Entering matchday three of the 2022 World Cup, there are endless group stage scenarios for teams to reach the coveted knockout stage.
In fact, only two teams do not have any chance of reaching the last 16. Canada and Qatar are the only teams without a point after two games played. Qatar becomes the second host of a World Cup to not reach the second phase of the competition. The first was South Africa in 2010. Canada, on the other hand, is still in search its first-ever World Cup point.
Some countries already have a spot in the knockout stage of the World Cup. Brazil and the defending champions, France, were the first two to clinch a spot in the round of 16. Portugal then joined them with a win on Monday over Uruguay.
How can the other 27 teams figure out the 13 available spots? Here is what each team needs to happen.
How to get to the World Cup knockout stage
- Ecuador vs Senegal, Netherlands vs Qatar – Tuesday, 10 a.m. ET
The Netherlands and Ecuador have an inside track to get to the next stage. However, the matchup between Ecuador and Senegal is particularly interesting. Ecuador is through with a draw or a win. Senegal likely needs a win to advance.
However, the reason the Netherlands is not guaranteed a spot, is because of potential goal differential issues. If Ecuador and Senegal tie, and the Netherlands loses to Qatar by at least two goals, the next tie breaker is goals scored. While Qatar has looked dismal in its World Cup campaign, it could play the ultimate spoiler with a shock result over the Dutch.
- USA vs Iran, England vs Wales – Tuesday, 2 p.m. ET
The contest between Iran and the United States is one of those ’round of 32′ fixtures. While not an official knockout stage game, the Americans must win to advance. A draw or loss leave no possibility. Iran advances automatically with a win, but not even a draw is necessarily a guarantee.
Wales’s only possibility to advance rests on a USA-Iran draw. Then, Wales would have to beat England. The resulting three points would put Wales level with Iran. Then, the consequent improvement in goal differential would book a spot. England can be knocked out in the event of a loss. However, it would require the English to lose by at least six goals, AND Iran and the United States would have to tie.
- Argentina vs Poland, Mexico vs Saudi Arabia – Wednesday, 2 p.m.
This group is, simply put, wide open. Group leaders Poland are through with a win or a draw, regardless of what happens in the other game. Poland can still get through with a loss, so long as Mexico either draws or defeats Saudi Arabia. For the latter (POL loss, MEX win), it comes down to goal differential.
Argentina, which bounced back after a stunning defeat to Saudi Arabia by defeating Mexico, controls its fate. A win is a guarantee to advance, a loss is an exit from the tournament. In the event of a draw, Argentina can advance if MEX and KSA draw. Or, if Argentina draws, it goes through is Mexico wins by either one or two goals. A Mexico win by three goals in this scenario would bring in goals for, the third tiebreaker.
Saudi Arabia is in a similar boat to Argentina. A Saudi Arabian win is a guarantee to advance, a loss means it is out. A draw would require Argentina to lose. This sees Saudi Arabia jump Argentina in points.
Mexico needs the most help in the group. A draw or loss and, unsurprisingly, Mexico is eliminated in the group stage for the first time since 1978. In the event of a Mexico win, it needs to hope for a Poland win or a draw in the other game. If Argentina draws with Poland, Mexico must jump Argentina in the goal differential category. Therefore, that requires a three-goal win or better at the least.
- Australia vs Denmark, France vs Tunisia – Wednesday, 10 a.m. ET
France is through. Moreover, the only way it does not finish top of the group is if France loses and Australia wins. Australia would also have to jump France in the goal differential category. That means overcoming a 6-goal margin.
Australia guarantees a spot in the knockout stage with a win. However, despite being in second, Tunisia can jump the Socceroos in the event of a draw. Tunisia would have to beat France and have a better goal differential margin than Australia to usurp the Aussies. Again, that is just in the case of a draw. With a loss, Australia is out.
Denmark and Tunisia are almost identical in their performances this campaign. One draw and a loss by a lone goal have each team on one point with a goal differential of -1. Both nations must win to advance. However, the tiebreakers come into effect. The first is goal differential. Secondly, and the reason Denmark is currently third, is goals for. After that, the fair play system, which values bookings, plays a role.
- Japan vs Spain, Germany vs Costa Rica – Thursday, 2 p.m. ET
This is another instance of every team having a chance to qualify for the World Cup knockout stage. Spain controls its destiny. A win or a draw is good enough to advance. In the event of a loss, Spain can still advance so long as its goal differential, currently a tournament-leading +7, does not take a massive hit.
