Opinion: Is the Corner Market in Football a Hidden Treasure Trove of Value?

It is said that you can bet on almost anything in football, and that statement is not far from being completely accurate. You can find bookmakers who offer odds on how many throw-ins there will be in the next five minutes, and the team who will kick off a match, so why not corners?

After all, they occur more often than goals in matches and attacking teams that like to use the width of the pitch can rack up corners during a game, especially if they are chasing a result. The other thing about corners is that your bet can look doomed, only for a team to pile on the pressure and earn 4-5 corners in a two-minute spell.

Type of Corner Market

There is an impressive list of possible markets:

  • Over/Under/Exact Number: This is a standard bet where the bookie sets a line (let’s say 10 corners), and you can decide whether there will be exactly 10, 9 or less, or 11+ corners.
  • Total Corners (Range): In this market, there will be several options such as under 6 corners, 6-8, 9-11, 12-14, and 15+.
  • Alternative Total Corners: You can bet on the exact number or over/under from 1 corner right through to 20+, although most markets stay in the 4 to 18 corner range.
  • First and Second Half Corners: Self-explanatory.
  • Handicap and Asian Handicap Corners: Let’s say Liverpool are at a corner handicap of -5.5 to beat Fulham, it means you need Liverpool to earn 6 more corners than their opponents.
  • Time of First Corner: You are usually given an under/over for time such as 9:00 which means you have to decide if the first match corner happens in the first nine minutes or not. There are also time ranges as well such as 0:00 to 4:59.
  • Corner Race: The first team to get 3, 5, 7, or 9 corners.
  • Multicorners: The number of first half corners is multiplied by the number of second half corners. Let’s say the multi-corners line is set at over 23.5; if there are 5 corners in the first half and 5 in the second, you win because 5 x 5 = 25. However, if there are 3 corners in the first half and 7 in the second, you win nothing (unless you chose Under 23.5) because 3 x 7 = 21.

The Multicorner bet makes little sense for any punter who understands value (and logic). I saw a game that placed the Multicorner bet at over 23.5 at odds of 1.83. To win, you need a minimum of ten corners (5 x 5, 4 x 6, 6 x 4, 7 x 4, 4 x 7, 8 x 3, 3 x 8 and so on). The over 9 corners market is 1.66.

It makes more sense to back over 9 corners because you are guaranteed a win if the game has 10+ corners. Whereas a Multicorner bet could lose if one half has relatively few corners.

Why Bet on Corners

That’s a good question, especially since the bookmakers have tightened their grip on the market in recent years. When it was first introduced, savvy punters were able to take advantage of any amount of rickets. Even today, it is virtually impossible for bookmakers to get it completely right, and they are still more likely to make an error on the corner market than on a match result or number of goals.

How often have you backed a team to win, or score X number of goals, only for them to fail miserably? Football is inherently a low scoring game, so it is possible to defend deep for 90 minutes and snatch a draw or unlikely win in the face of stronger opposition.

The outcome of the match does not necessarily correlate with the outcome. In fact, in games where teams park the proverbial bus and earn a decent result, a corner bet can become quite lucrative. Also, under 3% of corners lead to goals in the Premier League.

You’re certainly not doing it because there is better initial value. In fact, bookmakers tend to cover themselves in the corner market by exaggerating the overround.

I checked out a Champions League game between Tottenham and PSV and found a significant overround in every corner market. Here are three examples:

  • Over/Under Exactly Market: Overround of 10.95%.
  • Total Corners Market (Ranges): Overround of 14%.
  • Alternative Corners: Overround of 5.44%.

How to Bet on Corners

First and foremost, stay away from ultra-exotic markets such as multicorners, and number of corners in a five-minute spell (although this bet could be a good one in-play for reasons outlined below).

Don’t assume that you can breeze your way through a successful corner betting strategy. As the information takes more effort to find, you’ll need to dig deeper than you would with a typical goal or match winner market. It is common for corners to come in clusters which means a losing bet can get turned around rapidly.

