The World Cup has a habit of creating strange incentives at the end of the group stage. In 1982 West Germany and Austria struck in their final group match the biggest part of a 1-0 victory over Germany, which prevailed at the expense of an Algerian team that had won the day before. To prevent this, FIFA began playing the last games of each group at the same time.
On Thursday we saw the limits of the method. With the victory of Colombia against Senegal, Japan realized that he would be able to move into the knockout round by avoiding yellow and red cards in the FIFA Fairplay tiebreaker. She and one already eliminated Poland played the last 20 minutes of their game with the intensity of two teams trying to keep a sleeping child awake.
The dice were thrown for Belgium and England before their game even started. With both teams, it was guaranteed to continue and also with each individual Tiebreaker of FIFA both sides knew about the consequences of the victory. In a draw, the winner of the group would be determined by either the Fair Play tiebreaker or, if there is no gap, by lottery. The group winners would be on the tough side of the group and likely to move into the quarter-finals against Brazil and a semi-final against Argentina, France or Portugal.
On the other hand, the loser could not hit anyone harder than Spain on their side of the brace, and even the Iberian side would have to wait until the semi-finals. Both teams rightly saw the benefit of having lost and implemented all their starting XIs. When England lost 1
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While some are annoyed that England loses momentum in the knockout round, there is not much in recent years has shown that a 3-0 group stage is a forerunner of the World Cup Glory is . Gareth Southgate was also able to rest many of its key contributors ahead of the round of 16, where the Three Lions will play Colombia. Victory, on the other hand, would have put them ahead of the less gifted Japanese side, who are 45 points below Colombia in 61st place in FIFA's latest FIFA World Ranking.
Should England be so desperate to land on the lighter side of the brace just two years after being eliminated in a similar situation by Iceland ? Is the compromise between a more difficult round of the last 16 and an easier way to the final? How difficult is this side of the bracket? Is Belgium – or a team from this side of 16 – on a historically difficult path to the final? Let's find out
Was England better off losing?
We'll never really know if England should have played most of its starters against Belgium. The only way we could have been sure that Southgate made the wrong move would have been if he had played and lost his first choice while seeing an irreplaceable star like Harry Kane go down with a tournament-ending injury. Luckily that did not happen. To gauge England's chances in both scenarios, we can use the odds generated by FiveThirtyEight using the Soccer Power Index to find England's chances on both sides of the bracket.
In the round of 16 England will have a harder match than if they had won against Belgium. Colombia simply more top talent than Japan; Even if you remove the clearly unfit James Rodriguez from the equation, the 22 remaining men in the Colombian national team are worth more than twice as much as the 23-man squad per transfer market.
Fifty-five, without knowing Rodriguez & # 39; fitness, estimates that England will have a 60 percent chance of winning against Colombia on July 3. On the other hand, the chances of winning and progressing would be 72 percent. That's a big difference, and when England goes out in the round of the last 16, Southgate gets slaughtered in the press because he turns his team over to Belgium.
As soon as we get to the Quarterfinals we start to see why England is in better shape. In her current position, a victorious Kane and a team would be preferred to beat one of their potential opponents, Switzerland (62 percent likely to win for England) or Sweden (63 percent). If they had won against Japan and won, they would have won Brazil and Mexico, probably the South American giants, against whom England would only have 36 percent chances. Fifty-five percent give them a 67 percent chance of beating Mexico, much closer to their odds against Switzerland and Sweden.
When they reach the quarter-finals of their current bracket, England has 62.5 percent of it. If they were on the other side, their chances of entering the semi-finals would be only 41.3 percent.
According to this, England's chances would be relatively similar in the semi-final In this version of reality, her most likely opponent is Spain, who sees Fivethirtyeight as favorite against England despite a mediocre performance in the group stage (38 percent winning percentage for England ). The Southgate team would otherwise prefer Croatia, Denmark or their Russian hosts. They would get 47.6 percent from the semi-final to the final in Moscow.
After overtaking Brazil in alternate reality, England would basically be a coinflip against any of their four potential semi-final opponents who ran out of France (47 percent chance for England to win) to Uruguay (56 percent), with Argentina (50) Percent) and Portugal (52 percent) in between. England would have a 50.7 percent chance to reach the final on July 15 at Luzhniki from the final four.
And then, in World Cup Final England would be on both sides outsiders from the bracket, though not much. In this reality, England's odds over Brazil in the final leave her with a 45.2 percent shot from coming off her first title since 1966. If they were on the other side of the brace and faced like Spain or Belgium in the final, chances of a one-off final would improve to 49.0 percent.
In three of the four knockout rounds, England's odds would have been better if they had beaten Belgium and moved to the harder side of the group. However, using conditional probabilities, we can see that the chances of playing Brazil in the quarterfinals on this side of the bracket make it easier for England to lose.
Cumulative chances of progress when England …  Lost to Belgium
Round of the last 16
17.8%  15.1%
Overall, Southgate's team has a greater chance of overthrowing after four games in the last 16 round, but England has increased its chances of winning the tournament by about 9.5 percent (0.7 percentage points) from the loss to Belgium on Thursday. Their cumulative schedule is not simpler – Belgium actually has a slightly simpler slate when we include the final – but avoiding Brazil for as long as possible is the best way for England to exceed expectations in Russia.
Who has that? hardest way through the knockout phase to fame?
