Every country dreams of lifting the World Cup. No team has come to Qatar just for fun – they are all in it to win it.

But the first phase of eliminations is upon us as the group stage of the tournament draws to a close. Half of the 32 teams that started in Qatar are packing their bags and going home.

So, who needs what to survive in the Round of 16?

group A

Hosts Qatar, who were fourth out of four in their group, had the disgraceful honor of being eliminated as the first team from this year’s tournament. But at least they don’t have to go far home.

Ecuador and the Netherlands are tied at the top of the group table heading into the final round of group matches, with four points each. Senegal is only one point behind.

  • The Netherlands needs a win or a draw against Qatar to qualify for the last 16.
  • Ecuador must beat Senegal to guarantee qualification.
  • Senegal must beat Ecuador to guarantee qualification.
  • If Ecuador v Senegal is a draw, Ecuador qualifies – unless Qatar beats the Netherlands, in which case Senegal advances.

Group B

This was always likely the most competitive group – as well as the most politically charged. The remaining games pit old rivals and geopolitical foes against each other, with any of the four teams still able to qualify, even if Wales – in their first World Cup since 1958 – has only a mathematical chance.

England top the table with four points from two games. Iran are second with three, having scored two goals in stoppage time against Wales on Friday. The USA are third in the group table with two points from two draws, while Wales are in the toughest battle for qualification with just one point.

  • England progress to the Round of 16 unless Wales beat them by four goals or more.
  • The United States must beat Iran to advance to the knockout stage.
  • Iran must beat the US to guarantee qualification. But a draw with the US would be enough for Iran to progress – if Wales cannot beat England.
  • Wales needs a little miracle. They will have to beat England and let Iran vs USA end in a draw. They can also go through without a draw in that game as long as they can manage a four-goal margin over England. Don’t hold your breath.
Fans in Manchester watch England v United States
England fans expect an appearance in the Round of 16 at the World Cup in Qatar [Ed Sykes/Action Images/Reuters]

Group C

Another open group where all four teams can still qualify at this stage. Mexico has only one point at the bottom of the group table, while Saudi Arabia and their shock victims Argentina have three points each. Poland leads the group with four points, but is not yet safe.

  • Poland only need a draw against Argentina to guarantee qualification, although they would undoubtedly prefer to win.
  • Argentina must beat Poland to secure their place in the Round of 16. A draw here and Argentina are vulnerable to being eliminated on goal difference.
  • If Saudi Arabia beats Mexico, they are through to the next round. A draw with Mexico combined with a loss to Poland against Argentina would also see them qualify. If Poland beats Argentina with a huge goal difference, the Saudis can still claim the second qualifying spot.
  • Mexico needs to beat the Saudis and let Poland beat Argentina.

Group D

World champion France, with six points from two games, was the first team in Qatar to book a spot in the Round of 16. That makes the rest of the group changes a little less confusing.

Australia has three points, while Denmark and Tunisia have one each.

  • Australia will play Denmark – the winner goes through to France
  • Tunisia must beat France by at least two goals and hope that Australia and Denmark draw

Group E

Everyone expected Spain and Germany to sail through Group E. And everyone was at least half right, Spain rode comfortably at the top with four points from two games. However, Germany is languishing at the bottom of the group as coach Hansi Flick’s mission to restore Germany’s pre-2018 footballing glory appears to be a longer-term project than initially hoped.

Japan and Costa Rica each have three points after meeting on Sunday, meaning each of the four teams can still qualify.

  • Spain only needs a draw against Japan to qualify for the knockout rounds.
  • If Japan wins against Spain, they will be finished with six points. If they sign, they need Costa Rica and Germany to sign as well. If Japan draws and Germany wins, there is still a chance Japan will go through on goal difference.
  • Costa Rica must beat Germany in their final group game to advance to the Round of 16.
  • Germany must beat Costa Rica and let Spain beat Japan to guarantee the second qualifying spot. But if Spain and Japan draw, Germany must beat Costa Rica by at least two goals. They may still be able to go on with a one goal margin of victory over Costa Rica if they score more than Japan in their hypothetical draw with Spain – for example a 1-1 draw between Spain and Japan and a 2-1 win for Germany over Costa Rica will to see the Germans advance.

Group F

Canada was the second team to book their flights home. That means that Croatia, Morocco and Belgium can still qualify. The Belgians, the world number two, were expected to top this group, but their 2-0 defeat to Morocco on Sunday changed everything.

  • Croatia and Morocco are good with four points each; Belgium has three.
  • Croatia only needs a draw against Belgium on Thursday to progress to the last 16
  • Belgium needs to win that game to progress.
  • A draw against Canada is enough for Morocco to place itself out of the group.

Group G

All four teams can still qualify for Group G, with two games remaining at the end of the World Cup schedule. Brazil and Switzerland have one win each, while Cameroon and Serbia remain without a mark on the group table.

Cameroon will take on Serbia on Monday afternoon before Switzerland take on Brazil. Whoever wins the second game comfortably qualifies from the group with six points. A draw and it gets interesting.

Group H

Group H has also only played one game so far, with all to play for. Portugal is nicely at the top of the table with three points; South Korea and Uruguay each have one point. Ghana has yet to register one run. Anyone can still qualify or be eliminated at the first obstacle.

A Portugal victory over Uruguay on Monday, which is far from guaranteed, would see Cristiano Ronaldo’s men through to the round of 16. South Korea will take on Ghana in Monday’s earlier game. Watch this space.



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