Spain has many ballots to go to the round of 16 of the World Cup in Qatar. Not only because they lead their group with four points, but because the massive victory against Costa Rica (7-0) has provided them with such a favorable goal difference (+7) that it protects them against eventual draws on points with other rivals. .
Even so, the four teams in Group E have the chance to advance to the next round, which suggests a day in which all of them will be very aware of what happens in the match that is played in parallel, both from eight o’clock on afternoon Spanish peninsular time. According to the statistical model of EL PAÍS, Spain has a 98% chance of being in the round of 16, compared to 56% for Germany —despite the fact that it is currently bottom with only one point—, 27% for Costa Rica and 19% from Japan.
Of the three results that Spain’s match against Japan can yield (victory, draw or defeat), the first two automatically classify them for the round of 16. Victory would also guarantee him first place. While a draw against Japan makes them go first if Germany beat Costa Rica or if they tie. And as second if Costa Rica prevails over the Germans.
What happens if Spain loses?
In the event of defeat, La Roja would have to pack their bags only in two scenarios: if Costa Rica surprises and defeats Germany, in which case Costa Rica and Japan, the two Cinderellas of the group, will continue ahead. And second, it would also be left out if Germany achieves a scandalous win that makes them have a better goal difference than the Spanish. Currently, the Germans have scored two goals and conceded three (a difference of -1). While Spain has scored 8 goals and has only received one (the aforementioned +7).
To give an example of this hypothesis, catastrophic for the interests of Luis Enrique’s men, but highly improbable, if Spain loses 1-0 against Japan, Germany would have to beat Costa Rica 7-0 to equal Spain in goal difference. If Japan were to beat Spain 3-0, Germany would only have a little hand to equalize the goal difference.
In those cases of a tie on points and goals between Spain and Germany, the criteria of the yellow and red cards received by each team would be decisive, with the team that was most sporting going to the round of 16. For now, Spain also has an advantage in that scale: it has received only one yellow (to Sergio Busquets), compared to three for Germany. Although many carambolas are needed for something like this to happen, this same Wednesday the cards were about to be a decisive factor in deciding whether Poland or Mexico would pass.
Who would be Spain’s rival in the round of 16?
Given that it is already known that Morocco has been first in Group F and Croatia second, one can also speculate on who would be Spain’s rival in the round of 16. If Spain wins, its opponent would be Croatia. Also if Spain draws and Costa Rica does not win. The Croats were already Spain’s rivals in the last Euro Cup, where they precisely met in the round of 16 and Spain won 3-5 after extra time in a fast-paced game.
In the last scenario, that of a defeat for Spain against Japan, if the result of Costa Rica-Germany benefits them and they are second, they would play against Morocco. Nor do you have to look too far to find precedents for high-profile matches against the North African team. They met in the group stage of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and the match was very even, 2-2, thanks to a goal by Iago Aspas in discount that was reviewed by VAR.
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