When the draw for the World Cup was over, many marked Group E to be the group of death. Not only did it feature two recent World Cup winners in Spain and Germany, but also Asian powerhouses Japan and plucky Costa Rica, who in 2014, emerged as the winners of another group of death featuring Uruguay, Italy and England.
Going into the final round of fixtures, all four teams in the group have a chance of making it to the knockout stages with 2010 champions Spain perhaps the best-placed to progress.
With their shock win over four-time winners Germany, Japan have put themselves in a good position to qualify while Germany, bottom of the group as things stand, are dependant on Spain doing them a favour.
Here’s a look at how things stand and the different possible scenarios to progress out of Group E 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)
Thursday, December 1
0030 (Next AM): Japan v Spain, Khalifa International Stadium (Doha)
0030 (Next AM): Germany v Costa Rica, Al-Bayt Stadium (Al-Khor)
Spain have four points from their two matches and a win or a draw against Japan will assure them a berth in the Round of 16. Victory will ensure Spain top the group.
If they are held by Japan, La Furia Roja can top the group if Germany vs Costa Rica ends in a draw.
Even if they lose to the Blue Samurai, Luis Enrique’s team can still qualify if the match between Germany and Costa Rica ends in a draw.
Spain’s goal difference being better than anyone else in the group, the only scenario that will bother them is a defeat against Japan and Costa Rica winning against Germany. In this highly unlikely scenario, Japan and Costa Rica will progress (order based on goal difference) with the former champions both knocked out.
Despite sitting second in the group, Japan have a tough task at hand to qualify for the knockout stages as they face a superior Spain side and getting anything out of this match will be hard. However, if they can play like they did against Germany, Japan are still in contention.
A win for Japan is definitely enough to progress. Japan will top the group if they beat Spain and Germany beat Costa Rica. Should Costa Rica prevail over Germany, goal difference will decide who among Japan and Costa Rica tops the group on six points, a scenario that will favour Japan for sure.
A draw can also see the Asians progress if Costa Rica and Germany also play out a draw.
An interesting scenario would be Japan drawing and Germany winning, putting them level on points. If Germany win by just one goal, and the number of goals scored are level, Japan will progress on head to head. But if Germans improve their goal difference past Japan, they will pip the Asians.
If Japan lose, they are out of contention as either Costa Rica or Germany will overtake them.
Victory against Germany will see Costa Rica move into the next round. They can top the group if Spain vs Japan is drawn.
If Costa Rica and Germany is drawn, the South Americans will need Spain to beat Japan.
If Costa Rica are level on points with Japan (either on six points to decide top two or four points to decide second spot), goal difference is not going to be in their favour.
If Costa Rica lose, they are out.
Germany have to win their last group game to have any hopes of making it to the last-16. That is the only result that will help them, a draw or defeat and it is back-to-back group stage exits for the European powerhouse.
Even if they win, Hansi Flick’s side will also need Spain to beat Japan to make sure they go to the next round.
If Germany win and Spain vs Japan is a draw, Germany have to beat Costa Rica by a two-goal margin to pip the Asian side to second place in the group on goal difference. They’d not want to get in a H2H tiebreaker against Japan which would happen with the goal difference and goals scored are identical.
The four-time World Cup winners cannot top the group.
For the record, as pointed out by ESPN, a win by 8 goals for Germany vs Costa Rica will be enough to progress irrespective of other results.
Round of 16 fixtures (IST):
Game 53: 2030: Winners Group E v Runners-up Group F, Al-Janoub Stadium (Al-Wakrah)
Game 55: 2030: Winners Group F v Runners-up Group E, Education City 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