Already in these past eleven days, all 32 teams played their first two games. Already some team’s fates are determined as six teams know they’ve qualified for the knockout round and eight teams know they’re going home after they play their last game. The fates of the remaining eighteen are still unclear and they will have to rely on their play in the last game in order to determine if they’re among the remaining ten to advance or among the other eight that will head home earlier than they hoped. With each group’s games both taking place simultaneously, you can bet each team will need to play like they mean it.
Here is a group-by-group breakdown of those who made it (with countries who are guaranteed to advance in bold), those who will be leaving soon and those who still have a chance. Hyperlinks with each group are to my original review:
Group A: This is as basic as game statistics go about right now. Two teams won both their games which of course means the other two teams lost. The two that won their two games already know they’re advancing. That’s as basic as it gets. This is the only group that has it that way. The two teams that won both their games are Russia and Uruguay. One of two groups that already has decided both of their qualifiers.
Monday’s game of Russia vs. Uruguay will be a case of the final standings. They know they’re qualifying. The game will be about who qualifies as first and second. Russia could finish first by simply drawing. Their goal differential is big enough. Uruguay will have to win if they want to finish first as both their wins were 1-0.
Since Egypt and Saudi Arabia lost both their games, it’s pretty clear in their match against each other on Monday, it will be a game for pride.
Group B: Group B is a group that’s hard to explain. The only definite thing is it’s over for Morocco. As for qualifiers, no definite ones with three teams still having a chance. Portugal and Spain both have the best chances after their 3-3 draw against each other and 1-0 victories in their following games. Both would not only have to win in their games (although they could still qualify even if they both draw), but if both win, goal differential would have to decide 1st and 2nd.
However don’t count out Iran. They may rank 3rd right now with a win and a loss– their win being their first since 1998– but beating Portugal will mean they would qualify. If Spain loses their game against Morocco in the process, Iran could just come out on top! Goad differential would have to decide between Spain and Portugal for the second berth.
What can I say? Game 3 will have to decide it all.
Group C: Right now one team, France, is guaranteed to qualify based on their two wins. Also one team, Peru, is guaranteed to go packing for home after Tuesday’s game, whether they win against Australia or not. Even if Denmark beats France on Tuesday, France still has enough game points to qualify, even if they would finish second and Denmark would win Group C.
The way things are right now, France and Denmark could draw and both teams would advance on game points, even if Australia beats Peru. Australia would still have a chance if they beat Peru and Denmark loses to France. However even as little as a draw against Peru would eliminate Australia’s chances from qualifying. Another case of Game 3 to decide the second qualifier, as well as the final standings of all teams.
Group D: That’s all it took. It just took Croatia’s 2-0 win over Nigeria and 3-0 win over Argentina to have them qualify for the Round of 16 for the first time since their 3rd-place finish in 1998.
Croatia is in a healthy position to finish first in Group D as Iceland would have beat Croatia to have a chance at qualifying. And Croatia is as capable of losing to Iceland as they are to beating them. Both teams won a game against each other in World Cup qualifying. Actually the other three teams all have a chance to qualify, no matter how slim. Even Argentina, despite their big loss to Croatia. Argentina’s big loss does put them at the bottom with the harshest of chances to qualify. They would not only have to beat Nigeria, but Croatia will have to beat or draw against Iceland. Messi’s fourth and possibly final chance at winning a World Cup depends on all that. Nigeria could still qualify with a draw against Argentina, but a win will guarantee them qualifying should Iceland actually defeat Croatia. That’s Game 3 for you. Sometimes chances are not worth taking.
Group E: Group E is a lot like Group B where two teams have a win and a draw, one team has a win and a loss, and one team has two losses which guarantee elimination after Wednesday’s game. The team that’s definitely eliminated is Costa Rica. They may have been the Cinderella story of 2014, but the clock struck midnight here in Russia for them. Even if they beat Switzerland, it’s over.
