With matchday 2 in the books, the final games of the group stage are upon us.
The Inner Sanctum takes a look at how each team in contention can make the knockout stages and what must fall in their favour.
Netherlands: The Netherlands will qualify with a win against Qatar, and will finish top of the group should they win by more goals than Ecuador (should Ecuador win). They will still qualify with a draw or a loss and a Senegal loss against Ecuador. A loss with a Senegal win will see the Netherlands fall out of contention depending on goal difference with Ecuador, who currently sit equal with a GD of two.
Ecuador: Ecuador must get at least a point against Senegal to progress. They’ll finish top of the group if Netherlands lose, draw and Ecuador win or they win by more goals than them. With a draw, they can still finish top if both teams draw and they score more goals than the Dutch in their match against Qatar.
Senegal: For Senegal the situation becomes harder. They need to beat Ecuador to guarantee they will progress. They can still progress with a draw and a Netherlands loss with goal difference made up. If they lose, they are out of the World Cup.
Qatar: Qatar were the first team eliminated from the tournament after the Netherlands drew with Ecuador in matchday 2, becoming the quickest host nation exit from the tournament in 92 years.
England: All but qualified, a win or draw against Wales will see them safely through to the knockouts. The only way they get knocked out is by losing to Wales by seven or more, no matter the result of the other game.
Iran: It’s been a remarkable turnaround for Iran who had a significant change in fortunes after their loss to England. They’ll need to avoid a loss to the USA to progress. A win or draw will see them in the round of 16 and they can top the group if they win and Wales beats or draws with England.
USA: Must beat Iran in order to progress, any other result and they’ll be knocked out of the competition, meaning the other game won’t factor in.
Wales: Blocked by a Herculean obstacle but not quite out of contention. If Iran/USA ends in a draw, Wales only need to beat England to move on. Any other result in the other game, they must beat England by 7 or more to leapfrog them into the knockout stage.
Poland: A win and a draw in their previous games may serve Poland well due to the topsy-turvy nature of this group so far. Sitting at the top of the bunch right now, a win or draw against Argentina would obviously send them through. However, a loss would see them drop out if Saudi Arabia win, or if Mexico can win by enough to jump them on goal difference.
Argentina: After an unexpected defeat to Saudi Arabia in their first game, Argentina recovered momentum against Mexico, defeating them comfortably to keep their hopes alive. For them, a win will equal a guaranteed place in the Round of 16. A draw would not be enough unless Saudi Arabia and Mexico also draw, while a loss would see them unable to progress.
Saudi Arabia: The unlikely victory over Argentina helps Saudi Arabia’s chances brilliantly, as a win over Mexico will send them through regardless of the other result. A draw could see them go through as long as Argentina lose or beat Poland by enough to force them out on goal difference, while a loss would see them fall short.
Mexico: Mexico truly has its back against the wall. With just one draw from two games, their match against Saudi Arabia is win or die, with another draw not being enough to send them through. Even still, a win would still see them needing Argentina to lose, or Poland to lose with enough goal difference being recovered for them to claim that second spot.
France: The first team to qualify for the knockout stages of this World Cup. Top spot is all but certain to go to the defending World Champions. The only way they can finish second is to lose to Tunisia and for Australia to defeat Denmark and claw back the three goal-deficit.
Australia: Fate is largely in the Socceroos’ hands when they take on Denmark in the early hours of Thursday morning. If Australia wins, then qualification to the Round of 16 is secured regardless of what occurs in the other match. A Draw with Denmark will be enough to seal qualification as long as Tunisia fails to defeat France. However, if Tunisia defeats France, then Australia needs to win no matter what.
Denmark: Denmark cannot settle for anything less than a win on the final matchday. Denmark will qualify if it defeats Australia and Tunisia either draws or loses to France. However, if Tunisia wins against the 2018 champions, then Denmark will need to defeat Australia by either the same or more goals than Tunisia wins by.
Tunisia: The odds are stacked against the Eagles of Carthage, but there is still a glimmer of hope. Regardless of what happens in the other game, Tunisia needs to win against France or else it will face elimination. If Tunisia wins and the other game ends in a draw it will be through to the next stage but if Denmark wins, then Tunisia will need to win by at least one more goal than Denmark wins by.
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Spain: A Spanish victory would see them top the group, while they just need a point from their final group match against Japan to qualify for the next round. However, if they do draw and Costa Rica defeats Germany, they will finish second in the group. A loss for Spain would mean they could miss out on qualification if Costa Rica beats Germany, or if Germany defeats Costa Rica by a margin to make up the current -8 goal difference they have on Spain. If Spain lose by at least 13 goals and Costa Rica vs Germany is a draw, they will finish second in the group. A loss paired with anything greater than an eight goal turnaround between Spain and Germany’s goal difference would also send Spain home.
Japan: Japan would secure their passage to the Round of 16 with a victory over Spain on the final matchday. They would also top the group if Costa Rica fail to win their match. If both Japan and Costa Rica win, Japan would top the group on goal difference and goals scored unless Costa Rica make up the six-goal deficit. If both matches end in a draw, Japan would qualify second. However, a draw would leave them vulnerable to drop out if Costa Rica defeat Germany, or if Germany defeat Costa Rica by at least two goals. A German win by one goal would mean Japan finish second in the group with a draw. A loss would knock Japan out of the World Cup.
