2018 World Cup Update: On the Next Matchday… (Oct. 8-10)

And we’re back with a look at the remaining games in this international break. 13 teams are now qualified, with 44 teams still in the running. At least 9 more will be qualified by Wednesday.

I don’t make any claim these scenarios are comprehensive, but they are all in one place.

UEFA 10/9 Update
These are the final scenarios:

  • France will qualify directly if they defeat Belarus.
  • France will qualify directly if Sweden loses to the Netherlands.
  • Sweden will qualify directly if they defeat the Netherlands and France loses to or draws with Belarus.
  • Sweden will clinch at least a play-off spot if they do not lose to the Netherlands or lose by less than 7 goals.
  • The Netherlands will clinch second place in Group A and a play-off spot if they defeat Sweden by at least 7 goals.
  • Switzerland will qualify directly if they do not lose to Portugal. Otherwise, they will qualify for the play-off.
  • Portugal will qualify directly if they defeat Switzerland. Otherwise, they will qualify for the play-off.
  • Greece will qualify for the play-off if they defeat Gibraltar, or if they draw or lose to Gibraltar and Bosnia and Herzegovina fails to defeat Estonia. Otherwise, Slovakia will qualify for the play-off.

AFC

This one’s easy. Syria and Australia drew Syria’s “home” leg 1-1, here’s the matrix of scenarios for the return leg:

  • Australia advances with any win or a 0-0 draw.
  • Syria advances with a win or draw in which each side scores 2 goals or more.
  • If the score after 90 minutes is 1-1, then there will be 30 minutes of extra time. If the score is still 1-1 after the 30 minutes, then a penalty shootout will determine who advances. If there is an outright winner after extra time, then the winner advances. If there is any other draw then Syria will advance on away goals.

CAF

Africa doesn’t play again until November, so we’ll cover those scenarios then, but we’ll salute Nigeria for qualifying and saying aloha to Zambia, Gabon, and Mali. [possibly also Uganda and Ghana if Egypt wins]

CONCACAF

Costa Rica qualified with a 1-1 draw with Honduras. Here’s the scenarios going into Tuesday.

The United States will:

  • Qualify directly for the World Cup with a win at Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Qualify directly for the World Cup with a draw and if either Panama fails to defeat Costa Rica by 7 goals or Honduras fails to defeat Mexico by 12 goals.
  • Qualify directly for the World Cup with a loss to Trinidad and Tobago if both Panama and Honduras lose to or draw with Costa Rica and Mexico, respectively.
  • Clinch fourth place and a place in the inter-confederation playoff if they draw Trinidad and Tobago and just one of Panama or Honduras win by enough to make up the differences in goal differential.
  • Clinch fourth place and a place in the inter-confederation playoff if they lose to Trinidad and Tobago and just one of Panama or Honduras wins their respective matches.

The fates of Panama and Honduras are more intertwined. Panama’s goal differential is much better (-2 versus -7) so they have an advantage in any scenario where they wind up tied on points, like they currently are. As seen above, both are hindered by their goal differentials when tying the United States due to the US’s +5 goal differential. For both, if they win and the United States draws, then it will come down to goal differential. Either will be eliminated with a loss unless both of them lose. If they both draw, then Panama will clinch fourth place and Honduras will be eliminated.

CONMEBOL

Strap in because this one’s nuts, folks. After Thursday night, six teams are in the running for the last three spots available out of South America. A quick summary of the teams still in the running:

  • Uruguay is all but in. They have 28 points and a plus +10 goal differential. Even if they lose, barring some catastrophe they cannot finish worse than the inter-confederation playoff spot (5th place).
  • Chile eliminated Ecuador and picked up 3 crucial points in the process. They now have 26 points, a +2 goal differential, and are ahead of Colombia on goals scored.
  • Colombia is in fourth place with 26 points, +2 goals, and behind Chile due to goals scored.
  • Peru is in fifth after earning a huge draw at Argentina, sitting on 25 points and a +1 goal differential. They are ahead of Argentina on goals scored.
  • If the competition ended today, Argentina would not make the World Cup. They are in sixth place with 25 points and a +1 goal differential. They are behind Peru due to goals scored.
  • Paraguay has 24 points but a potential anchor due to their -5 goal differential.

