World Cup Scenarios: What Needs To Happen For Teams To Advance Out Of The Group Stage

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The final round of Group play in the 2018 FIFA World Cup began on Monday, with two irrelevant games between two teams who had already sewn up spots in the Knockout Stage, and two teams who were already destined to go home playing in Group A. Group B, meanwhile, still has some significance. But for the other six groups, things aren’t necessarily quite so clear.

Here, now, is a look at the various scenarios that may play out in the final round of Group play.

Group A

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This one was over before it even began. On Monday, Uruguay and Russia played each other in a meaningless game, considering that both had already mathematically secured a spot in the Knockout Stage. Saudi Arabia and Egypt, both of whom had already been mathematically eliminated, played each other in a similarly meaningless match.

For what it’s worth, Uruguay beat Russia 3-0 while Saudi Arabia beat Egypt 2-1.

Group B

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With a 1-1 tie against Iran, Portugal secured itself a spot in the Knockout Stage. Spain tied Morocco 2-2, securing the 2010 champs an advancement to the next round.

Group C

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France is mathematically guaranteed to advance, while Peru is out. Denmark can advance with either a win or a draw against France; but if they lose, and Australia beats Peru, they’re out. Australia’s situation is much more complicated. We’ll let New York Times soccer writers Kenan Davis, Victor Mather, and Joe Ward explain it.

“Australia is out if it loses to Peru or draws. If it wins and Denmark loses, it will almost certainly advance, although Denmark could still get through with a few odd score combinations, such as Denmark losing by one in a high-scoring game and Australia winning by one in a low-scoring affair.”

Australia will play Peru, and France will play Denmark, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time Tuesday.

Group D

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Croatia is guaranteed to advance. For the rest of the group, it looks like this:

Nigeria will advance with a win over Argentina. With a draw against Argentina, it will come down to how Iceland does against Croatia.

Iceland can only advance if it beats Croatia and if Argentina wins against Nigeria but not by a larger margin than Iceland’s win, or Argentina drawing against Nigeria, and Iceland winning by two goals or more.

Argentina will only advance if it beats Nigeria, and even then Iceland could still take second place in the group if Iceland beats Croatia by the same margin or better.

Iceland plays Croatia, and Argentina plays Nigeria, Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Group E

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This one is a hot mess. The only thing that’s certain is that Costa Rica is out. Beyond that, well…

Brazil advances with a win or a draw against Serbia. If Brazil loses, they could still secure an advancement if Costa Rica beats Switzerland, but not by more goals than Brazil wins against Serbia if Brazil wins. Get all that?

Switzerland advances with a win or a draw against Costa Rica. If the Swiss lose, they would still advance if Brazil beats Serbia. If Brazil and Serbia draw, Switzerland might still advance if it loses by only one goal.

Serbia advances if it beats Brazil. It’s also out if it draws against Brazil, unless Costa Rica beats Switzerland by two goals or more.

Costa Rica plays Switzerland, and Brazil plays Serbia, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday.

Group F

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This one is only slightly less complicated than Group E.

Mexico is in with a win or a draw against Sweden. If it loses to Sweden, Mexico still advances if Germany loses to South Korea, or wins but with a smaller goal differential.

Germany’s situation is extremely complicated. As the New York Times explains it:

“Germany probably advances with a win over South Korea, but could still be out even then if Sweden wins and the scores fall just right: if Germany wins 1-0 and Sweden wins 2-1, for example. Germany would also advance with a draw if Mexico beats Sweden. If both matches end in draws, it would come down to which team, Germany or Sweden, scored more goals in their final group games, with Germany winning if the scores are equal. Germany could even advance if it loses in some scoring scenarios, as long as Mexico wins.”

Similarly complicated is Sweden’s outlook.

“Sweden would advance if it wins and Germany does not. If both win, it will come down to the goal difference between Germany, Sweden and Mexico. If Sweden draws, it must hope Germany loses or draws scoring fewer goals. If Sweden loses, it could back in only if it loses by one goal in a higher scoring game, like 3-2, and South Korea beats Germany narrowly.”

South Korea is all but out. The only way the South Koreans could advance would be if they beat by two goals or more and Sweden loses to Mexico.

Mexico plays Sweden, and South Korea plays Germany, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time Wednesday.

Group G

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After the nightmares that are Groups E and F, Group G is remarkably straightforward. England and Belgium advance, regardless of what happens; Tunisia and Panama are out, regardless of what happens.

England plays Belgium, and Panama plays Tunisia, in games that are at this point nothing more than international friendlies, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday.

Group H

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Another nightmare to explain.

Poland is out. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s game (so to speak).

Japan is in to the Knockout Stage with a win or draw against Poland. If the Japanese lose to Poland, they could still advance if Colombia and Senegal draw, or if Colombia beats Senegal by a smaller margin than which Poland beats Japan.

Senegal advances with a win or a draw against Colombia. If the Senegalese lose, they can still advance if Japan loses to Poland by a higher margin.

Colombia will advance with a win over Senegal. If they draw, they will advance if Japan loses.

Senegal plays Colombia, and Japan plays Poland, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Thursday.