Pre-match corner betting is notoriously difficult because you’re effectively trying to predict the pattern of play before the match. This is fairly easy for matches such as Man City versus Southampton because you know City will dominate the entire game. Alas, expecting City to gain a huge number of corners in this scenario is a fool’s errand. Teams that score plenty of goals, especially early in the game, are less likely to earn corners.

As it happens, City DID play Southampton recently and thrashed them 6-1. They managed an early goal (three in fact) and ended up with just 4 corners. As City was far from top gear for most of the match, their opponents also managed 4 corners. Hypothetically, had City been held until the 75-minute mark, they would have certainly earned more corners. Savvy punters would have been aware that there was a high likelihood of an early City goal and would have avoided the corner market.

As a general rule of thumb, teams that average a lot of shots also gain plenty of corners. Likewise, teams that concede lots of shots have more blocks and concede an above average number of corners. In 2015/16 for example, Tottenham had the most average shots per game in the Premier League with 17.3. They were third for most corners with an average of 6.7 a game, just behind City with 6.8 and Liverpool with 7.0.

During the same season, Sunderland conceded the most shots per game, an average of 15.0. The Mackem’s were #4 for shots blocked, and #2 for average corners conceded, 6.0, behind Stoke with 6.3. Incidentally, Stoke was #3 for shots conceded.

Therefore, find out the sides that take the most shots, and concede the most shots, and you’ll know which teams to follow for corners. It should also go without saying that teams playing with width are more likely to force corners. The first half corner market has a lot to recommend it; primarily because the game is less likely to be influenced by goals.

However, as we found out with the City game, an early goal changes everything which is why in-play corner betting is the way to go.

In-Play Corner Betting

Predicting how a game will pan out in advance is an extremely tricky undertaking. As we saw in the Man City game, if a dominant side has a commanding lead early on, your corner bet could be doomed. Therefore, it is wise to wait and see how a game flows to determine which side is most likely to get corners. As a bonus, you may receive far better odds than you would pre-match.

While corners seldom lead to goals, a goal causes the corners market to change rapidly. When a dominant side scores, they could press for more goals or remain content to sit on the lead. When an underdog side scores, they will almost certainly sit back and invite pressure. For the favoured team, playing through the middle of the pitch is pointless, so they’re more likely to go wide and begin peppering the opposition box with crosses (depending on their style of play).

In-play betting towards the end of either half provides a real opportunity if one or both sides are eagerly seeking a goal. If a home side is losing to an underdog with say 15 minutes to go, you can bet it will throw the kitchen sink at their opponents. As the opposition retreats deeper and comes under increasing pressure, they are more likely to slash or head clearances away for a corner.

The chasing side is also likely to try shots from distance which can deflect off an opponent and go out for a corner. Of course, the winning team’s goalkeeper may also make some saves and tip the ball around the post. The winning team could also win corners on counter-attacks when they run the ball towards the corner flag to waste time in the second half.

Home sides dominating a game that is 0-0 with 35 minutes gone are ripe for first half corner bets. It is normal for such a side to build up a head of steam in search of a goal before half time.

In-play monitoring also gives you the chance to assess any given situation. You could have a high tempo match between two excellent sides that is 1-0 with several corners. However, if the game goes to 1-1 in the second half, there’s a good chance the tempo will drop as both sides decide whether or not a point is a good result.

Final Thoughts on the Corners Market

Although it seems like a complicated topic, you can simplify the corners market by adhering to a few rules:

  • Consider first half corners when betting pre-match.
  • In-play betting allows you to determine a game’s tempo.
  • Favourites win fewer corners when winning than when drawing or losing.
  • The teams with the most average shots usually win the most corners.
  • Teams that play defensively and concede the most shots, normally concede the most corners.
  • Heavy favourites seldom win many corners when in complete control of a game.
  • The longer it takes for the favourite to score, the more corners they win.
  • In-play betting is arguably best in the last few minutes of either half when the dominant side is losing or drawing. Late first half corners are a potentially lucrative venture when a home side needs a goal.

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