This year’s World Cup has had its share of thrilling finishes and exceptional performances. As we enter the final matches of Pool Play, here’s a quick recap of each group and the scenarios in which the remaining teams can advance to the round of 16.
Russia: 2-0-0 (6 Points, 7+ Goal Differential) (Advances)
Uruguay: 2-0-0 (6 Points, +2 Goal Differential) (Advances)
Egypt: 0-0-2 (0 Points, -3 Goal Differential) (Eliminated)
Saudi Arabia: 0-0-2- (0 Points, -6 Goal Differential) (Eliminated)
Star of the Group: Denis Cheryshev, Russia
Cheryshev made his presence felt off coming off the bench in Russia’s rout of Saudi Arabia in the World Cup opener, scoring two goals. He was rewarded with a start in next game against Egypt and he delivered for coach Stanislav Cherchesov — netting another goal in a 3-1 win.
Match to Watch: Uruguay vs. Russia, June 25th, 10 a.m. EST
The tournament hosts came into World Cup as a bit of an unknown. With so many key players out of action, the team was heralded by some experts as the country’s worst-ever. But after two dominant performances, Russia has a chance to win the group with a win or draw in its next match. Unlike the first two games, however, Uruguay poses a much greater threat with international star Luis Suarez. The polarizing striker looks like he may be ready to get breakout after scoring in Uruguay’s last match.
– Russia wins the group with a win or draw.
– Uruguay wins the group with a win.
Spain: 1-1-0 (4 Points, +1 Goal Differential)
Portugal: 1-1-0 (4 Points, +1 Goal Differential)
Iran: 1-0-1 (3 Points, 0 Goal Differential)
Morocco: 0-0-2 (0 Points, -2 Goal Differential)
Star of the Group: Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal
Soccer fans around the world have been waiting for Ronaldo to have marquee World Cup performance, and so far the Real Madrid star has arguably been the most dominant player in the tournament.
Ronaldo put the world on notice by becoming the oldest player to score a hat trick in Portugal’s opener against Spain ? pic.twitter.com/A7GqdPzhWl
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 15, 2018
He followed a stellar hat trick against rival Spain in the opener, with a gorgeous header in Portugal’s 1-0 Win over Morocco. Ronaldo’s four goals this year already eclipse his career total of three goals heading into the tournament. As Portugal showed when they won the 2016 Euro Cup, the sky is the limit when Ronaldo is playing well.
Match to Watch: Portugal vs. Iran June 25th, 2 p.m. EST
With Spain expected to take care of business against out-matched Morocco, neither Iran or Portugal can rely on poor play from the Reds to help them advance. It’s unlikely Iran will be able to advance with a draw, so it’ll be curious to see how Portugal plays things if the score is knotted late in the match.
– Spain advances with at least a win, or a draw or a Portugal win
– Portugal advances with at least a draw
– Iran advances with a win
France: 2-0-0 (6 Points, +1 Goal Differential) (Advances)
Denmark:1-2-0 (4 Points, +1 Goal Differential)
Australia: 0-1-1 (1 Point, -1 Goal Differential)
Peru: 0-0-2 (0 Points, -2 Goal Differential) (Eliminated)
Star of the Group: Mile Jedinak, Australia
The so-called “master of the penalty kick” has not disappointed in this year’s tournament. Jedinak connected on both of his PK tries in a loss to France and a Draw with Peru. He’s now connected on 16 consecutive penalty kicks. Jedinak’s goals are the only reason Australia comes into its group play finale against Denmark with a slim chance to advance.
Match to watch: France vs. Denmark, June 26th, 10 a.m. EST
The French will advance to the knockout stage, but they’ve stumbled out of the blocks. Two sub-par performances against Denmark and Australia will reportedly lead to significant changes in the starting lineup. Up to six new players may start against Denmark. Meanwhile, Denmark needs to avoid a blowout and hope Peru is competitive against Australia to ensure it advances.
– Denmark advances with a win or a draw
– Australia advances with a win and better goal differential than Denmark
Croatia: 2-0-0 (6 Points, +5 Goal Differential) (Advances)
Nigeria: 1-0-1 (3 Points, 0 Goal Differential)
Iceland: 0-1-1 (1 Point, -2 Goal Differential)
Argentina: 0-1-1 (1 Point, -3 Goal Differential)
Star of the Group: Luka Modric, Croatia
Luka Modric is living up to his reputation as one of the best midfielders in the world. He’s scored in both of Croatia’s wins, including a dominant performance over Lionel Messi-led Argentina. Croatia’s impressive showings have been one of the pleasant surprises of the tournament so far.
Match to Watch: Nigeria vs. Argentina, June 26th 2 p.m. EST
This is arguably the most anticipated match in the final slate of group play. Argentina came into World Cup with sky-high expectations but now find themselves on the brink of elimination. All eyes are on Messi, an all-time great player who faces immense pressure as critics question whether he’s capable of reaching his usual Barcelona brilliance under the brightest lights at the World Cup.
Meanwhile, upstart Nigeria is in solid position to advance even with a draw or a close loss. Its two-goal win over Iceland means the Icelanders will have a tall mountain to climb in its match with undefeated Croatia.
– Nigeria Advances with a win
– Iceland Advances with a win, Nigeria-Argentina Draw and a better goal differential over Nigeria; or a win, an Argentina win and a better goal differential than Argentina
– Argentina Advances with a win an Iceland loss; or a win and a better goal differential than Iceland
Brazil: 1-1-0 (4 Points, +2 Goal Differential)
Switzerland: 1-1-0 (4 Points, 1+ Goal Differential)
Serbia: 1-0-1 (3 Points, 0 Goal Differential)
Costa Rica: 0-0-2 (0 Points, -3 Goal Differential)
Star of the Group: Philippe Coutinho, Brazil
While many in the Brazilian media are still questioning Neymar’s tears during Brazil’s last win, it should be Coutinho’s stellar play that has everyone’s attention. His long-distance strike against Switzerland was an absolute beauty.
