The final matches of the World Cup’s group stage will begin on Monday. The top two teams from each of the eight groups will advance – and winning a group is better than finishing second, because the first-place team from each group will next play a second-place (and usually weaker) team from another group, in a single-elimination match.
The sections below walk you through the possibilities for each group in which the teams have finished their first two matches. By Sunday night, this list will be complete, reports The New York Times.
Colombia has clinched advancement. It will probably win the group, too. Only if it loses, the Ivory Coast wins and the Ivory Coast's goal differential (now 0) ends up better than that of Colombia (now +4) will Colombia fall into second. If Colombia and the Ivory Coast have the same record and same goal differential, the team with more goals will win the group; if they have the same number of goals, Colombia will win the group because it won the head-to-head match.
The Ivory Coast's clearest path to advancement involves beating Greece. The Ivory Coast would also advance with a tie if Colombia beats or ties Japan. If the Ivory Coast ties and Japan wins, the tiebreakers would come into effect: first, goal differential; then, goals scored; finally, their head-to-head match (which Ivory Coast won). As discussed above, the Ivory Coast can win the group only by a) winning, b) having Colombia lose and c) overcoming its current goal differential with Colombia and winning the tiebreaker.
Japan must win to advance. It also needs either a Greece win over the Ivory Coast or a Greece-Ivory Coast draw in which Japan wins the goal-differential or goals-scored tiebreaker over the Ivory Coast. (If Japan and the Ivory Coast are equal on both of those tiebreakers, the Ivory Coast advances because it beat Japan.) Japan cannot win the group.
Greece will advance if it beats the Ivory Coast and Colombia beats or ties Japan. If Greece and Japan both win, the two will be tied for second place. To advance, Greece would need to overcome its current goal-differential deficit with Japan; Greece is at -3 and Japan at -1. Greece cannot win the group.
The Netherlands and Chile have already clinched advancement to the Round of 16, but their match Monday still matters. The team that fails to win this group and instead finishes second is likely to face Brazil, the tournament favorite, in the next round.
The Netherlands has clinched advancement. The Dutch have an advantage over Chile thanks to a better goal differential and will win the group by beating or tying Chile.
Chile has clinched advancement. It needs to beat the Netherlands to win the group.
Australia and Spain have been eliminated.
Despite its disappointing tie with Mexico, Brazil remains in excellent position. The match between Mexico and Croatia is akin to a playoff, in which Mexico starts with a half-goal lead.
The short version is that Brazil advances by tying or beating Cameroon, one of the lowest-ranked teams in the tournament. But there are also some ways Brazil can advance even if it loses: if Mexico beats Croatia; or if Croatia beats Mexico and Brazil’s goal differential (now +2) remains better than Mexico’s (now +1). The easiest way for Brazil to win the group is to beat Cameroon and remain ahead of Mexico; Brazil will remain ahead if Mexico loses to Croatia, ties Croatia or wins but has its final goal differential trail Brazil’s. Unlikely as it is, Brazil would also win the group if it tied Cameroon, and Mexico and Croatia also tied.
Mexico enters its match with Croatia leading Croatia by a point in the standings and thus advances with either a win or draw. It can also advance with a loss in the improbable event that Brazil loses to Cameroon by at least two goals and Mexico ends up with a better total goal differential. Mexico wins the group by beating Croatia and having Brazil lose or tie Cameroon. Mexico can win the group if both it and Brazil win their final matches, and Mexico has a better final goal differential than Brazil.
Croatia needs to win to jump over Mexico in the standings, which would guarantee advancement. Croatia also advances by tying Mexico and having Brazil lose to Cameroon. Croatia wins the group by beating Mexico and having Brazil tie or lose.
Cameroon has been eliminated.