Any of the other three teams–Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia– can qualify, depending on the results of their games on Wednesday. All three also have chances to get eliminated too. Brazil could draw against Serbia and it would guarantee qualification for them. However Serbia would have to win over Brazil to guarantee qualification on their side. They could still qualify if they draw against Brazil and Switzerland loses to Costa Rica 2-0 or 3-1, but why take a chance? The only way Switzerland could still qualify after losing to Costa Rica is if Brazil loses to Serbia 2-0 or 3-1 as Brazil has an edge with their goal differential. A draw against Costa Rica would guarantee qualification for Switzerland, whether either Brazil or Serbia wins.
Brazil could still qualify if they simply draw against Serbia, but the only way for Brazil to qualify if they lose to Serbia is if Coast Rica beats Switzerland, and as long as their loss to Serbia isn’t that huge of a margin. Whatever the situation, Game 3 will be a case where all three eligible teams will have to play it like they mean it.
Group F: This is the one group where there are no definite qualifiers, but no teams definitely eliminated either. All four teams still have a chance to qualify and it will completely rely on the outcome of the final game on Wednesday. Game 3 could have a case where there are two teams with two wins and a loss with the other two teams having a win and two losses. It could even be a case of one team having three straight wins and the other three teams having a win and two losses and goal differentials deciding the second qualifier. Of course draws could change all that, but right now none of the teams are eliminated and all still have a chance.
Starting with Mexico, they have the best chances of qualifying after their 1-0 win against Germany and 2-1 win over South Korea. However they could be eliminated if they lose to Sweden 2-0 or 3-1 and Germany wins 2-0 or 3-1 to South Korea in the process. That would be the case of three teams with two wins and a loss but one doesn’t qualify. And it has happened in past World Cups.
Germany and Sweden both have a win and a loss as well as two goals for and two against. However Germany leads Sweden for the second-place spot because of the head-to-head result. I have to say that goal by Tony Kroos in the 95th minute was definitely something Germany needed to stay alive and have healthy chances of qualifying to the knockout stage. Otherwise they would’ve risked being the fourth of five defending Cup champions this 21st century that failed to advance. Nevertheless they still risk missing out not just if they lose to South Korea, but even if they draw and Sweden ends up winning over Mexico. It’s still possible Germany will fail to advance past the opening round for the first time since 1938. Like Germany, Sweden would have to win over Mexico to have the healthiest of chances to qualify. Qualifying via a draw could only happen if Germany draws too and Sweden’s draw is bigger: such as Sweden-Mexico 2-2 while Germany-South Korea 1-1. Whatever. It’s too complicated to tell! But they know they need to play like they mean it.
Finally there’s South Korea. It’s easy to think they have the best chances of getting eliminated with losing both games, but they still have a chance, despite it being a slim one. They not only have to win over Germany, but Mexico has to beat Sweden in order for the Koreans to qualify. A slim chance is still a chance possible. And the Koreans could do it since they will have a one-man advantage on Wednesday. The fates of all will be decided that Wednesday. Sure, it was awfully long for me to describe, but the group is that tight right now.
Group G: Group G is like Group A where the two qualifiers are already decided thanks to both England and Belgium scoring two wins and both Panama and Tunisia losing to both teams in the process. This is especially happy for England as the first win was England’s first win of a World Cup match since 2010. Definitely a big upper after a dreadful 2014 showing. The big surprise is that both England and Belgium share the same goal differential with eight for and two against. Their game on Thursday will be just to decide who finishes first and who finishes second. A draw, god forbid, would require the team of the first goal to take first place, or some other FIFA law if the draw happens to be nil-nil. Glad to see no nil-nil draws yet this World Cup.
It may be all over for Panama and Tunisia but their game on Thursday will be for pride. Panama will try to win their first game ever while Tunisia will try to win their first game since their debut in 1978.
Group H: Another group with no definite qualifiers and three teams that still have a chance at qualifying. When I made my predictions, I looked back and wondered if there would be any African teams or Asian teams that would have a chance of making it past the group stage. My predictions didn’t make it look so. However Japan and Senegal are the two teams that have done the best play with a win and a draw each. Japan is especially noteworthy as they delivered the first victory by an Asian team since 2010. The That 2-2 draw where Japan played Senegal was tight. Their games on Thursday will have to decide their final fates. Colombia endured a 2-1 loss to Japan in their first game, but really picked themselves up tonight after their 3-0 win over Poland. That win helps keep Colombia in contention for qualifying. It all depends on their game against Senegal. They would have to win as Senegal has the advantage if they draw. And who knows what will happen in the game of Japan vs. Poland. Both Senegal and Japan have the luxury of qualifying even if they both draw in their final matches.