OH, GOODNESS. ??
Philippe Coutinho scores a BEAUTIFUL curler to put Brazil up 1-0 on Switzerland! pic.twitter.com/2CqXqaqOk1
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) June 17, 2018
Coutinho followed it up with the go-ahead goal in a win against Costa Rica. Brazil has looked shaky so far, but Coutinho’s play has given the team a chance to get out of a wide-open group.
Match to Watch: Brazil vs. Serbia, June 27th 2 p.m. EST
Both sides come into its crucial group stage finale on edge. For Brazil, an early exit would spark national outrage and embarrassment for a team projected as one of the favorites to win the tournament. Meanwhile, Serbia still feels it was robbed by bad officiating in its loss against Switzerland. FIFA has even taken steps to open an investigation into Serbia’s coach for his critical comments about the referees after the loss. With the Swiss favored to defeat Costa Rica, neither team can suffer a loss and expect to advance.
– Brazil advances with a win or a draw
– Switzerland advances with a win or a draw
– Serbia advances with a win
Mexico: 2-0-0 (6 Points, +2 Goal Differential)
Germany: 1-0-1 (3 Points, 0 Goal Differential)
Sweden: 1-0-1 (3 Points, 0 Goal Differential)
South Korea: 0-0-2 (0 Points, -2 Goal Differential)
Star of the Group: Hirving Lozano, Mexico
El Tri’s 22-year-old star made a name for himself when his go-ahead goal helped Mexico upset Germany. The goal against the defending world champs sent shock waves around the world and marked a signature moment for Mexican soccer.
The youngster puts it away!
Chicharito starts the counterattack and Chucky Lozano finishes it to give Mexico the 1-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/Ze5IUJuE3d
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 17, 2018
It’s not just international soccer fans who are becoming familiar with Lozano. His recent play seems to have garnered the attention of Spanish power FC Barcelona, who is reportedly interested in acquiring Lozano. He also assisted Javier Hernandez’s goal in the team’s 1-0 win against South Korea.
Match to Watch: Mexico vs. Sweden, June 27th 10 a.m. EST
Sweden may have watched its spot in the round of 16 slip away when Toni Kroos’s crunch time goal stole a win for Germany late. A draw would not have automatically advanced Sweden, but the Swedes would have been in the driver’s seat to make its first knockout stage appearance since 2006. Now they face the daunting task of having to rebound from the Germany heartbreaker against a motivated Mexican squad that still hasn’t advanced and is looking to win the group.
– Mexico advances with a win or a draw
– Germany advances with a win and a Mexico-Sweden draw or Sweden loss
– Sweden advances with a win
– South Korea Advances with a win and a Sweden loss and a better goal differential than Sweden
England: 2-0-0 (6 Points, +6 Goal Differential) (Advances)
Belgium: 2-0-0 (6 Points, +6 Goal Differential) (Advances)
Panama: 0-0-2 (0 Points, -8 Goal Differential)
Tunisia: 0-0-2 (0 Points, -4 Goal Differential)
Star of the Group: Harry Kane, England
The 24-year-old English Captain leads all World Cup scorers with five goals in the first two games. England avoided disaster when Kane struck in extra time against Tunisia. He followed his two-goal performance against Tunisia with a hat-trick in England’s 6-1 rout of Panama. England fields one of the youngest teams in the tournament, so it will need Kane to continue to lead by example in order to make a deep run.
Match to Watch: England vs. Belgium, June 28th 2 p.m. EST
An exciting matchup between two of the best young teams in the world, this should prove to be one of the more tantalizing matches of the tournament. While both European squads have already advanced, neither side is expected to back down with a chance to win the group on the line. Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku has been stellar in the team’s first two wins — netting four goals.
– England wins the Group with a win
– Belgium wins the group with a win
Japan: 1-1-0 (4 Points, +1 Goal Differential)
Senegal: 1-1-0 (4 Points, +1 Goal Differential)
Colombia: 1-0-1 (3 Points, +2 Goal Differential)
Poland: 0-0-2 (0 Points, -4 Goal Differential)
Star of the Group: James Rodriguez, Colombia
Colombia sorely missed its star midfielder, who came off the bench to play only 30 minutes in the team’s opening loss to Japan. Rodriguez was sidelined because of a calf injury, but he made a seismic impact in his return to the starting lineup against Poland.
Rodriguez did not score in Colombia’s tournament-saving 3-0 win against Poland, but he delivered two assists — including a mesmerizing cross-field pass on Juan Cuandrano’s goal.
? Here’s your chance, do your dance… ?
Colombia finds the back of the net for the third time thanks to Cuadrado and James! pic.twitter.com/l0DA8AjDhb
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) June 24, 2018
Rodriguez is an essential element in the Colombian attack. He’s a magician with the ball who can create scoring opportunities out of nothing. Rodriguez will need to be in top form in Colombia’s must-win game against Senegal.
Match to Watch: Colombia vs. Senegal
Senegal missed a golden opportunity to advance when it settled for a draw with Japan. The Lions of Teranga had two leads in the game and now head into a crucial match with an energized Colombian side. The matchup could become a high scoring affair, as both teams have proven capable of netting multiple goals in its previous games.
Japan advances with a win or a Senegal win
Senegal advances with a win or a draw
Colombia advances with a win