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World Cup permutations: What every side needs heading into the final round of World Cup 2022 group games

Messi, Kane, Lewandowski and Musiala are all among those that could still be eliminated.


Heading into the final round of World Cup games in Qatar, 28 of the 32 teams are still fighting it out for a place in the last 16.

Brazil, Portugal and France, three of the tournament favourites, are the only sides to have confirmed qualification to the next round after two games, all with two wins apiece after the Selecao overcame Switzerland and Portugal beat Uruguay on Monday night.

Meanwhile, only host nation Qatar and Alphonso Davies’ Canada have been eliminated thus far, neither side having picked up a point and able to boast just a solitary goal each.

By contrast, at this stage in 2018, six sides had booked their places in the last 16, while nine more had been knocked out. It means that, in theory, the final round of group games this time round should provide far more drama, jeopardy and excitement than their counterparts in Russia four years ago, and we’ve rounded up what each side still needs to qualify for the last 16.

Group A

The Netherlands just need to avoid defeat against host nation Qatar, who themselves are already out, to ensure qualification to the last 16, while a win would guarantee them top spot in the group, and a potentially easier clash in their next game.

It leaves Senegal and Ecuador fighting it out for the other qualification spot. A draw for Ecuador would be enough to see them through, but should they lose it will be the African Champions that sneak through instead.

Group B

England and Gareth Southgate are in the driving seat to qualify from Group B. On four points, a point in their final game against Wales will be enough to see them through, while a win would guarantee them top spot in the group.

They can qualify even with defeat courtesy of their impressive 6-2 win over Iran. Provided that they do not lose by more than three goals to Wales, they will be going through to the last 16 no matter the results elsewhere.

Iran and the USA are both in a strong position to qualify too. Should England avoid defeat, Carlos Quieroz’s side will just need a draw to qualify from the group in their final game against the USA. Sitting on three points at the moment, four will be enough to head into the last 16.

The United States, meanwhile, head into the clash knowing that a win will see them through, but that a draw would not be enough.

Bottom of the group and with one point to their name, Wales look rank outsiders to head through, but it remains a possibility for Gareth Bale and co.

Facing top-of-the-group England, who also need a result to ensure qualification, Wales must beat their old foe and rely on a draw between the USA and Iran, which would take them through in second place on goal difference.

Alternatively, were they to beat England by four goals, they would head through in place of the Three Lions.

If they lose, meanwhile, they will be out.

Group C

Like many in this tournament, Group C is wide open. All four sides can still qualify, courtesy of Saudi Arabia’s shock win over Argentina in the opening round of fixtures. Poland sit atop the group on 4 points, but face an Argentina side needing a win to ensure that they qualify for the next round. A draw for the Poles would be enough to guarantee their passage to the last 16, but Lionel Messi would face a nervous wait on the outcome of the other tie in the group to see whether they join them.

This comes as Saudi Arabia can guarantee a spot in the knockout stages if they beat Mexico, who are yet to score a goal this tournament. Mexico can also throw their hat in the ring, but would need to win and see Poland beat Argentina to stand a realistic chance of heading through.

Should both games finish as a draw, neither Mexico nor Saudi Arabia would head through.

Group D

France have already guaranteed qualification and will finish top provided that they do not lose to Tunisia and Australia beat Denmark, with a four-goal swing in the process.

The Aussies know that a win against Denmark will also send them through, while a draw combined with a win for France will see them into the last 16.

On the other hand, Denmark need to beat Australia to stand any chance, and should Tunisia win they need to match or better the scoreline in the other game to head through on goal difference.

Tunisia, therefore, need to win and hope that their result is better than Denmark’s. Should Australia draw, they will also head through courtesy of goal difference should they beat France.

Group E

Another group on a knife-edge, Spain will confirm their place in the last 16 with a point against Japan, who themselves need three points to secure their passage.

A point or less will leave them at the mercy of both Germany and Costa Rica, who face off in the other game. Costa Rica can progress with a draw should Japan lose, but Germany need to win and hope that the other game is settled one way or another to ensure progression. They will be out with a draw.

Should Germany beat Costa Rica and Japan beat Spain, Hansi Flick’s side will need a nine-goal swing in goal difference to head through ahead of the Spaniards.

Group F

Only three teams can qualify from this group, with Canada out of the running for the last 16. Croatia will head through with a draw against Belgium in their final game, a result that would also see Morocco through provided that they do not lose by three to Canada.

Belgium’s fate is in their own hands, however. Beat Croatia, and they and Morocco will head through. The African side, meanwhile, will head through with a point, though may not even need that depending on other results.

Group G

Brazil are already through, and will top the group even if they lose to Cameroon provided that Switzerland don’t beat Serbia in the other game. A win for the Swiss would guarantee their progression, while a draw could see them through should Cameroon drop points against the Selecao.

Serbia, meanwhile, need to beat Serbia and hope that Cameroon don’t win, while victory for the African side could still take them through too. With a goal difference of -1, they would head through with a one-goal win over the Brazilians should the other game finish in a draw or a Serbia victory.

Group H

Last but not least, Portugal confirmed their qualification to the round of 16 with a comfortable win over Uruguay on Monday night, but any of the other three sides in the group could still join them in second place.

Ghana sprung a shock when they beat South Korea on matchday two, which leaves them second as it stands with three points, while both Korea and Uruguay have one to their name.

It means that a draw for Ghana against the South American side will be enough to see them through, unless South Korea beat Uruguay by two goals, in which case they will need all three points to avoid being knocked out on goal difference.

Uruguay and South Korea’s task is simple. They have to win and hope that Brazil beat Ghana to qualify, though they can still make it through on goal difference with a draw in the other game.

But, Uruguay would need a three-goal swing in their favour for this to happen.

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Ben Browning

Ben Browning

Football writer and analyst. Long-time writer of all things Arsenal and avid watcher of European football. Happy to discuss all things football over on Twitter.



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