The only team that has their World Cup fate already decided is Poland. They lost 2-1 to Senegal and 3-0 to Colombia and that means it’s over for them. They could win against Japan for their national pride. If Japan does lose, the only way Japan could qualify is if Senegal beats Colombia. Game 3 is almost always make or break.
And there you have it. This is how qualifying stands for the knockout stage of the World Cup right now. These next four days will seal the fates of all teams not just for who qualifies, but how they finish in their group. Don’t forget it’s not just about getting a berth by finishing in the Top 2. It’s also about the two qualifiers’ group finish as it will decide which game they play in and determine who their opponent will be. Too complicated to explain it all. Still exciting to watch the action unfold.
Well here we go. Each of the teams at this year’s World Cup have played two of their three Group Stage opponents. Over the next few days they will all play their last opponent and the group results will be official. Two countries from each group will remain in contention and move onto the knockout rounds. Two others will have their World Cup dreams end right there.
Already there have been some clear results over these past two games. There are some that already achieved their guarantee to move on. There are some that already have been determined it’s already all over. And there are some that will have to rely on the last match as a last chance. Here is a group-by-group breakdown of those who made it (with countries who are guaranteed to advance in bold), those who will be leaving soon and those who still have a chance:
I’ll bet most of you thought that Brazil would be the first country to be guaranteed a berth in the Round of 16, right? So did I. The scoreless tie against Mexico still keeps things uncertain between three countries. The one certainty is that Cameroon will not move on even if they won against Brazil, which would highly be unlikely.
The way it looks for the three teams in contention is this. With Mexico playing Croatia, Mexico can qualify by simply tying. Croatia needs nothing less than a win. Brazil can simply qualify by tying but do you think they’d want to do that after their scoreless draw to Mexico?
This is the one group where both advancers have already been decided. Both the Netherlands and Chile have two wins guaranteeing them a spot in the Round of 16. It’s also guaranteed it’s all over for Australia and defending champs Spain with two losses each. Even if one of them won in their match on Monday, it would all be just for pride. That’s all they can muster now. I’m sure Spain will most likely want to win it as a last message about themselves.
The match of Netherlands vs. Chile on Monday will be a case where it decides which team finishes first and which finishes second. Netherlands can end up #1 just by simply drawing against Chile because of better goal differentials. Chile must win this if it wants to claim the #1 spot in Group B. Besides I have a co-worker who’s Chilean and he wants Chile to win. He feels if Chile loses, they’ll end up facing Brazil in the Round of 16. And Brazil has cut Chile’s World Cup dreams short in the Round of 16 twice before: in 1998 and 2010.
Colombia’s two wins over Greece and the Ivory Coast have guaranteed them a berth in the Round of 16: their first since 1990. The other three countries still have a chance. Japan could do it by winning against Colombia and Greece could do it if they win against the Ivory Coast. However it’s a case for either of those two nations that they have to win in order to qualify. And even if both win, it would depend on goal differentials to decide who qualifies with Japan having a two-goal advantage over Greece. Ivory Coast could advance just by simply tying Greece but it’s best guaranteed by a tie between Colombia and Japan.Ivory Coast could lose their chances if they tie and Japan has a win with a two-goal advantage. Or Ivory Coast could be out if they lose to Greece. So it’s not out for any of the four and the last games in Tuesday to decide it all.
Admit it. When you’ve been looking at this group all these months, you were probably guessing which of the three: Uruguay, England and Italy will qualify. And I’m sure with good reason. All three have a World Cup legacy and all three have proven to be strong challengers today. Even I was fixated almost strictly on those three. I’m sure hardly any of us payed much attention to Costa Rica. I’m sure we all thought Costa Rica was the odd one out and wrote them off. They don’t have the same legacy of the three and even now they rank low in the world. Well guess which of the four in Group D is guaranteed to advance?
