World Cup 2018 permutations: Who can qualify for the round of 16?
The final round of World Cup group fixtures begin on Monday, with 10 spots remaining in the round of 16.
Six nations – Russia, Uruguay, France, Croatia, Belgium and England – have already qualified. Eight others – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Peru, Costa Rica, Tunisia, Panama and Poland – have already been eliminated.
The fate of the rest remains undecided. Some can be confident of progression, others less so, and several will fear the prospect of elimination on goal difference, head-to-head records, fair play points or even the drawing of lots.
There is also the small matter of first and second-place group finishes, which determine who plays who in the knockout stages.
Hosts Russia and Uruguay have both qualified with two wins apiece ahead of their meeting on Monday which will decide top spot. That will leave Saudi Arabia and Egypt fighting it out for third spot in the other remaining fixture.
Spain and Portugal remain favourites to qualify but as both are only a point above Iran nothing is settled. Portugal know a win or draw against Iran would put them through. Spain face the same situation against Morocco but could also lose and still qualify as long as Portugal win. Were both the favourites to lose, and both by the same scoreline, then fair play records or even drawing of lots could be needed to determine who qualifies.
Leaders France are already through but will want to beat Denmark on Tuesday to take top spot in style, although a draw would also keep them clear. Australia need to beat bottom side Peru and hope Denmark lose to France, and also need at least a two-goal swing in their favour.
Argentina need to win against Nigeria on Tuesday and hope that Iceland do not beat Croatia, who have already qualified. A win for Nigeria would see them qualify and even a draw would be good enough unless Iceland win by at least two clear goals.
Brazil would be safely through with a win or a draw against Serbia and will top the group unless Switzerland better their result, or match it with a better goal margin – the Selecao’s goal difference is currently one better. A draw with already-eliminated Costa Rica would be enough for Switzerland and defeat could still see them qualify if Serbia also lose. A win would take Serbia through and a draw could be enough if Switzerland lose by two.
Mexico need only a draw against Sweden on Wednesday while a win would see them top the group with maximum points. Germany, who face bottom side South Korea, need to at least match Sweden’s result. Draws in both games would see qualification determined by goals scored. Identical records would then see qualification decided by the better result when the teams met, which would see Germany go through courtesy of their 2-1 win.
England and Belgium will battle it out for group honours on Thursday after a 6-1 victory against Panama saw Gareth Southgate’s men make it two wins from as many matches. With Belgium also winning their first two matches both teams are on six points and with identical records on goal difference and goals scored. A draw in the final group game would see the leaders decided by fair play rules – England lead on that criteria by virtue of two yellow cards to Belgium’s three – or by drawing of lots. Tunisia are out.
Japan need only draw with Poland, who have been eliminated, to progress to the next round. Senegal and Colombia play off with the winner qualifying, while a draw will be enough for the African side.
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