The Group Stage is Coming to a Close. Who's Set to Advance?
This year's World Cup has been full of surprises, and has served as reminder that the United States doesn't sit at the center of the international sports community.
The tournament is no worse for the wear without the involvement of the stars and stripes. That said, American soccer fans don't really have any skin in the game, and many viewers are looking for someone to root for. Some have suggested that we root for Mexico due to geographic proximity, and, sure, if someone besides us has to win, it might as well be our neighbors to the south, but it's not the same. Enough complaining though.
For those of you unaware with how the World Cup works, it's relatively simple. At the start of the tournament, there are eight groups of four. Each team plays everyone in their group once. The top two teams in each group move on to the round of 16. The tournament then progresses in a way similar to March Madness. As we head into the third game of the group stage this week, there are too many story lines to keep track of. I've decided to give you a rundown of each group, so you can decide what day to take an extra long lunch and watch.
Group A (Russia, Uruguay, Egypt, Saudi Arabia)
Russia celebrating their victory over Egypt
The talent disparity in this group is wide. Many fans are wondering how much Putin paid FIFA to put Saudi Arabia and Egypt in the same group as his Russian national squad. That said, as I write this, I'm watching Uruguay absolutely dominate their Russian opponents, exposing them as a second-rate team.
Saudi Arabia: Out
Game to watch: None
Group B (Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Iran)
This is another two team group. Christiano Ronaldo has scored every goal for team Portugal thus far in the tournament, and seems committed to dragging his nonscoring companions into the next round. Spain, on the other hand, is dominating the group stage like they always do.
Spain: Tied for first. Advances with a tie, win, or Portugal loss (depending on goal differential)
Portugal: Tied for first. Advances with a tie, win, or Spain loss (depending on goal differential)
Iran: Advances with a win OR a tie and a Spain loss (depending on goal differential)
Game to watch: Iran v Portugal 2:00pm, EST 6/25
Group C (France, Denmark, Australia, Peru)
So far, France and Denmark have managed to control the group, but with those two teams playing each other tomorrow, Australia has a chance to sneak into the next round.
France: Tied for first. Advances with tie, win, or Australia loss.
Denmark: Tied for first. Advances with tie, win, or Australia loss.
Australia: Advances with win AND Denmark or French loss (depending on goal differential)
Game to watch: France v Denmark 10am, EST 6/26
Group D (Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria)
Every tournament, there's a group that's so evenly matched that good teams get left behind. Group D is this year's group of death. Argentina, last year's tournament runner-ups, find themselves at the bottom of the table, and only Croatia has guaranteed their spot in the knockout round. Because of this, the scenarios surrounding advancement are a bit complicated. Stay with me.
Nigeria: Advances with a win OR a tie and Croatia win/tie or loss (depending on goal differential)
Iceland: Advances with a win AND Argentina win or tie (depending on goal differential)
Argentina: Advances with a win and a Croatia win, or tie OR with a win and Croatia loss (depending on goal differential)
Game to watch: Argentina v Nigeria 2pm, EST 6/26
Group E (Brazil, Serbia, Costa Rica, Switzerland)
While Brazil should be dominating this group, Switzerland has been a thorn in everybody's side, beating Serbia and tying the Brazilians. The Serbs, for their part, are still hanging around as well.
Brazil: In with win or tie OR loss and Switzerland loss (depending on goal differential)
Switzerland: In with win or tie OR Serbia loss OR loss and Serbia tie (depending on goal differential)
Serbia: In with win OR tie and Switzerland loss (depending on goal differential)
Costa Rica: Out
Game to watch: Serbia v Brazil 2pm EST, 6/27
Group F (Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea)
It's a Kroos missile
Germany was the tournament favorite back at the beginning of the month, but after being stunned by Mexico, their stock has fallen a bit. Without that late Toni Kroos goal this Saturday, Germany would be in pretty bad shape. As it is, the defending champs look ready to head into the knockout round. All that stands in their way is South Korea.
Mexico: Advance with a win or tie OR Germany loss OR with a loss and Germany victory (depending on goal differential)
Germany: Advance with a win OR a tie with Sweden loss OR a tie with Sweden tie (depending on goal differential) OR a loss with Sweden loss (depending on goal differential)
Sweden: Advance with a win and German loss or tie OR with a tie and German loss OR with a loss and German loss (depending on goal differential) OR with a win and German win (depending on goal differential)
South Korea: Out
Game to watch: Sweden v Mexico 10am EST, 6/27
Group G (England, Belgium, Tunisia, Panama)
Harry Kane ripping a shot
Both England and Belgium have absolutely dominated their group and are the only teams in Group G with wins. They face off on Wednesday to decide who comes in first. The teams are tied by every differentiator though, so if they tie in their matchup, the deciding factor will be fair play (the amount of yellow cards each team gets). The top half of the knockout bracket however is pretty stacked, with both Germany and Brazil as potential opponents. This gives each team incentive to foul one another, so they end up in the bottom half. This matchup is shaping up to be a violent one.
England: First place with win OR tie (depending on very strange fair play tiebreaker)
Belgium: First place with win OR tie (depending on very strange fair play tiebreaker)
Game to watch: England v Belgium 2pm EST, 6/28
Group H (Japan, Senegal, Poland, Colombia
Japanese fans are wild
Japan is the odd standout of this year's tournament. They weren't expected to make much of a splash, but they've proven that they have what it takes to win in this extremely competitive tournament. That said, they still have to prove themselves against Poland before they can advance to the knockout stage.
Japan: Advances with win OR tie and Colombia tie or loss OR with Colombia
Senegal: Advances with win or tie OR loss and Japan loss (depending on goal differential)
Colombia: Advances with win OR tie and Japan loss (depending on goal differential)
Game to watch: Senegal v Colombia 10am EST, 6/28
Matt Clibanoff is a writer and editor based in New York City who covers music, politics, sports and pop culture. His editorial work can be found in Pop Dust, The Liberty Project, and All Things Go. His fiction has been published in Forth Magazine. Website:https://matthewdclibanoff.journoportfolio.com/ Twitter: @mattclibanoff
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