The first round of the World Cup was more than we could have hoped for: a generous downpour of exciting goals, brilliant play from our favorite superstars, and how can we forget the festive after goal celebrations from jubilant players. The final matches of the World Cup’s group stage began today. Only the top two teams from each of the eight groups advance – and winning a group is better than finishing second, because the first-place team from each group will next play a second-place (and usually weaker) team from another group, in a single-elimination match.
So without further adieu, let's take a look at which teams will advance, and if they haven't qualified yet, what turn of events will help get them there. And since I know all of you love statistics, I've also included the odds of each team advancing to the next round according to Predictwise.
Despite its disappointing tie with Mexico, Brazil won Group A with a commanding win over Cameroon. Mexico needed only a tie to advance but wound up securing its place in the Round of 16 with a 3-1 win over Croatia.
Brazil won the group on a tiebreaker of goal differential with Mexico. Brazil will play Chile, the second-place team from Group B, in the Round of 16.
At one point in its game with Croatia, Mexico was a goal away from winning Group A outright — with the same record as Brazil, Mexico would have needed a better goal differential. Still, Mexico needed only a tie against Croatia to advance, and it did much better than that, winning, 3-1. The Mexicans facethe Netherlands, winners of Group A, in the Round of 16.
With Brazil's win over Cameroon, Croatia needed a win over Mexico to make it into the Round of 16. After 72 scoreless minutes, Mexico poured it on, ending the Croatians' tournament.
Cameroon was eliminated even before its final game. It lost, 4-1, to Brazil.
The Netherlands has won the group by sweeping all three of its matches, including the finale against Chile, the other team to advance. Spain, the defending champion, has been eliminated.
By winning the group, the Netherlands is likely to avoid Brazil in the Round of 16. Now the Dutch will presumably be rooting for Brazil to beat Cameroon Monday afternoon. If Brazil wins Group A, the Netherlands will next face Mexico or Croatia.
Chile has finished second, by virtue of an upset win over Spain and a win over Australia. Chile is likely to face Brazil next, unless Brazil falls to second place in its group. Chile would then face Mexico or Croatia.
Spain has been eliminated.
Australia has been eliminated.
Colombia has advanced, and the Ivory Coast is in the best position to finish second. But there are multiple possibilities, which will make Tuesday's simultaneous matches intriguing.
Colombia has clinched advancement. It will probably win the group, too. Only if it loses, the Ivory Coast wins and the Ivory Coast's goal differential (now 0) ends up better than that of Colombia (now +4) will Colombia fall into second. If Colombia and the Ivory Coast have the same record and same goal differential, the team with more goals will win the group; if they have the same number of goals, Colombia will win the group because it won the head-to-head match.
The Ivory Coast's clearest path to advancement involves beating Greece. The Ivory Coast would also advance with a tie if Colombia beats or ties Japan. If the Ivory Coast ties and Japan wins, the tiebreakers would come into effect: first, goal differential; then, goals scored; finally, their head-to-head match (which Ivory Coast won). As discussed above, the Ivory Coast can win the group only by a) winning, b) having Colombia lose and c) overcoming its current goal differential with Colombia and winning the tiebreaker.
Japan must win to advance. It also needs either a Greece win over the Ivory Coast or a Greece-Ivory Coast draw in which Japan wins the goal-differential or goals-scored tiebreaker over the Ivory Coast. (If Japan and the Ivory Coast are equal on both of those tiebreakers, the Ivory Coast advances because it beat Japan.) Japan cannot win the group.
Greece will advance if it beats the Ivory Coast and Colombia beats or ties Japan. If Greece and Japan both win, the two will be tied for second place. To advance, Greece would need to overcome its current goal-differential deficit with Japan; Greece is at -3 and Japan at -1. Greece cannot win the group.
The Italy-Uruguay match will probably be a highlight of the coming week. It's virtually a playoff between the two, with Costa Rica having clinched advancement.
Costa Rica, which seemed doomed when it was placed in this group, hasadvanced. It will probably win the group, too. It would do so with a win or tie against England — or, regardless, if Italy and Uruguay tie. Even if Costa Rica loses, it will need to lose its current lead in goal differential (now +3) over the winner of the match between Italy (0) and Uruguay (-1). (For instance, if Costa Rica loses, 1-0, and Italy wins, 3-1, Italy will win the group on the tiebreaker of goals scored.)
Italy enters its match with Uruguay with a better goal differential, which means Italy will advance with either a draw or a victory. Italy can win the group, as discussed above, in some instances if it wins by at least two goals and Costa Rica loses.
Uruguay, a trendy pre-tournament pick to go far, now finds itself in the tough position of needing to beat Italy to advance. It can win the group only if Costa Rica loses and Uruguay routs Italy.
England has been eliminated.
France has all but clinched first place, and fans of Ecuador and Switzerland will be nervously watching both their own game and that of the other country on Wednesday.
