The final round of World Cup group-stage play continues Tuesday with four games, two in Group C and two in Group D (all times EDT):
Group D: Costa Rica vs. England in Belo Horizonte, noon (ESPN2)
Group D: Italy vs. Uruguay in Natal, noon (ESPN)
Group C: Greece vs. Ivory Coast in Fortaleza, 4 p.m. (ESPN2)
Group C: Japan vs. Colombia in Cuiaba, 4 p.m. (ESPN)
First off, an explanation as to why they start playing games at the same time for the final round. At the 1982 World Cup, West Germany entered its final group-stage game against Austria knowing that it needed a one-goal win to advance at the expense of Algeria, which had played its final group-stage game the day before and had shocked the West Germans in their opening match. After Horst Hrubesch scored in the 10th minute for West Germany, the teams more or less stopped playing, rarely mounting any serious scoring challenges. The resulting outcry over the blatant match-fixing — the commentator for West German television simply stopped talking, and his Austrian counterpart told viewers they should turn off their televisions — led FIFA to change its scheduling format. Since that infamous day, each group’s final matches are played at the same time.
Back in the present day, here are the advancement scenarios — or lack thereof, in England’s case — for the eight teams playing Monday. FIFA’s tiebreaking procedure is explained here.
Group C standings
Colombia 2-0-0, 6 points (plus-4 goal differential)
Ivory Coast 1-1-0, 3 points (0 goal differential)
Japan 0-1-1, 1 point (minus-1 goal differential)
Greece 0-1-1, 1 point (minus-3 goal differential)
— Colombia has already clinched a spot in the knockout round and has all but clinched first place in the group. It only needs a draw with Japan, or a loss and an Ivory Coast loss or draw, to clinch the top spot in the group. The only way it can fall out of first place is with a blowout loss to Japan combined with a blowout win by the Ivory Coast over Greece, which is unlikely.
— Ivory Coast will clinch a spot in the knockout round with a win over Greece, or a draw with Greece combined with a Colombia-Japan draw.
— Japan will clinch a spot in the knockout round with a win over Colombia combined with an Ivory Coast loss to Greece. Japan will also move on with a win of at least two goals over Colombia combined with an Ivory Coast-Greece draw.
— Greece will clinch a spot in the knockout round with a win over Ivory Coast combined with a Japan loss or draw against Colombia. Greece can also advance with a blowout win over Ivory Coast combined with a close Japan win over Colombia (for instance, it would advance with a 3-0 win over Ivory Coast combined with a 1-0 Japan win over Colombia, as it would win the goals-scored tiebreaker over Japan).
Group D standings
Costa Rica 2-0-0, 6 points (plus-3 goal differential)
Italy 1-1-0, 3 points (0 goal differential)
Uruguay 1-1-0, 3 points (minus-1 goal differential)
England 0-2-0, 0 points (minus-2 goal differential)
— Costa Rica has clinched a spot in the knockout round and has all but clinched first place in the group. It only needs a draw with England, a loss combined with an Italy-Uruguay draw, or a close loss to England combined with a close win by either Italy or Uruguay to clinch the top spot.
— Italy will advance with a win or a draw against Uruguay.
— Uruguay will advance with a win over Italy.
— England has no chance of advancing to the knockout round.