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Why England and Belgium should try to get lots of yellow cards on purpose

Losing on purpose is bad. But kicking people on purpose? Hey, at least it’s not match fixing.

England v Panama: Group G - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

After a 6-1 win over Panama, things are going well for England in World Cup Group G. Amazingly, it was the exact result that the Three Lions needed to draw level with Belgium in every way — points, goal differential and goals scored. The two teams play each other in the final day of the group stage, so if their match ends in a draw, the two teams will be tied by every measure.

In that situation, the next tiebreaker is the fair play table, or how many bookings you’ve received. The team with the fewest bookings would win Group G. It’s a bit of a bizarre tiebreaker, and it’s put these teams into a weird situation — it’s advantageous for each team to get booked a lot.

Wait... how can that be?

The top half of the World Cup bracket might be stacked

Here are the Round of 16 matches if nothing changes. Fixtures next to each other below feed into quarterfinals, and so on.

Uruguay vs. Portugal
France vs. Argentina

Brazil vs. Mexico
England or Belgium vs. Colombia

Spain vs. Russia
Croatia vs. Denmark

Sweden vs. Switzerland
England or Belgium vs. Japan

The top half feeds into a potential quarterfinal against Brazil. That would be followed by a semifinal that could be against France, Argentina, Uruguay or Portugal. On the other half of the bracket, a Sweden or Switzerland quarterfinal looks much more manageable, and other teams will have a couple chances to knock out Spain before they arrive at a semi with England or Belgium.

So... should they lose on purpose?

No. No one should lose on purpose. That is bad. Some might argue that it’s match fixing even if there’s no gambling involved. Do not suggest that teams lose on purpose, it is immoral.

But there is an alternative!

England and Belgium should kick the living crap out of each other

Instead of finishing in second place by losing on purpose, why not finish in second place by getting a lot of yellow cards? It would be advantageous for England and Belgium to make a lot of changes, use players they don’t plan on starting in the Round of 16, and ask them to play a very physical style. Don’t worry about bookings, lads! There’s nothing wrong with getting yellow cards.

At the moment, Belgium has three players on yellows, while England has two, so the Red Devils have a head start.

What if they beat each other up equally?

If England and Belgium draw and also finish with the same number of bookings, Group G will be decided by the dreaded “drawing of lots” — a random draw.