US sportsbooks can perhaps look forward to an influx of patriotic punters when the 2022 FIFA World Cup kicks off this weekend, as the bet365 Fan Nation Survey found that a staggering 89% of American supporters are ‘confident’ the USMNT will triumph in Qatar.
That’s right. Despite the US not having made the quarter-finals since 2002, only having made the semi-finals once back in 1930, and the team being +15000 in the Outright Win market, almost nine out of ten of their fans believe Gregg Berhalter will lead his men to glory.
The finding was perhaps the most shocking result of a survey of thousands of fans around the world commissioned by UK-headquartered international sports betting operator bet365 as part of its build-up to the biggest event on the global sporting calendar.
Less surprising was the identity of the only two teams with more optimistic fans ahead of the tournament. 91.2% of Argentina supporters expect their team to follow up their Copa América triumph with World Cup success, while 89.15% of Brazilian fans believe their star-studded lineup will secure a sixth World Cup triumph.
European soccer fans appear to be much less enthusiastic about their teams’ prospects in the heat of Qatar. Just 50.77% of Spanish fans and 50% of supporters of traditional World Cup powerhouses Germany are ‘confident’ of being crowned champions.
Fans of the USMNT’s Group B rivals also appear to have some doubts about their teams’ chances, with supporters of the two UK nations less confident than those of Mexico (48.18%).
England supporters are notoriously over-optimistic during the buildup to major tournaments – and always overly-disappointed a couple of weeks later – but this time round, only 47.79% of them are ‘confident’ of winning. 46% of Wales supporters believe LAFC’s Gareth Bale will lift the trophy in Lusail, but given that it is the first time that this nation of just 3.1 million people has reached the finals since 1958, such uncertainty is perhaps understandable.
In Berhalter we trust
Bet365 – which is live in New Jersey and Colorado, and soon to launch in Ohio in partnership with Cleveland Guardians – also asked fans what they thought of their team’s manager.
Having turned around the team’s fortunes since the low of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Berhalter has the kind of approval rating that Messrs Biden and McConnell can only dream of. 97% of US fans said they were ‘confident’ the Gold Cup-winning coach was the right man for the job.
Only Argentina’s Lionel Scaloni (98.82%) had a higher approval rating than Berhalter. The top five was rounded out by Brazil’s Tite (94.57%), Dutch veteran Louis van Gaal (94.12%), and England’s Gareth Southgate (92.92%).
When attention turned to individual players, however, there was no sign of Christian Pulisic, Brenden Aaronson, or in fact any of the US squad.
48.34% of fans named Argentina’s superstar Lionel Messi as the player they most feared, ahead of his GOAT rival, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (43.72%), and Brazil’s mercurial forward Neymar (40.67%).
Realistic hopes or just the American way?
If the FIFA World Rankings are a reliable guide – and many observers believe they aren’t – the US is in the toughest group of the 32-team tournament. Despite being the current kings of CONCACAF, Berhalter’s men are ranked 16th, while England are 5th, Wales 19th and Iran 20th.
Should the US escape the group, they would face a tricky but winnable match against one of the Netherlands, Ecuador, Senegal, or hosts Qatar in the round of 16. After that, things get very difficult though, with holders France or much-tipped Argentina likely quarter-final opponents.
bet365 asked John Barnes, a veteran of two World Cup campaigns with England, what he thought of the USMNT’s chances in Qatar. It’s fair to say that the former Liverpool winger was less confident than the American fans.
“I don’t think they can do it at all, but I know that they think they can do it. My sisters live in America, and I grew up in Jamaica – we know Americans. They are very similar to Australians, they have this attitude that they can win everything, so they do better than they should,” said Barnes.
“If they got to the quarter-finals or the last 16, it wouldn’t surprise me because they have this attitude – and I’m not talking about arrogance, I’m talking about confidence – because they’re Americans, so it doesn’t surprise me.”
He added: “This is not a criticism because that’s what makes them the great people they are. They don’t know that they shouldn’t be getting to the World Cup quarter-finals because the other teams are better than them.
“So, it’s a great trait to have, but if you’re asking me whether I think they’re misguided I would say ‘probably yes’.”