If things go as planned for the European sides, we could see Brazil go out of the World Cup at the group stage.
The contenders for the knockouts stages from each group have emerged with the third and final round of group games at the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 kicking-off from Monday. There wasn’t much at stake in Group A with both Uruguay and hosts Russia already assured of a place in the Round of 16 even before a ball was kicked.
But, the two games in Group B were characterized by high drama as Spain and Portugal were run ragged by Morocco and Iran respectively. Iran came close to rolling onto the next round at the expense of either of the two group favourites, but that was not to be.
Heroic saves and a firm header from Switzerland canceled out Philippe Coutinho’s curler for Brazil
A similar situation may arise with the two games in Group E kicking off simultaneously tomorrow evening. All the previous games in this group have been closely fought, which has meant the margins in the race for qualification are too close for comfort and a nerve-wrecking finish is on the cards.
As it stands, after two defeats Costa Rica are the team to be already eliminated from the group. The Los Ticos, the surprise quarterfinalists at Brazil 2014, were unable to repeat their heroics this time around and are yet to score a goal. They will be playing for pride against Switzerland in their last group game before taking the long flight back home.
The other three teams in the group ie Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland, however, have it all in their own hands to shape their destiny. Brazil are currently top of the group with four points and a GD of +2, just edging the Swiss who are level on points, but have a GD of +1. Serbia sit just behind them with three points and a GD of 0. In such a close scenario, all three teams would be fancying their chances of making it out of the group.
Their Premier League duo completed the heroic comeback against Serbia for the Swiss
Pre-tournament favourites Brazil have looked far from their best and haven’t quite found their mojo in the opening two games. In their last game, the mighty Brazilians were kept at bay by Costa Rica till the 90th minute, but they crucially managed to score twice in stoppage time to secure top spot. In their game against Serbia, the Selecao just need a draw to secure passage into the next round. If they lose though, they will still qualify, but they will have to depend on Costa Rica to beat Switzerland by a similar margin.
Switzerland have emerged as an impressive fighting unit and their grit and determination has seen them grind out results. They just need to avoid defeat against the beleaguered Costa Ricans to qualify into the Round of 16.
The Serbs have a slightly tougher task in comparison the others, as they have to either win against Brazil or hope that Switzerland lose in the other game, while at least holding the Brazilians in their game. A goalless draw would suffice if Costa Rica beat Switzerland by two clear goals.
A number of permutations and combinations might see Brazil and Switzerland or Serbia and Switzerland tied for the second spot with the same number of points, same goal-difference and the same number of goals scored. In that scenario, the yellow cards accumulated by each team comes into play and here also it follows the trend of current positions in the group, with Brazil having collected three, Switzerland four and Serbia five yellow cards.
If the drama in Group B last night is anything to go by, Group E has even more ingredients to spice it up further. There is a high possibility that a lot of nails would be chewed off by the time the final whistle rings out at the end of both games.