We’re counting down the days until the World Cup Round of 16 starts. With half the teams for the knockout stage already set, the other half is still up for grabs.
Both Spain and Japan had stellar starts to the tournament. Japan pulled off a huge 2-1 upset over Germany, and Spain dominated Costa Rica, 7-0. But, their second matches fell short. Japan lost to Costa Rica, and Spain drew against Germany.
With this, Group E’s table leaves all teams still in the running to finish in the top two. As their final two matches will determine who moves into the Round of 16, every outcome is crucial.
If Japan wins…
Japan may not be the favorite to win their next match, but that didn’t stop them from defeating Germany, 2-1.
After this upset, the Blue Samurai were expected to add another three points to their standing with a win against Costa Rica. However, the Central American team kept their World Cup campaign alive with a late goal by Keysher Fuller with nine minutes left to play.
Now, a win is crucial for Japan if they want a ticket into the knockout round. There is no other option.
If they win, they will end the Group Stage with six points, leaving Spain with four. In this case, Japan will finish first in their group regardless of the outcome of the Germany vs. Costa Rica match—unless Costa Rica manages to reverse their current goal difference of -6.
If Spain wins…
Spain, however, will prove to be a formidable opponent for Japan.
Although Spain is typically always a strong contender in the World Cup, their 7-0 win against Costa Rica still came as a shock. The team was unstoppable as they completely flummoxed the Costa Rican side.
But, because of their dominant win, it also came as a shock to see them draw against Germany, denying Spain of an early ticket to the Round of 16. To secure this, they will need a win over the Blue Samurai.
If La Roja defeats Japan, they will finish first in their group, uncontested with seven points. Should Japan lose, they would be out of knockout contention.
If Japan and Spain draw…
However, if the two teams draw, Group E’s table could completely reshuffle.
With an additional point for both teams, Spain will finish with five points and Japan will finish with four. This would mean that if Costa Rica wins against Germany, they could shoot up all the way to first with six points, with Spain finishing in second.
Conversely, if Germany wins, they will finish with four points. This would leave them tied with Japan, and if Die Mannschaft’s goal difference improves, they could potentially advance as second in the group.
But, if Costa Rica and Germany also draw, the table stays as is.
Group E is one of the most exciting and unexpected thus far in the World Cup. And as one of the last Group Stage matches, you aren’t going to want to miss this.
Banner image from GOAL on Twitter.