The ongoing FIFA World Cup 2022 is turning out to be one of the most competitive editions in the history of the tournament. Just three teams have so far confirmed their berth in the knockout rounds, with 13 spots still up for grabs in the final fixtures of each group.
The World Cup has already seen a string of upsets by Asian teams and many sides that have been considered hot favourites heading into the tournament now see their fate hanging by a thread.
A lot of permutations are still possible on the final day, with the fate of some teams depending on the outcome of the other game in their group. If the upsets so far have entertained fans, any upset wins are likely to break the hopes of many fans during the last week.
With the final fixtures of the group stages starting today, here’s a look at each group of the FIFA World Cup 2022.
Group A – Qatar’s abrupt exit
Qatar have become the first side to secure an early exit from the World Cup, conceding easy goals to both Ecuador and Senegal. Both the Netherlands and Ecuador stand on equal terms with four points each, with Senegal following them with three points.
As it stands, either Senegal or Ecuador will join the Netherlands in the knockout rounds unless Qatar conjure a miracle to defeat the Dutch by a huge margin.
Even if the game between Senegal and Ecuador ends in a draw, even a 1-0 loss to the hosts will not eliminate the Netherlands from the tournament.
Group B – USA’s blockbuster encounter with Iran
Gareth Southgate’s England started their trophy hunt with a spectacular 6-2 win over Iran but stumbled to a 1-1 draw with the United States in their second game.
Even though the likelihood of their elimination still exists, a GD of +4 almost guarantees their advancement to the next stage. All they need in the final fixture is a win or a draw to secure their spot.
The winner of the encounter between Iran and the United States will thus join the Three Lions in the knockout rounds, making the fixture an elimination contest.
With Iran’s GD of -2, Wales also have a shot at qualification if they defeat their neighbours and if the game between Iran and the United States ends in a draw.
Group C – It’s Messi vs Lewandowski
Saudi Arabia’s historic win over Argentina in the opening game of Group C has completely tossed out any predictions of the outcome of Group C. The group is the hardest to predict as a result of the low GD difference between all the teams, with not only the outcome of the games but also their margin determining the two qualifying sides.
The contest between Lionel Messi’s Argentina and Robert Lewandowski’s Poland will thus be closely followed as both sides will be looking to score as many goals as possible to improve their odds.
Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, will be hoping to create another upset win against an out-of-form Mexico and claim a historic knockout berth.
Group D – Who will join France?
Defending champions France have become the first team to secure their berth in the knockout rounds of the World Cup as they have brushed aside the challenges from both Australia and Denmark with ease.
Kylian Mbappe’s brilliance has now made the defending champions the favourites to claim the title and they are likely to give a tough fight to both Argentina and Portugal for the trophy.
With Tunisia’s chances of a win over France looking slim, the outcome of the fixture between Australia and Denmark will determine the second team to qualify from the group. Australia need only a draw, while Denmark need a clean victory.
Group E – Germany’s prospects look slim
Perhaps the biggest news from the tournament is Germany’s prospects of an early exit. The former World Champions crashed to a 1-2 loss to Japan in their opening game, costing them valuable points in a group already featuring Spain.
A late goal by Niclas Fullkrug against Spain on Sunday kept them alive in the tournament, but their fortunes now lie in the outcome of the fixture between Spain and Japan.
The Spaniards have almost confirmed their berth with a GD of +7 and it is unlikely that both games will together push them out.
Both Costa Rica and Japan have to overcome the odds against European giants to claim the remaining berth, and it remains to be seen if either team can create another upset win in the tournament.
Group F – Is this the end of Belgium’s Golden Generation?
Once considered one of the strongest teams in Europe, Belgium are now struggling to score goals in the World Cup. A 2-0 loss to Morocco has shown the downfall of the giants and their prospects of qualifying for the knockout rounds now rest on their fixture against Croatia.
The 2018 finalists, meanwhile, only need to hold Belgium to a draw to advance to the knockouts.
Morocco, considered minnows of the game before the tournament, are currently the favourites to qualify with ease given Canada’s poor form. With the Canadians already out of the tournament, both the final round fixtures will together determine the two qualifying nations from the group.
Group G – Enticing rematch between Serbia and Switzerland
Brazil became the second team to qualify for the knockout rounds after their hard-fought 1-0 win over Switzerland on Monday.
A thrilling 3-3 draw between Cameroon and Serbia yesterday means that the second spot in Group G is open for all three teams.
Even before the World Cup, the fixture between Serbia and Switzerland was keenly awaited, mostly for the political drama that engulfed the game when they met in the last World Cup.
But this time the stakes are much higher, with the winner of the game likely joining Brazil in the knockouts. A draw would go in Switzerland’s favour.
Cameroon have the slimmest of chances to make it to the next round with a win against Brazil looking unlikely. But the African side have shown fighting spirit in their game against Switzerland, and they are not to be underestimated.
Group H – Heartbreak for South Korea?
Bruno Fernandes helped his team to a 2-0 win over Uruguay last night, making Portugal one of the three teams to secure a knockout berth so far in the tournament.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s side looked unsettled in their 3-2 win over Ghana last week, but have since improved their discipline on the field.
Late drama on the field has caused heartbreak for South Korea in their game against Ghana last night with their manager Paulo Bento receiving a straight red card.
Ghana will now need just a draw in their last game against Uruguay, and given the latter’s poor form, it is likely that they will be able to do so. If Uruguay win over Ghana, however, they will join Portugal in the knockouts.
South Korea’s hopes, on the other hand, are very slim as they will need to win against Portugal with two or more goals and hope Ghana lose their fixture – a highly unlikely outcome.
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