All of the games on Tuesday will kickoff at 5:30 PM Eastern. Let’s go through the scenarios, such as I can. I’m going to do this by team, but as you might guess from the above, this gets very complicated, very fast. Even though there is an enormous block of text below, I probably have come nowhere close to enumerating all the possibilities.

Uruguay
Uruguay has the easiest scenarios. With any win or draw over Bolivia, they get into the World Cup. The game is in Montevideo and is the second worst team in the table. They should be able to get at least a point. However, if they lose, then for them to even wind up in 5th place (and thus the inter-confederation playoff) the following would have to happen:

  • Chile defeats Brazil
  • There is a result in the Colombia-Peru game
  • Argentina defeats Ecuador, and Uruguay loses by a bad enough margin to erase their 9 goal difference in terms of goal differential.

Chile
If Chile defeats Brazil, they are in. However, that’s easier said than done. Brazil have won all their matches at home in this qualification cycle, and their only loss came to Chile two years ago in Santiago. However, if Chile draws then things start to get weird, fast. With a draw, Chile ends up with 27 points. If there is a result in the Colombia-Peru game, then the winner will have 29 points. If Argentina defeats Ecuador, then they will have 28 points. If Paraguay defeats Ecuador, then they will have 27 points, however Paraguay would need to win by at least 7 goals to make up the goal difference, so Chile has the advantage there. If there is a draw in the Colombia-Peru game, then it may come down to how many goals Chile and Colombia scored in their matches, since Chile is currently prevailing on the goals scored tiebreaker. (They currently have a 6 goal advantage.) If only one of the above scenarios comes to fruition, then Chile will qualify for the World Cup. If two of them occur, then Chile will finish in 5th place. If three or more occur, then Chile will be eliminated.

If Chile loses, they can still qualify outright if Colombia defeats Peru, Ecuador defeats Argentina, and Paraguay doesn’t defeat Venezuela. They will be eliminated outright in the following scenarios:

  • Colombia draws Peru, Argentina defeats Ecuador, and Paraguay defeats Venezuela
  • Colombia defeats Peru, Argentina defeats Ecuador, and Paraguay defeats Venezeula
  • Peru defeats Colombia, Argentina defeats Ecuador, and Paraguay defeats Venezeula

In every other case, it would go to tiebreakers in various combinations of 4th, 5th, and 6th place:

  • If Colombia daws Peru, Argentina draws Ecuador, and Parguay defeats Venezuela, then there will be a 3-way tie for 5th between Chile, Peru, and Argentina. In this scenario, Argentina’s goal difference would remain at +1, as would Peru’s. If Chile loses by one goal, then their goal difference would be +1 and they could probably prevail over Argentina on goals scored (where they lead by 10), but run into trouble with Peru, with whom they are currently level on goals scored. If Chile loses by more than one goal or Colombia-Peru score 1 goal or more each, then they would be eliminated.
  • If Colombia draws Peru, Argentina draws Ecuador, and Paraguay doesn’t defeat Venezuela, then the tiebreaker described above would be for 4th place and 5th place. If Argentina loses to Ecuador, then the tiebreaker would involve just Peru and Chile and would decide 4th and 5th place.
  • If Colombia defeats Peru, Argentina draws Ecuador, and Paraguay defeats Venezuela, then Chile and Argentina would be tied for 5th at 26 points. If Chile loses by one goal, they probably prevail on goals scored (see above), but if they lose by more than one goal then they are eliminated. If Paraguay doesn’t defeat Venezuela, then the tiebreaker will decide 4th and 5th place.
  • If Peru defeats Colombia, then it will come down to whose loss is worse, since Colombia and Peru currently both have a +2 goal differential. If they lose by the same margin, then it will come down who scored more goals. Otherwise, the above scenarios apply.

