Going into the final round of fixtures in group F, it seems likely that the so-called golden generations of either Croatia or Belgium will fade away at the group stage.
After a narrow win over eliminated Canada, Belgium were completely outplayed by Morocco in a 2-0 defeat. The Atlas Lions also held 2018 runners-up Croatia to a draw and are well-placed to make it to the round of 16 for only the second time.
With Canada already eliminated, three teams are likely to be in for an almighty tussle for two spots.
One thing worth noting, finishing top in this group might not really matter that much... if Group E plays out predictably with Spain and Germany going through.
Here’s a look at how things stand and the different possible scenarios to progress out of Group F 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
2030: Canada v Morocco, Al-Thumama Stadium (Doha)
2030: Croatia v Belgium, Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium (Al-Rayyan)
Croatia only need to avoid losing to Belgium to progress to the knockout stages. A win or draw will take the 2018 runners-up, who had a brief blip against Canada before turning on the style, into the round of 16.
A win will also see the Croats topping the group as long as Morocco do not beat Canada by more than a goal. But if Croatia and Morocco both win, we are likely to go down the list of the tiebreakers below to decide who tops the group.
With Belgium likely to go all for out for a win, how does it look for Croatia if they do lose? They will then need a massive favour from the eliminated Canada to defeat the high-flying Moroccans. If Croatia lose, and Morocco gain a point at least, then the 2018 finalists are out.
In the scenario that Croatia and Morocco both lose, the margin of defeats and goals scored, if any, will both come into play as well as possible fair play. Croatia will sneak through if they lose by the same margin as Morocco as their GD is better.
The Atlas Lions can join Senegal as Africa’s representatives in the knockout stages with a win or draw against Canada. If they are held by the Canadians, Morocco will still make it to the next round on five points as one of Belgium / Croatia will be eliminated in that case.
Morocco can afford to lose to Canada by a two-goal margin but will then need Croatia to hold Belgium, where Morocco will sneak into the last-16 on goal difference.
The Atlas Lions can top the group if they win and the match between Croatia and Belgium ends in a draw or a Belgium victory. Even if Croatia win. Morocco can top the group if their winning margin is two goals more than Croatia’s.
It is relatively straightforward for Roberto Martinez’s men. Defeat Croatia and they are through. Lose to Croatia and they are out of the tournament.
Should the world No 2 draw against Croatia, it will come down to various criteria with Morocco who have the goal difference edge. Belgium would need Canada to beat Morocco by at least four goals to finish in second place on goal difference. If Canada beat Morocco by three goals, then goals scored comes into picture.
If Belgium draw, and Morocco avoid defeat, the tournament is over for the Europeans.
Belgium, however, can still top the group if they beat Croatia and Morocco fail to beat Canada.
Canada have been knocked out of the tournament but are likely to play a part in deciding Morocco’s fate. Even every goal they score could be vital in this group.
Round of 16 fixtures (IST)
Monday, December 5
Game 53: 2030: Winners Group E v Runners-up Group F, Al-Janoub Stadium (Al-Wakrah)
Tuesday, December 6
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