Most Spain Bookings Points (20/1 SkyBet)

2018 World Cup – Neymar to pick up Most Brazil Bookings Points (11/1 SkyBet)

2018 World Cup – Neymar to be sent off at any point (18/1 Paddy Power)

2018 World Cup – Raheem Sterling to pick up Most English Bookings Points (25/1 SkyBet)

About Author

I first got interested in gambling through my cousin. He's a professional gambler and got me hooked as a teenager when you had to pay the 9% tax. Who remembers that?! These days I prefer to specialise on one market rather than spread myself too thinly. Hence my love of cards! Hopefully I can make others a few bob in the process of sharing my bets on WeLoveBetting. On a personal note I love most sports especially cricket, rugby and NFL. I support Tottenham and all things Welsh and outside of sport I enjoy reading autobiographies particularly with a glass of good wine!

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