Colombia
If Colombia defeats Peru, then they will qualify for the World Cup. Colombia is also in good shape if they draw Peru. They are only eliminated outright if they draw and Chile win or draw (and Colombia doesn’t score more goals than them in the process) along with Argentina winning and Paraguay winning by at least 7 goals. If they draw and either Argentina or Paraguay fail to win or draw, they will qualify. If they draw and Argentina draws, then Colombia will prevail on goal differential and qualify. If they draw and Argentina wins, then that would knock them down to 5th.

If Colombia loses, then they cannot finish higher than 5th. If Argentina or Paraguay win, then Colombia would be eliminated. If Argentina draws, then Colombia would need to lose by more than 2 goals to be eliminated. If they lose by one goal, then Argentina would need to make up the difference in goals scored (currently 20 versus 16).

Peru
If Peru defeats Colombia, they are in. The game is in Lima, so they should have at least a slight advantage. If Peru draws Colombia, then it depends on what Argentina and Paraguay do. If either of them win, then Peru is eliminated. If either of them draw, then Peru is in good shape due to its tiebreaker advantages over Argentina (10 more goals scored) and Paraguay (+1 versus -5 goal differential). If Peru loses to Colombia, then they would be eliminated if Argentina wins or draws or if Paraguay wins. Also, if Peru loses and Argentina loses, then it would depend on how badly each lost, with the starting point being the tiebreakers previously mentioned.

Argentina
Argentina and the world’s best player currently sit in sixth place and in a heap of trouble. If they win, then it will depend on what the teams above them do, though they are at least assured 5th place.

  • If Chile and Colombia/Peru win, then the best Argentina can do with a win.
  • If Chile draws or loses or if Colombia-Peru draw, then Argentina will qualify.

If Argentina draws Ecuador (and the game is on the road), they will wind up with 26 points. If Chile wins or draws, and Colombia-Peru is a draw, then Argentina will be eliminated unless they score a barrage of goals (but somehow still draw). If Colombia defeats Peru and Chile wins or draws, then Argentina will finish 5th. If Colombia defeats Peru and Chile loses, then Argentina could potentially make up their goal differential deficit with Chile if Chile loses by at least two goals. The same applies if Peru defeats Colombia. If Chile also loses, then Argentina could finish as high as fourth, but if Chile and Colombia do not lose by multiple goals then Argentina will be eliminated. If Argentina draws and Paraguay wins, then they will be eliminated.

If Argentina loses to Ecuador, then they will be eliminated.

Paraguay
Paraguay can only get in with a win over Venezuela, and even then they need at least one of Chile, Colombia/Peru, or Argentina to lose. Paraguay’s -5 goal differential will be a major issue, because while Venezuela have conceded the most goals it’s still unlikely they’d lose 6-0. Paraguay can qualify directly if Chile loses, Argentina loses or draws, and Colombia-Peru ends in a draw. They can also wind up in 5th if Chile draws and there is a draw in Colombia-Peru, and if Argentina loses or draws.

Summary

  • Uruguay is almost certainly in and cannot finish worse than 5th, even if they lose to Bolivia.
  • Chile is in if they defeat Brazil, very likely in if they draw, and holding on for dear life if they lose, but probably in 5th place.
  • Colombia is in if they defeat Peru, and very very likely in if they draw, and praying neither Argentina or Paraguay win if they lose.
  • Peru is in if they defeat Colombia, but on shaky ground if they draw, since Argentina could then pass them if they draw. If they draw, they cannot do better than 5th.
  • If Argentina picks up a win in Quito, then they are assured of at least 5th place, and in if Chile loses or draws and Colombia-Peru is a draw. If Argentina draws then they really need Peru to lose to Colombia.
  • Paraguay needs to win and score a boatload of goals.

