World Cup 2018: The group stage permutations
The final round of group fixtures approach - who needs what to need to qualify for last-16?
Toni Kroos’s late free-kick has transformed Germany’s World Cup hopes. Photograph: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty
Few people fancied tournament hosts Russia to make much of an impression this summer but they became the first side to book their place in the last-16 with emphatic wins over Saudi Arabia (5-0) and Egypt (3-1). They were followed into the knockout stages by Uruguay - who ground out 1-0 victories over the same opponents. Russia and Uruguay meet in Samara on Monday, with a draw being enough for the hosts to progress as group winners. Regardless of finishing first or second, a likely last-16 clash with Portugal or Spain awaits.
Portugal and Spain are both well poised to make it into the last-16, although Iran’s victory over Morocco in their opener gives them a live chance of progression. If Team Melli beat Portugal they will qualify ahead of the European champions - a draw could be enough in the unlikely event Morocco beat Spain by more than one goal. Spain and Portugal are tied at the top on four points and with identical goal difference, goals scored, goals conceded and head-to-head record. A point is sufficient for both to progress - their reward a winnable last-16 clash against Russia or Uruguay.
France have secured their spot in the last-16 after narrow wins over Australia and Peru, with Denmark currently best placed to follow them out of the group. Age Hareide’s side have four points from their opening two fixtures against the South Americans and Australia - a draw against France would guarantee the runners-up spot, while victory would see them top the group. Australia can still qualify providing they beat Peru - who are already out - and France beat Denmark. Should that happen, goals scored could come into play - the Socceroos goal difference is currently two inferior to the Danes. Should they win the group as expected, France could meet Argentina in the last-16.
Last Thursday’s 3-0 defeat to Croatia plunged Argentina into national meltdown, but Nigeria’s subsequent 2-0 win over Iceland means they are still in the mix with one round of fixtures to go. If Lionel Messi and co can beat the Super Eagles, and Croatia - who can have qualified as winners - can avoid defeat to Iceland, they will be into the last-16. For Nigeria, a point against Argentina will be enough - providing Iceland don’t beat Croatia by three or more goals - while victory will see them progress. Iceland meanwhile can qualify if they beat Croatia and Argentina beat Nigeria but fail to better their result. The runners-up will likely be rewarded with a clash against France, with Croatia in line to face Denmark or Australia.
Xherdan Shaqiri’s last gasp winner for Switzerland against Serbia on Friday night has blown Group E wide open with one game to play. Brazil - who also left it late against Costa Rica - are in pole position on four points, and a draw against Serbia will guarantee their place in the last-16. If Serbia can beat Brazil on Wednesday night they will qualify - while a draw could be enough in the unlikely event Costa Rica beat Switzerland. For the Swiss -who are level with Brazil but have a slightly inferior goal difference -anything but a defeat in Nizhny Novgorod will see them progress. Winning the group could prove a poison chalice if Germany finish second in Group F.
Germany’s 2-1 win over Sweden means both sides are now level on three points, three behind Mexico. Both are also level on goal difference and goal scored - whoever gets the better result in their final game will progress. South Korea could also qualify if they improbably beat Germany and Mexico beat Sweden, while Mexico could still fail to progress if they lose to Sweden and Germany beat Korea by more than two. Should Germany finish second there is the very realistic prospect of meeting Brazil in the last-16
England and Belgium have qualified and are level at the top having both scored eight and conceded two. Whoever wins when they meet on Thursday will top the group. If that game is a draw the side with the better fair play record will progress - England currently have two yellow cards to Belgium’s three. Two of Colombia, Senegal, Poland or Japan will await in the last-16.
Both Senegal and Japan missed out on the chance to virtually seal their places in the last-16 after they drew 2-2 in Yekaterinburg on Sunday. However, both sides remain in pole position heading into their final round of fixtures, with a draw being enough for both sides to progress. Colombia, on three points, are still in the hunt after knocking out Poland. The winners and runners-up will face either England or Belgium.
If two or more teams are level on points they will be separated by the following: goal difference, then goals scored, then head-to-head record, then goal difference between teams concerned, then goals scored between teams concerned, then fair-play, then the drawing of lots.