From the moment the draw was made, this group caught the eye... not just because how close the teams were based on the Fifa rankings but the narratives. Oh, the narrative was strong with this one.
The scheduling made it even more fascinating. England were to take on neighbours Wales, while USA were to take on Iran in the backdrop of years of political tension between the two countries.
And so it’s come to pass where all four teams are still in contention to qualify for knockouts in the third-round of fixtures, albeit with varying probabilities.
Here’s a look at how things stand and the different possible scenarios to progress out of Group B ahead of the last set of fixtures:
Note: All set of last matches in each group will kickoff simultaneously.
Table ahead of final fixtures
Remaining fixtures (IST)
Tuesday, November 29
0030 (Next AM): Iran v United States, Al-Thumama Stadium (Doha)
0030 (Next AM): Wales v England, Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium (Al-Rayyan)
As Jack Grealish said in an interview with BBC, England are not in all that bad a position as things stand despite questions being raised after a tepid 0-0 draw against the USA. A healthy goal difference of 4 and the same number of points means, the Three Lions need to just avoid defeat on final day. A draw against Wales will be enough to progress, a win will guarantee them top spot.
If England lose and Iran vs USA is drawn, there will be a three-way tie on four points and the goal difference will come into play which is in favour of England at the moment. If England lose, and there is a winner in USA vs Iran, it will come down to GD between England and Wales.
A 3-0 win for Wales, for instance, will see them equal England’s goal difference but it will favour England in terms of goals scored. Only a defeat by four goals or worse will see England potentially in trouble.
It’s a virtual pre-prequarterfinal for Iran against the USA, as the winner will definitely progress to the Round of 16 stage irrespective of the other match result. Unlike the USA though, Iran can even get away with a draw as long as England avoid defeat.
If Iran lose against USA, their tournament is over irrespective of other results.
It’s even more straightforward for the USMNT. Only result that will do for them is a win against Iran. No other results, in their match or the others, matter. If USA lose or draw, their tournament is over.
The only chance Gareth Bale and Co have is to win against England, and win big. That will take them to four points and level with England.
If Wales beat England and Iran vs USA has an outright winner, the tiebreaker will only be between England and Wales and Bale’s men will need to win by at least four goals. Winner of Iran vs USA will progress.
If Wales beat England, and Iran vs USA ends in a draw, then the tiebreakers as mentioned below come into play with Iran, Wales and England on four points. Given Wales will at least improve their GD to -1, this scenario will eliminate Iran and take England and Wales through.
Round of 16 fixtures (IST):
Saturday, December 3
Game 49: 2030: Winners Group A v Runners-up Group B, Khalifa International Stadium (Doha)
Sunday, December 4
Game 51: 0030 (Next AM): Winners Group B v Runners-up Group A, Al-Bayt Stadium (Al-Khor)
If two or more teams in the same group are equal on points after the completion of the group stage, the following criteria, in the order below, shall be applied to determine the ranking:
- (a) greatest number of points obtained in all group matches;
- (b) superior goal difference in all group matches;
- (c) greatest number of goals scored in all group matches.
- (d) greatest number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned;
- (e) superior goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned;
- (f) greatest number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned;
- (g) highest team conduct score relating to the number of yellow and red cards obtained: yellow card: minus 1 point indirect red card (as a result of two yellow cards): minus 3 points, direct red card: minus 4 points, yellow card and direct red card: minus 5 points Only one of the above deductions shall be applied to a player in a single match. The team with the highest number of points shall be ranked highest.
- (h) drawing of lots by FIFA.
— via FIFA World Cup regulations document
- With respect to the second step, all affected teams will be ranked by applying the criteria (d) to (g) in order. If one team qualifies for a higher or lower ranking pursuant to one criterion but it is not possible to rank all teams on the basis of the same criterion, the remaining two or three teams will be ranked pursuant to the next criterion, and so on. In any case, the second step of the ranking does not restart for the two or three teams remaining after application of a criterion.