We can calculate the difficulty of each team's route to the world championship by using a combination of these promotion probabilities of FiveThirtyEight and World Football ELO ratings using the ELO system most commonly seen in terms of chess is to evaluate the effectiveness of each country. The system has data on international games dating back to 1930. The company's website lists the ELO ratings for each country that starts in each World Cup match. More about it later.
Each team has already played three countries, so there were already dramatically different difficulty levels. In the group stage, the Swiss national team had an average ELO of 1888, which is the hardest of the 16 qualifiers and corresponds approximately to Switzerland three times in a row. (Note that these numbers are all numbers before the tournament.)
Uruguay has now gone to the opposition with an average ELO of only 1638, which would be a bit worse than the ELO's before the tournament in Egypt ( 1646).
These probabilities allow us to gauge each team's path to (and through) the final and the difficulty of the timetable they might encounter along the way. As an example, England has the 12th highest slate of the 16 remaining teams. So we would calculate their overall strength of the schedule, including the group phase and the knockout rounds.
If you go through This one runs chances for every team and every World Cup opponent, you can find out how difficult their respective routes are.
The easiest remaining schedule is Spain who scored in the final minutes after Group B at the top scoring to match their match against Morocco when he saw Iran puncture Portugal with a penalty. These numbers do not include the home advantage that should help Russia, but Spain is still a favorite against the hosts.
That really does not change anywhere else; FiveThirtyEight suggests that Spain has a 60 percent or more chance of winning over everyone else on its current side of the group. The team of Fernando Hierro did not look particularly impressive in Russia, but the friendly schedule is one of the reasons why they are popular with bookmakers among tournament favorites. Brazil also benefits from avoiding the whole tournament, as they will do the rest of the way with the second fastest shooting range.
The toughest KO rounds, as you would expect, are among the harder teams side of the mount. France (fifth place) and Argentina (fourth place) competed against each other within an ELO point, and while France was far more impressive in Russia, the Argentines could do it
Winner between these two must compete against the winner of Uruguay-Portugal before a semi-final match against Brazil or Belgium. When Spain reach the final, a country like Argentina could win the World Cup by beating the teams in the first, third, fourth and sixth rounds of the world in four consecutive games.
While rescued from a shameful collapse, the group stage was rescued by a heroic demonstration from South Korea The catastrophic 0-3 defeat of Mexico against Sweden ( El Tri ) on the harder side of the brackets and a first against Brazil FiveThirtyEight estimates that Mexico only has a 17 percent chance of eliminating the five-time world champion on July 2. Had they won their group and instead played against Switzerland, the team of Juan Carlos Osorio would have 57 percent of it They now face the third strongest way through the knockout round.
Somewhat harder is Uruguay who has been the first team to survive the group stage since 2010, without allowing a single goal Mo Salah was beaten in the group stage as the most dangerous attacker Uruguay faced in the group stage was likely The Russian Denis Cheryshev, but the strong defense could not stop Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar in a row until the final. The two-time champion would be an outsider against any team on his side, just ahead of Mexico and Japan.
Speaking of Japan they are the team with the toughest challenge by the knockout round in part because they are the worst side of the brackets. (Russia, on the friendly side, safe and sound, is the worst team left in the tournament before the World Championships ELO.) You are an outsider against any team left to FiveThirtyEights numbers, although the only bright spot for Japan the best match is against Mexico, which they would contest in the quarterfinals if El Tri angered Brazil.
Who will expect the toughest overall rank in the entire tournament if they win the match, and would it be the toughest opponent in World Cup history?
Unfortunately for Landon Donovan, is Mexico . If, in each of the three following rounds, we combine the group stage and the round of 16 ELOs with the opponent's expected ELO, Mexico will have to overcome the toughest opponents to win this World Cup. The combined predicted ELO of their opponents would add up to 13,509 points or an average of 1,930 points per game. It's like having to play Colombia (ELO 1928) or Belgium (1939) seven times in a row.
While we can trace ELO numbers back to the 1930s, it is only fair to compare today's World Cup teams with their older brothers in 1974, in which countries had to play seven for the first time on the way to the famous th Trophy. As you may expect from the reduced field size, many of the toughest ways to the World Cup came at the beginning of this era. If Mexico reached the final, there would be the fourth-weakest schedule of the seven-game era.
While the Argentine team of 1978 was able to play the World Cup at home, they had an incredibly difficult record before coming from opponents. Before the tournament, there were eighth place in the group of ELO teams (Italy), twelve (Hungary) and fourteen (France). Their second group included third place Brazil and ninth place in Poland, although they also finished 25th in Peru. The last game took place against Nertherlands, which left West Germany just behind as the best team in the world.
More recently, while Germany left this tournament in disgrace, keep in mind what they did in 2014. On the way to the World Cup beat the best team in the world, Brazil, 7-1 on home soil. You may already have heard of it. But Germany beat Argentina (fourth), Portugal (sixth), France (11th) and the United States (13th), with these five victories with a total score of 14-1
During Mexico The expected path to a possible World Cup would only be the fourth most popular of the last 44 years, we can certainly create a scenario in which it is a record list goes. If Mexico wins every one of its games, but the tournament remains in the chalk and each of the favorites wins their respective games, El Tri would face a breathtakingly difficult group of opponents.
Everything Hirving Lozano and his company To set a new record, the four best teams in the world must be beaten, three of them within two weeks. The good news is that they will not be harder than the Brazilians Mexico expects next Saturday in Samara.