Japan won that massive first game against Germany, but surprisingly fell to Costa Rica, giving this group life. The Samurai Blue are through with a win. A loss to Spain disqualifies Japan. A draw could be good enough. However, Japan’s goal differential could come into play as its fate would lie in the hands of the Germany-Costa Rica game. If Japan draws with Spain, the only way it can get through is if the other game also ends in a draw. Or, Germany wins by just one goal, and Japan betters the Germans based on goal differential. Of course, Japan advanced to the knockout stage of the 2018 World Cup via the Fair Play rules, and that could very well happen again.
Costa Rica has a similar situation to Japan on three points. However, Costa Rica’s brutal goal differential of -6 makes some of those tiebreaker scenarios harder to overcome. If Costa Rica draws with Germany, it can get through so long as Japan loses to Spain. That being said, a win would certainly be enough for Costa Rica to advance.
Germany needs help, and a fair amount of it. Not only does Germany have to defeat Costa Rica, but it must hope Spain defeats Japan, or that the two sides draw. As stated, it is a tall task to overcome Spain’s goal differential in the event of Spain losing and Germany winning. Not mathematically impossible, but theoretically quite challenging. The more realistic of the options to advance is if Germany wins and Spain defeats Japan. Or, Germany wins and Spain ties Japan, but Germany wins by enough to overtake Japan in the group table based on goal differential.
- Croatia vs Belgium, Canada vs Morocco – Thursday, 10 a.m. ET
The Croatia contest against Belgium is massive, as most predicted it would be entering the tournament. Croatia advances with a win or a draw. In fact, it can even advance with a loss. The latter is possible if Canada defeats Morocco.
Morocco secures its spot in the next stage with a win. However, a loss or a draw are still potential ways to advance. If Croatia defeats Belgium, then the result in the Canada-Morocco game has no importance for the Moroccans. However, if Belgium draw or win, Morocco need a draw or win of its own, respectively, to advance. Also, if Morocco loses, it can still get through if Belgium defeats Croatia in convincing fashion. That would come down to goal differential between Croatia and Morocco.
Belgium still has a say over this group. A win is enough to advance. A draw can be enough to advance. Yet, that instance mandates that Morocco loses by at least three goals to Canada, a team that has never picked up a point in a World Cup game. A loss dooms Belgium to a shock early exit from the World Cup.
Canada is out. However, it can still clearly play a role in the standings of the group in its game against Morocco.
- Serbia vs Switzerland, Brazil vs Cameroon – Friday, 2 p.m. ET
This group is practically identical to Group D. Brazil is through to the knockout stage of the World Cup. The only way it does not finish top if is it loses and Switzerland wins by enough to overtake the Brazilians in goal differential.
For Switzerland, a win is enough. A draw can be enough, but that would require Brazil to beat Cameroon. Or, at the least, Cameroon would have to defeat a Brazil side yet to concede in the tournament. A loss eliminates Switzerland from play.
Cameroon put three past Serbia, keeping its hopes alive. However, its hopes rest on defeating Brazil and banking on either a draw between Serbia and Switzerland or a Serbia win. In the case of both, goal differential would come into play. for Cameroon.
Serbia, like Cameroon, needs a win and some help. A win takes the Serbs over Switzerland in the group. However, if Cameroon defeats Brazil and maintains a better goal differential, Serbia is not going to advance.
- Ghana vs Uruguay, Portugal vs South Korea – Friday, 10 a.m. ET
This group is strikingly similar to Group G, all the way down to each team’s goal differential. Portugal advanced after soundly defeating Uruguay with a pair of Bruno Fernandes goals. Portugal also has the inside track to finish top, so long as Ghana does not win with a comfortable margin and Portugal loses.
Ghana can advance with a win, while a loss spells an exit from the tournament. If Ghana draws with Uruguay, South Korea either loses or draws against Portugal.
By the same token, Uruguay can advance with a win and a Portugal win or draw in the last matchday. If Uruguay draws or loses, it is eliminated.
Same goes for South Korea. A draw or a loss kick the side out of the World Cup. However, a win would force the Koreans to cheer for either a Uruguay one-goal win or a draw. If Ghana and Uruguay draw, South Korea can advance if it defeats Portugal by two to get its goal differential up.
Guide to World Cup 2022
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