Only a stunning turn of events would keep France from finishing first. Most simply, it wins the group by tying or winning its final match, against Ecuador. Even if France loses, only a highly improbable turn of events would keep it from winning the group. Its goal-differential is currently +6; to win the group, it merely needs to end up with a better goal differential than both Ecuador (now 0) and Switzerland (-2). To advance with a loss, France would have to have a better goal differential than only one of those two countries. (If goal differential is tied, the next tiebreaker is goals scored, followed by head-to-head results, following by “drawing of lots.”) As we said, France is in good shape.
The good news for Ecuador is that it probably needs only to match Switzerland's result to advance: win, tie or lose. The bad news is that Ecuador faces France. One silver lining: Because France will probably win the group no matter what, it may not give the match its full effort. As is the case with Switzerland, Ecuador can technically still win the group, in much the way that you can technically win the lottery.
Despite its dismal loss to France, Switzerland remains in a decent position. It will advance with a better outcome than Ecuador in the two teams’ final matches — and while Ecuador must play France, Switzerland faces relatively low-ranked Honduras. If Switzerland and Ecuador have the same result — win, draw or loss — Switzerland will probably be eliminated, because its goal differential is now -2 and Ecuador's is 0. To win the group, Switzerland needs one of the outlandish scenarios described previously in France's section.
Honduras isn't officially dead yet. But to have any chance at advancing, it needs to beat Switzerland and to have France beat Ecuador. Honduras would also need to win by enough to emerge from a three-way tiebreaker with Ecuador and Switzerland. Honduras cannot win the group.
Argentina, as expected, is in a dominant position, but there are still surprises here: Nigeria controls its fate, and Iran is alive.
Argentina has clinched advancement. It wins the group by beating or tying Nigeria.
Nigeria advances a) if it ties or beats Argentina; b) if Bosnia-Herzegovina beats or ties Iran c) even in the event of a Nigeria loss and Iran win, if Nigeria wins the tiebreaker between the two. The tiebreaker order is: goal differential; goals scored; head-to-head result; and “drawing of lots.” Nigeria currently has a goal differential of +1 and has scored 1 goal, while Iran has -1 and has not scored. The two teams tied each other, 0-0. Nigeria wins the group by beating Argentina.
Iran advances and Iran beats Bosnia in a combination of scores that allows Iran to win the tiebreakers against Nigeria. (See the Nigeria entry, above, for more detail.) Iran cannot win the group.
Bosnia-Herzegovina has been eliminated.
Group G - "Group of Death"
Every team is alive, and none have clinched advancement. Germany is in the strongest position. The United States does not guarantee itself a spot in the next round unless it at least ties Germany. Ghana and Portugal both need a win, in their head-to-head match, and also need help.
Germany is likely to advance regardless of what it does Thursday against the United States. Germany wins the group with a victory or a tie. It advances with a loss unless it loses its current advantage in goal differential to the winner of the Ghana-Portugal match; Germany’s differential is now +4, compared with -1 for Ghana and -4 for Portugal.
The United States advances with a tie or win against Germany. If the United States loses, it will be rooting for anything but a Ghana win in the Ghana-Portugal match because Ghana is in a better tiebreaker position than Portugal. The United States, regardless of what it does, advances with a tie between Ghana and Portugal; if Portugal wins, Portugal is likely to lose the tiebreaker to the United States, whereas Ghana has a decent chance to win the tiebreaker over the United States. The United States wins the group with a win over Germany. For even more, see this detailed Upshot post by David Leonhardt.
Ghana needs to win and will be rooting for Germany over the United States. If Ghana wins and the United States loses, the two will be tied, and Ghana will be in solid position for the goal-differential tiebreaker (it will advance if it wins by more than a goal, or if the U.S. loses by more than a goal). Ghana cannot win the group.
Portugal is in trouble. To have any chance of advancing, it needs a win over Ghana and not a draw in the Germany-United States match. If Portugal wins, it will be tied with the loser of the Germany-United States match, if there is one. But Portugal (goal differential: -4) will have trouble winning the tiebreaker against Germany (goal differential: +4) or the United States (+1). Portugal cannot win the group.
Algeria could join Costa Rica as one of the biggest surprise survivors of the first round if it can tie or beat Russia. Russia will probably advance if Algeria does not. Belgium, as predicted, will emerge from the group regardless.
Belgium has clinched advancement and wins the group with a tie or victory against South Korea.
Algeria advances with a win against Russia. It advances with a tie unless South Korea beats Belgium by enough to overcome its current deficit in goal differential with Algeria (-2 vs. +1). Algeria wins the group if it beats Russia and South Korea beats Belgium.
Russia advances with a win over Algeria and a Belgium win or tie against South Korea. If Russia and South Korea both win, they will be tied. Russia (with a goal differential of -1) is currently in better position than South Korea (-2). Russia cannot win the group.
South Korea needs a win and help to advance. For starters, it needs a victory over Belgium and something other than an Algeria victory over Russia. If South Korea and Russia both win, South Korea will need to win a tiebreaker against Russia. If South Korea wins and Russia ties Algeria, South Korea will need to win a tiebreaker against Algeria. South Korea will be rooting for Russia, which is in worse shape for a tiebreaker than Algeria.