FIFA World Cup 2022 group stage will reach the business end as teams will be in search of points rather than performances as the final matchday approaches. While winning will be the need of the hour, it is worth noting that goal difference and goal scored will also be in the reckoning to determine standings. So, what will happen if two or more teams end up on the same points for a significant position in the group?
1. Group points
This is the easy one. Teams are first ordered by total points from their three matches. It's 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and no points for a defeat.
2. Group goal difference
Unlike in UEFA competitions like the Champions League, head-to-head record isn't the next tiebreaker. It's just basic group goal difference -- the net total of goals scored minus goals conceded.
3. Group goals scored
If goal difference is the same, the team with the most goals scored in the group stage will be ranked highest.
4. Head-to-head record
If teams have an identical group record for points, goal difference and goals scored, we move on to head to head to separate them.
If two teams identical
This is simple, as you look at the result of that one group game. Did one of two teams win that match? If so, they will be ranked highest. If it was a draw, we move directly on to point 5 to split them.
If three teams identical
This is more complicated, as you can't just use individual results because there's three matches to take into account. Effectively, you create a mini-league of just the three games involving the three nations.
This mini league is ranked by
4b) goal difference
4c) goals scored
If only two teams are still level at the end of this stage, direct head-to-head is not applied and these two teams alone move to point 5. The third team is now locked in position.
If all three teams are still level, the order is decided by point 5.
If all four teams identical It won't be possible to separate them on head to head and the group would be decided on point 5.
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5. Fair play record
If any teams still have an identical record after the head-to-head stage, positions are decided by fair play record.
- yellow card: minus 1 point
- indirect red card: minus 3 points
- direct red card: minus 4 points
- yellow card and direct red card: minus 5 points
Only one of the above deductions is applied to a player in one match. The team with the most points is ranked highest. The only time fair play record has been needed to separate teams came at the 2018 World Cup.
What happened in 2018 World Cup when Fair play came into use?
- Japan and Senegal were level in second with four points
- Both had a goal difference of zero
- Both had scored four goals
- So it came to fair play, with Japan on -4, Senegal on -6.
6. Drawing of lots
If it's still level after fair play points are tallied, the only step left is drawing of lots.
Basically, this is a random draw made by a member of the World Cup organising committee who isn't from one of the countries. It would be a public draw, with two balls placed into a pot. The first team drawn out will be the highest ranked.