All four teams in Group C have a chance of progressing to the knockout stages ahead of the final round of matches.
Poland, unbeaten with one win and one draw, are best-placed of the four teams to make it to the last-16.
Pre-tournament favourites Argentina, shook off their shock loss to Saudi Arabia to beat Mexico and got their campaign underway. Given how the first match (and a half) went for them, they are still in a decent position to make it through.
Saudi Arabia, after their stunning win against Argentina and a good performance that didn’t earn any points against Poland, are still in the mix.
Mexico are staring down the exit lane, but will hope to make one final push.
Here’s a look at how things stand and the different possible scenarios to progress out of Group C ahead of the last set of fixtures:
Note: All the set of last matches in each group will kickoff simultaneously.
Table ahead of fixtures
Remaining fixtures (IST)
Wednesday, November 30
0030 (Next AM): Poland v Argentina, 974 Stadium (Doha)
0030 (Next AM): Saudi Arabia v Mexico, Lusail Stadium (Lusail)
Poland have perhaps the most favourable equation as things stand as they just need to avoid defeat against Argentina to make it to the last-16 for the first time since 1986.
Poland will top the group if they beat Argentina regardless of the result of the match between Saudi Arabia and Mexico.
Should they lose to Lionel Messi and Co, the Poles can still make it to the next round if they don’t lose by more than two goals and the match between Saudi Arabia and Mexico ends in a draw. If Poland suffer a heavy defeat, various other scenarios will come into play based on goals scored.
If they lose and Saudi Arabia win, Poland will be out of the tournament.
If they lose and Mexico win, it will come down to a tiebreaker between Poland and Mexico. The South Americans, who have been goal-shy, will have to better the goal difference of the European side in that case as the head-to-head is a draw.
UPDATE: If goal difference is also level, we will go to disciplinary tiebreaker. Before their matches, Mexico are -6 and Poland are -4.
All said and done, things are still in Messi and Co’s control. Victory against Poland will see Argentina progress to the round of 16. And they will do so as winners of Group C if Saudi Arabia draw or lose against Mexico.
But a defeat will see them crash out regardless of what happens in the other match.
It gets a little complicated with draws though.
If both matches end in a draw, for instance, Argentina will qualify ahead of Saudi Arabia via goal difference (because that is the first tiebreak and not H2H, unfortunately for Saudi Arabia).
Messi and Co will be knocked out if they draw against Poland and Saudi Arabia beat Mexico.
If Argentina are held by Poland and Mexico beat Saudi Arabia, goal difference will decide who among Argentina and Mexico go through in second place behind Poland. Mexico will have to win big (by four goals) as that is their best chance given equal GD will give Argentina the edge on H2H.
If Saudi Arabia beat Mexico, they will make it to the last-16 irrespective of what happens between Poland and Argentina. They can even top the group if the other match is drawn.
If Saudi Arabia lose, they are out of the tournament.
Once again, a draw will make things less straightforward.
If Poland beat Argentina, Saudi Arabia can still progress to the knockouts with a draw.
If both matches end in a draw, the Saudis will be knocked out.
Even if they are held by Mexico, Saudi Arabia can qualify if Argentina beat Poland by a four-goal margin. If both Saudi Arabia and Poland end up with the same goal difference and number of goals scored, the Europeans will qualify at Saudi Arabia’s expense having beaten the Asian side in their meeting.
Mexico have to win to have any chance of making it to the next round. Any other result, and they have no chance. A draw or a loss will knock Mexico out.
If they win and Poland beat Argentina, Mexico are through to the next round.
If the match between Argentina and Poland ends in a draw, Mexico need to beat Saudi Arabia that results in a +4 GD swing to pip Argentina to second place on goal difference. (Mexico can’t be level on GD with Argentina as H2H is unfavourable).
If Argentina win, Mexico will need to win by a +5 GD swing (from their win plus Poland’s defeat) to join Argentina in the next round by pipping Poland on goal difference. A +4 GD swing will result in a disciplinary tiebreak.
Round of 16 fixtures (IST)
Saturday, December 3
Game 50: 0030 (Next AM): Winners Group C v Runners-up Group D, Ahmed bin Ali Stadium (Al-Rayyan)
Sunday, December 4
Game 52: 2030: Winners Group D v Runners-up Group C, Al-Thumama Stadium (Doha)
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.
- 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.
— via FIFA World Cup regulations document