The 2018 World Cup is down to the final round of group games. The teams that are still alive to advance have a better sense of what they need to do to get to the knockout rounds. All pairs of group games will be played simultaneously so that teams within a group cannot have a tactical advantage of knowing specific needs before kickoff (a legacy of an infamous Germany-Austria group game in 1982).
The top two teams advance from each group, with 1st place finishers from one group facing the 2nd place team from their partner groups (A/B, C/D, E/F, G/H). The group tiebreakers, if two or more teams are tied on total points, starts with goal differential, and then goals scored. If that doesn’t break the tie, then it goes to just the matches involving teams in the tiebreaker, again using points, then goal differential, then goals scored. And if still tied, it goes to “Fair Play”–a points system based on team accumulation of yellow and red cards where more is bad, and then a drawing of lots if that still doesn’t conclude the tie.
Let’s break down what each team needs to advance:
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GROUP A (Games at 10 a.m. ET, Monday June 25)
Russia and Uruguay (both with 6 points) are both advancing and Egypt and Saudi Arabia are eliminated. Russia will have the tiebreaker based on goal difference if there is a draw in the final match with Uruguay, so Russia finishes 1st with a draw or a win, while Uruguay needs to win to finish 1st.
GROUP B (Games at 2 p.m. ET, Monday June 25)
Spain and Portugal both have 4 points, while Iran has 3 points from the win against Morocco, and Morocco is eliminated.
Portugal advances with a draw against Iran, while Spain also advances with a draw (since one of Portugal or Iran will be below 5 points). Iran advances with a win over Portugal. They can also advance with a draw and a Spain loss to Morocco, but because of goals scored, they would either need to have a high-scoring draw (at least 3 goals) or Spain would have to lose by more than one goal.
If Spain and Portugal finish level on points (at either 4 with a loss by each, 5 with draws, or 7 points with both winning), then it comes down to a tiebreaker. They are currently even on both goal differential and goals. If that remains, it could be decided by “fair play.” Entering the final game, Spain has only one yellow card while Portugal has two.