World Cup tiebreakers: What the United States needs to advance

Thursday is the final day of the World Cup's group stages, with a number of teams still vying for a place in the knockouts.

SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

The World Cup's group stages reach a climax on Thursday, and there are still plenty of teams in with a chance of progressing into the knockout stages. Here's a look at the various scenarios that could play out:

Group G

Germany have already guaranteed their progression into the knockout stages, and need only a draw against second-placed United States to win the group. The U.S. would be pretty happy with a draw too, as that would guarantee they advance as group runners-up.

However, if the U.S. lose their game against Germany, then it could allow the winner of Ghana's game with Portugal to leapfrog them. If Ghana win by a single goal and the U.S. lose by a single goal, then their goal differential would be equal and it would come down to other tiebreaking scenarios. In contrast, Portugal's goal differential deficit to the USMNT is a massive five, so they'd probably have to beat Ghana by a big margin if they're to jump ahead of the USMNT.

If Ghana's game with Portugal ends all square, the U.S. would progress into the knockout stages regardless of their result against Germany. Should the U.S. beat Germany, they'd win the group, and Die Mannschaft would progress as runners-up.

Group H

Belgium have already booked their place in the knockout stages, and would win the group with a win or draw against South Korea. They'd still top the group if they lose, providing second-placed Algeria don't beat Russia.

Algeria would advance into the knockout stages with a win against Russia, and a draw would suffice so long as South Korea don't beat Belgium by a big enough margin to overhaul their goal differential deficit of three. If they ended up tied on goal diferential, other tiebreaking rules would be used.

Like South Korea, Russia need a win to stand any chance of advancing. A win for Fabio Capello's side would eliminate Algeria, and then they'd just have to hope South Korea don't beat Belgium. If they do, it'd come down to goal differential and other tiebreaking rules as required.


Just as a reminder, here are the tiebreakers used if two or more teams end up level on points. They start with the first scenario, and go down the list until one of the rules breaks the tie.

  • Greatest number of points obtained in all the group matches.
  • Goal difference in the group matches.
  • Greatest number of goals scored in the group matches.
  • Head to head result.

Almost every time, ties will be broken by one of those four rules. However, should the teams remained tied, FIFA has more tiebreakers.

  • Goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned.
  • Greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned.
  • Drawing of lots by the FIFA Organizing Committee.

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