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World Cup tiebreakers and advancement scenarios, explained

The World Cup's knockout round is approaching. (Albert Gea/Reuters)

The World Cup’s group stage has concluded, with Brazil and Switzerland claiming the final two spots in the knockout round out of Group G. In the penultimate group to wrap up, Portugal lost to second-place finisher South Korea but still won Group H, while Uruguay and Ghana were eliminated.

In Thursday’s late games, Japan stunned Spain to win Group E and eliminate Germany, which was knocked out despite a victory over Costa Rica. In Thursday’s early games, Morocco beat Canada to take Group F’s top spot, while Croatia’s scoreless draw with Belgium sent Croatia through to the knockout round and eliminated the Belgians.

In Wednesday’s late games, Argentina defeated Poland to surge to the top of Group C; Poland still edged out Mexico for the second knockout-round spot thanks to a better goal differential. Earlier Wednesday, France lost to Tunisia but still won Group D based on goal differential, while Australia claimed the group’s second spot.

In Tuesday’s late games, England handled Wales to win Group B, while the United States did enough to beat Iran and claim the group’s second knockout round slot. In Tuesday’s early games, the Netherlands clinched first place in Group A, while Senegal finished second. Ecuador and Qatar were eliminated.

Two teams from each of the eight groups advance and are then slotted into the 16-team World Cup knockout bracket that will determine the participants in the Dec. 18 final.

Here’s how the teams are ranked in the groups, as explained by FIFA’s 2022 World Cup regulations:

​1. Greatest number of points from three group matches (each team gets three points for a win and one for a draw).

2. Goal difference in all group matches.

3. Goals scored in all group matches.

And if two or more teams still are tied after that? We go to:

1. Greatest number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned.

2. Goal difference from the group matches between the teams concerned.

3. Goals scored in the group matches between the teams concerned.

4. Greater number of points obtained regarding fair play conduct (yellow cards = minus-1; indirect red card, as a result of a second yellow card = minus-3, direct red card = minus-4, yellow card and direct red = minus-5, with only one of the deductions applied to a player in a single game).

World Cup bracket and knockout round schedule

And if, by some quirk, there’s still a tie?

Then there will be a drawing of lots by FIFA’s Organizing Committee.

Here are the standings for every group, and the scenarios for the groups that have completed two games. An x- denotes a team that has clinched advancement. A y- denotes a team that has clinched first place in a group. A z-denotes a team that has been eliminated from advancing.

Group A standings

Netherlands: The group favorite finished first in Group A.

Senegal: After an opening loss to the Netherlands, the champions of Africa rallied to finish second in the group.

Ecuador: Ecuador started with a win over Qatar but came up short of advancement.

Qatar: The host nation was the first team eliminated.

Group B standings

England: The group favorite finished first in Group B.

United States: The Americans scored just two goals in three games, but it was enough to finish second in the group.

Iran: Iran had moments of glory and agony in three eventful group matches.

Wales: Wales scored just one goal, on a penalty kick, and was eliminated.

Group C standings

Argentina: After a shocking loss to Saudi Arabia, the group favorites won two straight to finish on top.

Poland: Poland survived on the strength of its defense, allowing just two goals and finishing with a better goal differential than Mexico.

World Cup schedule, standings and groups

Mexico: Mexico’s 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia wasn’t enough, and it failed to reach the round of 16 for the first time since it missed the 1990 World Cup.

Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia’s only points came in its upset of Argentina.

Group D standings

France: The defending champions won their first two matches and claimed the group on goal differential despite a loss to Tunisia.

Australia: Australia advanced to the knockout round thanks to its surprising win over Denmark.

Tunisia: Tunisia did its part Wednesday, beating France, but didn’t get the help it needed to advance.

Denmark: A huge disappointment, the Danes finished last in the group and were eliminated.

Group E standings

Japan: Japan lost to Costa Rica — but more importantly, it beat world powers Germany and Spain to finish first in the group.

Spain: Spain’s opening rout of Costa Rica paid late dividends, as it edged out Germany on goal differential.

Germany: Germany got the win it needed over Costa Rica in its finale, but it didn’t get the help it needed from Spain and was eliminated.

Costa Rica: Costa Rica finished last in the group despite beating Japan, the group winner.

Group F standings

Morocco: Morocco knocked off Belgium and Canada, conceded just one goal, and was the surprise winner of the group.

Croatia: Croatia supplemented two scoreless draws with a convincing win over Canada, also conceding just one goal in group play.

Belgium: FIFA’s second-ranked team managed only one goal, against Canada, in three frustrating matches.

Canada: Canada lost all three matches and was eliminated.

Group G standings

Brazil: Brazil won the group despite scoring the fewest number of goals.

Switzerland: Switzerland finished second in the group, needing a thrilling win over Serbia to secure passage.

Cameroon: Cameroon left with a jolt: a 1-0 win over Brazil in its group finale.

Serbia: Serbia scored the most goals in the group but was eliminated.

Group H standings

Portugal: Portugal clinched advancement early with wins over Ghana and Uruguay, and won the group despite a dramatic loss to South Korea.

South Korea: South Korea needed a stoppage-time goal against Portugal to win its last game and advance based on the goals scored tiebreaker.

Uruguay: Uruguay got the win it needed over Ghana in its finale, but came up one goal short of second place.

Ghana: Ghana beat South Korea but lost its other two matches to finish last in the group.

World Cup in Qatar

World champions: Argentina has won the World Cup, defeating France in penalty kicks in a thrilling final in Lusail, Qatar, for its first world championship since 1986. Argentina was led by global soccer star Lionel Messi in what is expected to be his final World Cup appearance. France was bidding to become the first repeat champion since Brazil won consecutive trophies in 1958 and 1962.

Today’s WorldView: In the minds of many critics, especially in the West, Qatar’s World Cup will always be a tournament shrouded in controversy. But Qatar’s foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, wants people to take another view.

Perspective: “America is not a men’s soccer laughingstock right now. It’s onto something, and it’s more attuned to what’s working for the rest of the world rather than stubbornly forcing an American sports culture — without the benefit of best-of-the-best talent — into international competition.” Read Jerry Brewer on the U.S. men’s national team’s future.

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