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Does defeat mean that you are not participating in the World Cup? Explanation of losses in the group stage

The Athletic

When it comes to competitive football, all the preparation in the world does not guarantee success.

Years of hard work go into every major tournament, and that certainly applies to every team at the 2022 World Cup. But there are only a couple of days left before the start of the highly controversial football festival, and several teams are already looking down the barrel of elimination from the group stage.

The loudest of the teams under pressure is Argentina, who were stunned on Tuesday when Saudi Arabia came from behind to beat them 2-1 in Group C.

A little over 24 hours later, Germany were shocked as they also squandered the lead and lost in the first match, this time to Japan in Group E.

Does this mean that the teams of Lionel Scaloni and Hansi Flick, as well as other teams that lost the first matches, cannot qualify for the playoffs? Here’s everything you need to know.

Does losing a group stage game mean elimination from the World Cup?

No.

Although this makes it much more difficult to qualify for the Round of 16 as there are only six points available in the other two games.

How many points do you need to qualify?

There is no guaranteed amount, but losing the first game means going up the mountain, regardless of the quality of the respective lineup.

Teams receive three points for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss.

Thus, the team really needs two positive results in the other two games. In the case of Argentina and Germany, when you lose to a team that doesn’t expect to make the playoffs, it makes it even harder to make the playoffs.

Both sides are more than capable of beating other teams in their groups, but Mexico and Poland are stronger in the group, at least on paper, than Saudi Arabia, and Spain is a more dangerous proposition than Japan in Group E.

Six points is usually enough to get into the number 1/16. The only time this won’t be enough is if three of the four teams in the group get six points each.

In the event that two or three teams finish with the same number of points, the order in which it is decided who finishes higher than the other is determined:

  • Goal difference
  • Goals scored
  • Head-to-head record
  • Goal difference in games between tied teams
  • Goals scored in games between equal teams
  • Fair play record (number of cards issued)
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Four points would secure a team a spot in the next round, but fewer points would likely see the team advance to the playoffs. Although there was one team with surprisingly low numbers that had previously been in the last 16.

Who scored the fewest points to get into the 1/8 finals of the World Cup?

The 1998 World Cup was the first to be expanded to 32 teams, with two teams from each group of four teams. For this reason, we will only look at teams from this World Cup and the next five.

In 1998, Chile somehow made it to the round of 16 without winning a single game. They drew all three group matches – against Italy, Austria and Cameroon – and managed to beat the last two countries to finish second in Group B.


Chile eventually lost to Brazil in the round of 16 in 1998 (Photo: Simon Bruty/Anychance/Getty Images)

Four years later, four teams qualified for the playoffs with four points. Paraguay, Turkey, USA and Italy took the lead, winning a game, drawing and losing one game in the group stage.

In 2006, two more teams made it to the bottom 16 with four points. Mexico and Australia were the two countries that descended from the groups that included Portugal and Brazil, respectively.

In South Africa in 2010 it was similar to the 2002 World Cup with four teams making it into the bottom 16 with four points. Mexico, South Korea, Ghana and Slovakia filled out the sell-out group stage results and advanced to the playoffs.

Again, four points were enough for four teams in Brazil in 2014. These teams were Greece, Nigeria, USA and Algeria.

At the last World Cup in Russia, two teams scored four points each and took the lead. There will be hope for the Scaloni team as one of those teams was Argentina; Japan was different.

Average number of points scored by group winners:

  • 1998 World Cup (France): 7 points
  • World Championship 2002 (South Korea and Japan): 7.25 points
  • World Cup 2006 (Germany): eight points
  • World Cup 2010 (South Africa): 60.75 points
  • World Cup 2014 (Brazil): 8 points
  • World Cup 2018 (Russia): 7.25 points
  • Overall average at 32-team World Championships: 7.38 points

The average number of points scored by the participants who took second place in the group:

  • 1998 World Cup (France): 5.13 points
  • World Championship 2002 (South Korea and Japan): 4.5 points
  • World Cup 2006 (Germany): 5.38 points
  • World Cup 2010 (South Africa): 4.75 points
  • World Cup 2014 (Brazil): 5.13 points
  • World Cup 2018 (Russia): 5.13 points
  • Overall average at 32-team World Championships: 5 points

With the exception of Chile’s three-point campaign in 1998, history shows that at least four points are required to qualify from the group stage.

This means that teams that lose their first game will most likely need a win and a draw to at least have any chance of reaching the Round of 16. This only increases the pressure on Argentina, which faces a couple of very difficult tasks. ; games against Mexico and Poland.

Has the team that lost their first game ever reached the final of the World Cup?

Yes. And, somewhat surprisingly, it happened four times!

Once again, there is hope for Scaloni and his players as they can get support from Carlos Bilardo’s Argentine side in 1990. They lost 1–0 to Cameroon in their first game and advanced to the final where they lost 1–0 to West Germany in the final.


Maradona took Argentina to the final in 1990 but lost to West Germany (Photo: RENARD eric/Corbis via Getty Images)

However, it is definitely worth mentioning the fact that Argentina finished third in their group at that tournament. Since there were fewer teams in the group stage, they qualified for the bottom 16.

Eight years ago, West Germany also lost their first game (against Algeria) and then lost the final (against Italy), which will cheer up Flick and his team. Then the Italians did the same in 1994; lost to Ireland in their first game (finishing third in their group) and then lost in the final to Brazil on penalties.

This has happened only once in the history of the World Cup, when the team lost the first game and won the famous trophy.

Spain’s all-conquering Vicente del Bosque team lost 1-0 to Switzerland in their first game and won every other game, including the final against the Netherlands, which they famously won thanks to Andrés Iniesta in extra time.

(Top photo: David Ramos – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Written by khirou

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