Costa Rica: Costa Rica would secure progression to the next round with a victory over Germany. They would also top the group with a win if Japan vs Spain ends in a draw. If Japan win, then Costa Rica would finish second unless they made up the six goal deficit on Japan. Then, Costa Rica would finish first on head-to-head. A draw for Costa Rica would mean they would have to rely on Spain to beat Japan in the other match. Otherwise, they would have to rely on Japan to beat Spain by at least 13 goals. A draw in both matches would send Costa Rica home. A loss would end their World Cup hopes.
Germany: Anything but a win for Germany would end their World Cup at the group stages. Their destiny is not in their own hands as they are heavily reliant on the result of Spain vs Japan. A Germany victory and a Spanish win would secure Germany’s spot in second and a place in the Round of 16. A German win of two goals or more paired with a draw in the other match would send them through. A draw in the other match paired with a German win of one goal would mean the group would be decided on goals scored and if that was identical, then on head-to-head, where Japan would advance. However, a Japanese win would mean Germany would have to make up the -8 goal difference they are behind on Spain to get level. A nine goal turnaround for Germany over Spain would send them through, also.
Croatia: The equation is simply for the 2018 World Cup runner up in Croatia, as they take on the dangerous yet disappointing Belgium outfit in their final match. A win or a draw and Croatia will be headed to the round of 16 with Morocco joining them. A win will see them claim top spot in the group so long as Morocco don’t make up the goal difference if they are victorious against Canada. They will also remain atop the group if both themselves and Morocco draw their respective games. A loss against Belgium and Morocco earning any points against Canada will see Croatia fall out of contention and be eliminated from the tournament.
Morocco: Morocco have surprised many with their form this tournament, beating heavyweights Belgium and sitting in second place in the group before the final matchday. An interesting situation arises for Morocco in that a Croatian win against Belgium will see them through to the knockout stages no matter what. To finish on their own accord however, they must win or draw against the already eliminated Canada to solidify their place in the round of 16, with a chance at top spot if Croatia was to draw, lose or win by a margin less than 2 goals of that of a Morocco victory over Canada. If Morocco was to lose, a Belgium win over Croatia would leave it down to Croatia and Morocco for the second spot on goal difference.
Belgium: The Red Devils suffered a shock defeat in their last match against Morocco and now face a difficult task to get out of the group and into the knockout stages. The clearest path to the knockouts will be to defeat the top of the group Croatia and jump above them, with a Moroccan draw or loss against Canada putting them in first position. If they were to draw with Croatia, they would need to rely on Morocco losing their match by three or more goals to jump above them. A loss against Croatia and Belgium’s tournament is over.
Canada: Canada were officially eliminated from contention for the knockout stages after their 4-1 loss against Croatia in the second matchday. They can now only impact the rest of the table with the final match against Morocco, but will not be going to the round of 16 themselves.
Brazil: Two wins from two games sees Brazil already through to the knock-out stage of the tournament. A win or a draw against Cameroon in their last match will see them finish top of Group G. Only a loss, combined with a win for Switzerland against Serbia and a swing of three goals will see them slip to second. The South American giants are well-placed to finish atop the group, where a date with the second placed Group H side (likely Uruguay or Ghana) awaits.
Switzerland: Switzerland have their destiny in their own hands. The 1-0 win against Cameroon first up, followed by a close 1-0 loss to Brazil means they currently sit second on three points. A win against Serbia will definitely see them through to the knock-out stage and a matchup against likely top spot of Group H in Portugal. A draw should also be enough, and would only not be if Cameroon can topple Brazil (which is unlikely). A loss to Serbia will see them miss out altogether, as Serbia would move above them.
Cameroon: The thrilling draw against Serbia kept their hopes alive of making the knock-out stage, but a final match-up against Brazil makes qualifying a huge challenge. A draw is not good enough – they need to win and ideally win well. Even a win may not guarantee them a spot, as they will be on four points and relying on Serbia to beat Switzerland (but not by a greater margin than they beat Brazil), or Serbia and Switzerland to draw. Confused? If you are a fan of Cameroon, just barrack for a huge win against Brazil!
Serbia: In the same boat as Cameroon, but have an easier opponent in their final match in Switzerland. The Serbs simply need to win to make it, and hope Brazil can take care of Cameroon. Anything other than a win and their tournament comes to a close. If they win and somehow Cameroon beats Brazil, they would need to win by a greater margin to make up the goal difference.
Portugal: Tuesday’s win guaranteed progression to the round of 16. Only one result could see them fall to second in the group, if Portugal lose to South Korea and Ghana beat Uruguay by at least three goals.
Ghana: Beating Uruguay on Saturday will be the safest way to move on to the knockouts. Can afford a draw as long as South Korea don’t beat Portugal. Ghana would top the group with a three goal win and a Portugal loss. A loss against Uruguay and Ghana is out of the tournament
South Korea: Reliant on other results, they need to beat Portugal to have a chance but won’t progress if Ghana beat Uruguay regardless. A Uruguay win means South Korea will need to beat Portugal by a larger margin to qualify on goal difference. A Ghana/Uruguay draw means they would need to win by at least two to make up the difference and qualify to the Round of 16. A loss and their tournament is over.
Uruguay: Must beat Ghana to leapfrog them and qualify, however a South Korea win could complicate things. If South Korea beat Portugal, Uruguay have to win by at least two more than the Koreans in order to make up the goal difference. A draw or loss won’t be enough.
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