Every country dreams of raising the World Cup. Not a single team went to Qatar just for fun – they all entered to win.
But the first phase of the elimination is upon us as the group stage of the tournament draws to a close. Half of the 32 teams that started in Qatar will pack up and head home.
So, who needs what to survive into Round 16?
Hosts Qatar, fourth out of four in their group, had the shameful honor of being the first team to be eliminated from this year’s tournament. But at least they didn’t get far to go home.
Ecuador and the Netherlands are leading the group to enter the final round of the group stage, each team has 4 points. Senegal is only one point behind.
- The Netherlands need a win or draw against Qatar to qualify for the round of 16.
- Ecuador needs to win against Senegal to secure a place in the next round.
- Senegal needs to beat Ecuador to secure a place in the next round.
- If Ecuador vs Senegal draw, Ecuador will qualify – unless Qatar beats the Netherlands, in which case Senegal will advance.
This is always possible most competitive group – as well as being most politically accused. The remaining matches see old rivals and geopolitical foes head to head, and any of the four teams could still qualify, even if Wales – for the first time in the competition. World Cup since 1958 – only math chance.
He tops the table with four points from two games. Iran is second with three goals, after two goals in stoppage time against Wales on Friday. The US is third in the table with two points from two draws, while Wales have the hardest battle for a place with just one point.
- England will progress to the Round of 16 unless Wales beat them by four goals or more.
- The United States needs to beat Iran to advance to the knockout round.
- Iran needs to win against the US to secure a place in the next round. But a draw with the US would be enough for Iran to progress – if Wales can’t beat England.
- Wales needs a little miracle. They will have to beat England, and Iran vs USA ends in a draw. They can also progress without a draw in that match, as long as they get a four-goal win over England. Do not hold your breath.
Another open pool where all four teams can still qualify at this stage. Mexico has just one point at the bottom of the table, while Saudi Arabia and their shock victim Argentina have three points each. Poland, with four points, lead the table – but they are not yet safe.
- Poland only need a draw against Argentina to secure qualification, although they would certainly prefer a win.
- Argentina needs to beat Poland to secure a place in the Round of 16. A draw here and Argentina are easily trailing on goal difference.
- If Saudi Arabia beats Mexico, they will advance to the next round. A draw with Mexico combined with Poland’s loss to Argentina would also help them qualify. If Poland beat Argentina by a big margin, the Saudis could still take second place in the qualifying round.
- Mexico needs to win against the Saudis, and for Poland to beat Argentina.
World champions France, with six points from two games, are the first Qatar team to qualify for the Round of 16. This makes the permutations of the rest of the table a little less confusing.
Australia has three points, while Denmark and Tunisia have one each.
- Australia vs Denmark – the winner will continue with France
- Tunisia needs to beat France by at least 2 goals, hope Australia and Denmark draw
Everyone expected Spain and Germany to make it through Group E. And at least everyone was half right, with Spain comfortably leading with four points from two games. However, Germany are languishing at the bottom of the table, as coach Hansi Flick’s quest to restore German football glory before 2018 appears to be a longer-term project than initially hoped.
Japan and Costa Rica each have three points after Sunday’s meeting, meaning any of the four can still qualify.
- Spain only needs a draw against Japan to qualify for the knockout round.
- If Japan wins Spain, they will go through with 6 points. If they draw, they need Costa Rica and Germany also draw. If Japan draws and Germany wins, Japan still has a chance to progress through the goal difference.
- Costa Rica needs to beat Germany in their final group game to advance to the Round of 16.
- Germany needed to beat Costa Rica and Spain beat Japan to secure a spot in the second qualifying round. But if Spain and Japan draw, Germany will have to beat Costa Rica by at least 2 goals. They could still go through with a 1-goal margin against Costa Rica if they scored more than Japan in a hypothetical draw with Spain – for example, a 1-1 draw between Spain and Japan, and a 2-1 win. for Germany before Costa Rica will see the Germans progress.
Canada is the second team to book a flight home. That means Croatia, Morocco and Belgium can still qualify. The Belgians, ranked second in the world, were expected to top this group, but Sunday’s 2-0 loss to Morocco changed everything.
- Croatia and Morocco have 4 points each; Belgium has three.
- Croatia only need a draw against Belgium on Thursday to secure a place in the round of 16
- Belgium need to win that game to progress.
- Morocco only needs a draw against Canada to qualify for the group stage.
All four teams can still qualify from Group G, with two matches still to be played at the end of this World Cup schedule. Brazil and Switzerland have one win each, while Cameroon and Serbia have yet to make a mark on the group.
Cameroon meets Serbia on Monday afternoon, before Switzerland meets Brazil. Whoever wins the second game will comfortably pass the group stage with six points. A draw and things get interesting.
Group H has also played only one game so far, with it all to play. Portugal is at the top of the table with 3 points; Korea and Uruguay 1 point each. Ghana has yet to register a point. Anyone can still qualify or be eliminated at the first hurdle.
A win for Portugal over Uruguay on Monday, which is far from guaranteed, would send Cristiano Ronaldo’s men through to the Round of 16. South Korea take on Ghana in an earlier match on Monday. See this space.