A full guide to which teams can qualify for the last 16 and how

By Antoinette Muller 27 June 2018

A Portuguese fan cheers as she watch on a giant screen the FIFA World Cup 2018 group B preliminary round soccer match between Portugal and Spain in Lisbon, Portugal, 15 June 2018. EPA-EFE/JOSE SENA GOULAO

We go around one last time in the group matches. For a few of the big names, things are far more tense than anyone would have been able to predict. We're here to help you out.

Daily Maverick will be doing comprehensive daily scenarios and previews throughout the week of the final group games.

It’s that part of the World Cup. The final round of group stage matches begins on Monday and the calculators are working overtime, crunching the numbers to see who goes through.

Some scenarios are straightforward but with so many upsets, things are going to be tight for a few of the favourites.

First, here’s how the teams are ranked in the groups, as explained by Fifa:

  • Most points.
  • Goal difference in all group matches.
  • Goals scored in all group matches.

If all the above are equal, things get a bit more complex. Again, as explained by Fifa, it will come down to:

  • Greatest number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned.
  • Goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned.
  • Greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned.
  • Greater number of points obtained regarding fair play conduct (yellow cards = -1, indirect red card (as a result of a second yellow card) = -3, direct red card = -4, yellow card and direct red = -5, with only one of the deductions applied to a player in a single game).

Should teams still be equal, we’re off to the drawing of lots. But even with the tight tussle, that seems unlikely to be necessary for deciding the last 16 sides in the 2018 World Cup.

With formalities out of the way, let’s get down to the groups.

Group A

Qualified: Russia and Uruguay
Eliminated: Egypt and Saudi Arabia


This is as easy as it’s going to get, so enjoy it while it lasts. The only scenario that remains is who tops the group. Even that doesn’t require much brain power. A win for Russia sees them go top. A win for Uruguay puts them top. For Group A’s live standings, click here.

Group B

Qualified: None
Eliminated: Morocco


Spain and Portugal are on four points each, while Iran remain in with an outside chance on one point.

Spain take on Morocco while Portugal are up against Iran on Monday evening.

A draw or win for Spain and Portugal in their respective matches will be enough to qualify for the next round.

For Iran to go through, they will need to beat Portugal and hope that Spain lose by at least two goals against Morocco. In the event of Spain losing by two or more goals, Iran can still progress with a draw against Portugal, but that would require Spain to lose by more than one goal. You can follow live standings for Group B here.

Group C

Qualified: France
Eliminated: Peru


Welcome to the complication station.  A draw against France will be enough to see Denmark through. Australia remain in with a sniff, but it’s a bit more complicated. The Aussies must beat Peru and hope that Denmark lose to France. But even that is not so straightforward.

A win by at least two goals combined with a Denmark loss — of any margin — would put the Socceroos through. However, a win by just one goal means their fate depends on Denmark’s margin of defeat against France.

This is where you might want to reach for your calculator – or keep an eye on our live standings. You can follow live standings here.

Group D

Qualified: Croatia
Eliminated: None


Possibly the most enticing of the lot with just one group spot remaining and Croatia certain of topping the group. Listen carefully.

Let’s start with the easiest outcome. A win for Nigeria over Argentina will see them through to the next round. A draw might be enough, but it doesn’t guarantee anything.

For tournament darlings Iceland to progress they will have to, at the very least, beat Croatia. They then have to hope the outcome between Nigeria and Argentina doesn’t throw their goal difference out of whack – and the list of results that will see that happen is lengthy.

One such scenario would be a goalless draw between Nigeria and Argentina and a 2-0 win for Iceland over Croatia.

For Argentina, things are tense. Beating Nigeria 1-0 and Iceland beating Croatia 1-0, for example, will still see them go home. Follow our live standings here.

Group E

Qualified: None
Eliminated: Costa Rica


Another enticing final round of fixtures awaits you and your calculator.

Brazil are ahead of Switzerland on goal difference. Brazil will advance to the knockout round with either a win or a draw against Serbia. Switzerland can similarly advance with either a win or a draw against Costa Rica.

Straight wins for Switzerland and Serbia will see them progress and Brazil go home – regardless of the margin – but only if both teams win. The same is true if Serbia beat Brazil and Switzerland draw.

Brazil can still go through if they lose to Serbia and Switzerland lose to Costa Rica.

Group F

Qualified: None
Eliminated: None


Hold on to your hats because this group is going to get wild.

A win will be enough for Germany if Mexico beat Sweden. But if both Sweden and Germany win, there could be all sorts of insane tie-breaker scenarios. If Mexico and South Korea win, we’ll see a second-place tie-break decider.

Victory for Germany will also be good enough if Sweden draw. Sweden are through if Germany lose or draw. If both sides draw, yep, you guessed it, tie-breaker scenarios for second place.

Group G

Qualified: England and Belgium
Eliminated: Panama and Tunisia


The scenario is easy, but the stakes are spicy. The qualifiers for the next round have been decided, but top spot is up for grabs and it’s the two top teams who face off for that honour in the final group game. A win for either side will put them top, but a draw will push us into tie-breaker territory.

Group H

Qualified: None
Eliminated: Poland


Two teams – Senegal and Japan – are level on four points while Colombia have three, so we’re in for another round of calculator roulette. Colombia likely need a win to guarantee a spot in the next round no matter what. A draw, however, will be enough if Japan lose to Poland. A point will be enough to see Senegal through. DM


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