Why Spain and Portugal’s World Cup future may be determined by drawing of lots

Why Spain and Portugal’s World Cup future may be determined by drawing of lots

June 21, 2018 Off By Jamie Donnelly

After two games played in the groups stages of this years World Cup (for most groups at least), predictions and calculators are coming out in force. Group B sees Spain in a three horse race to go through to the knockout stages with Portugal and Iran.

Making up the scenario where Morocco beat Spain 1-0 and Iran beat Portugal by the same score, what happens then? Iran finish top of the group with six points, which will leave both Spain and Portugal on four points with the same goal difference. The FIFA rules set out here are very interesting. With the (possible) scenario created, what happens when two teams (Spain and Portugal here) both finish on the same points?

The usual three steps are taken into account to determine which team goes through:

1) The team that has accumulated the most points. In this scenario – both teams finish on four points – so we move on to the next option.

2) Goal difference in all group matches. Because Spain and Portugal have the same results, they both finish on the same goal difference. Again, this rule cannot determine who goes through.

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3) Goals scored in all group matches. Again, both teams have scored the same number of goals. 3-3 draw, 1-0 win and 1-0 loss. This is the end of the three normal rules, but FIFA have created a further TWO rules in the situation where a ‘winner’ cannot be determined.

4) Greater number of points obtained regarding fair play conduct. This rule states that a yellow card = -1; red card after two yellows = -3; straight red card = -4; yellow card followed by straight red card = -5. Taking all that into account and placing it in the scenario created, neither team progress. Only one player for both Spain and Portugal received a yellow card in their two games so far; Bruno Fernandes and Sergio Busquets (both in the game against eachother).

There is however, a fifth and final solution to this issue. Not the most technical outcome, but an outcome all the same:

5) Drawing of lots by FIFA. Imagine the outrage by the supporters of the team who don’t go through in this scenario. With so much corruption scandals going on within FIFA, there is no question an investigation would be demanded by the losing FA. It is certainly an interesting way of figuring out what team progresses to the knockout stages, but randomly drawing a team from a bowl is not how either Spain or Portugal want to progress.

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In any case – to come to this fifth option – both Iran and Morocco will have to beat their opponents by the same scoreline, while also ensuring both teams receive the same number of yellow and red cards. It is a possible outcome, but an unlikely one at the same time. To make matters even more interesting, both games will be kicking off at the same time on Monday 25th of June at 7pm.

For confirmation on FIFA’s ruling, see the official link HERE.