UEFA

Group A
France is assured of at least a place in the second round, but they can still qualify directly with a win over Belarus at home. They will also qualify with a draw and if Sweden loses to the Netherlands. If Sweden draws the Dutch, then a French loss would be trouble since Sweden has a better goal differential (+19 versus +11). France can also qualify directly with a draw and if Sweden does not defeat the Netherlands. Sweden can qualify directly if they defeat the Netherlands and France draws or loses to Belarus.

Sweden can only be eliminated if they lose to Netherlands by at least 13 goals, which would also clinch second place for the Dutch. We’d have to wait for other group results to come in to see if the Dutch would clinch a place in the second round.

Group B
Switzerland is currently topping the group with 27 points with Portugal behind at 24. Both are assured of a place in the second round. Conveniently, Portugal also gets Switzerland at home in the final game of the first round and has an advantage already in goal differential. Therefore, if Portugal wins they will qualify directly, and with any other result Switzerland will qualify directly.

Group C
Group C is done, with Germany clinching the group. Northern Ireland has also clinched second place, and will clinch a place in the playoff with a win or draw over Norway. Whether they can get in with a loss depends on action in the other groups.

Group D
Austria was eliminated, leaving Serbia with 18 points, Wales with 17 points, and Ireland with 16 points. Wales and Ireland will play each other, and Serbia will play Georgia. On the next matchday, October 9th:

  • Serbia will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over Georgia.
  • Serbia will qualify directly for the World Cup with a draw with Georgia and if Wales and Ireland draw each other.
  • Wales will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over Ireland and a Serbia draw with or loss to Georgia. Serbia would clinch second place in this scenario.
  • Ireland will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over Wales and a Serbia loss to Georgia.
  • Wales will cinch second place with a win over or a draw with Ireland.
  • Ireland will clinch second place with a win over Wales.

Whether the second place team in this group moves to the second round depends on the results in other groups.

Group E
Poland is on top with 22 points, and if they do not qualify outright they are assured of second place and a spot in the Second Round. Denmark and Montenegro have 19 and 16 points, respectively. On the next matchday, October 8th:

  • Poland will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over or draw with Montenegro.
  • Denmark will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over Romania and a Poland loss to Montenegro.
  • Montenegro will clinch second place with a win over Poland and if Denmark loses to Romania.
  • Denmark will clinch second place with win over or draw with Romania.

Group F
England defeated Slovenia to qualify outright, so it is a three-way battle for second between Scotland, Slovakia, and Slovenia with 17, 15, and 14 points, respectively. If Scotland wins at Slovenia, then they will clinch second place. If Scotland draws and Slovakia defeats Malta (hint: that’s incredibly likely, especially at home) then Slovakia will prevail on goal difference (+7 to Scotland’s +5). Slovenia can only qualify if they defeat Scotland and Slovakia loses to or draws with Malta (hint: that’s not very likely).

Group G
This group is done. Spain clinched qualification and Albania was eliminated, leaving Italy in second place and waiting to see if they’ll qualify for the second round.

Group H
Belgium qualified back in September. Greece will clinch second place with a win over Gibraltar, which is, well, which is very, very likely. (Gibraltar has lost all of their games and has a -40 goal differential.) If they somehow draw, then Bosnia and Herzegovina could clinch second place with a win over Estonia, and would clinch outright if the impossible occurs and Greece manages to lose at home to a tiny peninsula with a population of 33,000.

Group I
Iceland will qualify directly for the World Cup with a win over Kosovo, which is pretty likely. If they draw or lose to Kosovo, they can do no worse than second place and are assured of making the Second Round. Croatia and Ukraine are tied on 17 points and play each other, so it’s pretty straightforward. Whoever wins will also have a better goal differential than Iceland, so the winner would qualify directly for the World Cup if Iceland draws or loses to Kosovo. If they draw, then Croatia will clinch second place.

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