Another definite thing is England will be out. This makes it the first World Cup since 1958 that England will fail to advance after the First Round. It’s possible they could win against Costa Rica on Tuesday for the sake of pride but we’ll see. So the match of Uruguay vs. Italy will settle who the second advancer will be. Winner of course advances but if it’s a draw, Italy advances because of better goal differentials. So Uruguay has to win if they want to advance. Quite something how it will be two former World Cup winners from this group who will not advance.
If there’s one country that wanted to make past embarrassments a thing of the past, it’s obvious it’s France. I’m sure most of you remember their embarrassments in 2010. The two wins from France–and big wins with 3-0 against Honduras and 5-2 against Switzerland–show that Les Bleus are back and have an exceptionally strong chance of advancing. The only way I can see France not advancing is if they lose badly to Ecuador (a minimum of 4-0 Ecuador) and Switzerland have at least a 5-0 win over Honduras. That’s how comfortable France’s chances are, though nothing is set in stone right now.
The other option is which of the other country’s will advance. Both Ecuador and Switzerland have a win and a loss each with Ecuador having the advantage with even goal differentials. Ecuador could qualify with a simple 1-0 win over France. If Switzerland were to win too, its win would have to be over three goals at least. The only way Switzerland can advance with something as little as a 1-0 win is if Ecuador loses or ties France on Wednesday. Honduras has slim chances of qualifying but the chance is there. They would have to have a big win over Switzerland–like 4-0 or 5-1– and Ecuador would have to lose to France. No ifs, ands or buts.
Argentina’s two wins may be unspectacular but their 2-1 win over Bosnia and their 1-0 win over Iran guarantee they will advance to the Round of 16. Bosnia unfortunately is out. So the most they can do in their match against Iran on Wednesday is win for pride.
Nigeria and Iran both still have a chance with Nigeria having the advantage with a win and a tie. Nigeria could advance by simply tying Argentina on Wednesday. Iran not only needs a win but Nigeria has to lose to Argentina completely for Iran to advance. Plain and simple.
This is one group where all four still have a chance to qualify.
Germany and the US are the two most likely due to them having both a win and a tie. Portugal has the slimmest chances but they’re still there. They have to have a big win against Ghana and for either of the other two to lose badly in their match to have a chance. Ghana can also make it in with a win but it would have to come at the US losing. They only way Ghana could advance with Germany losing is if Germany loses to the US 5-0 or 6-1. Germany and the US can simply advance just by tying. The US’s chances are good but not solid. As I mentioned before, they could be out if they lose and Ghana has a win. Thursday is the day everything will be decided.
Belgium is the one country right now that’s guaranteed a berth in the Round of 16 with their wins of 2-1 against Algeria and 1-0 against Russia.
While the other three countries still have a chance ,the country with the best odds is Algeria upon their 4-2 win over South Korea. Their win was big enough so that they could advance by simply tying Russia. Only if South Korea won over Belgium 3-0 or 4-1 would that ruin Algeria’s chances. However Russia can still have a chance. They have to have nothing less than a win over Algeria for them to advance. It would only take a big win from South Korea to prevent Russia from advancing upon a win over Algeria on Thursday.
Wonder why all four teams play their last Group Stage game simultaneously? It had its origins at the 1978 World Cup. It didn’t happen in the First Round Group play but in the Second Round of group play. This was when the Top 2 from each group advanced to a second round of group play. Winners of both groups played in the final for the Cup. Second-place in both groups played for third-place. Brazil played their last match 2 1/2 hours before hosts Argentina was to play theirs. Brazil won over Poland 3-1. That sent the message to Argentina they’d need to win over Peru by at least four points to qualify for the final. And they did it: 6-0. Argentina eventually won the Cup. That led FIFA to pass a ruling that all teams in a group play their last Group Stage match simultaneously.
And there you go. That’s what’s needed in terms of advancing to the Round of 16 starting on Saturday. I’m sure it will be crazy shifting your attention from one game to the other but don’t worry, the other will eventually get replayed.