Every country aspires to win the World Cup. None of the teams have travelled to Qatar merely for leisure; they are all there to compete. But as the group stage of the competition comes to an end, the first round of eliminations is almost here. The majority of the 32 teams that began play in Qatar will be leaving Qatar and returning home.
The humiliating honor of being the first team eliminated from this year’s competition went to host nation Qatar, who finished fourth out of four in their group. But at least it won’t take them very long to go home. As a result of their 2-0 victory over Qatar in the group’s last match, the Netherlands have already qualified. Tuesday afternoon, Senegal defeated Ecuador by a score of 2-1 to earn the second qualifying berth for the Round of 16, eliminating Ecuador along with Qatar.
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It was inevitable that this group would be the most competitive and politically intense. Any of the four teams can still make it, even though Wales, playing in their first World Cup since 1958, only has a mathematical chance of winning the remaining matches between long-time rivals and geopolitical foes. With four points from two games, England is in first place. After two late goals against Wales on Friday, Iran is in second place with three. While Wales faces the toughest fight for qualification with just one point, the United States is third in the group table with two points from two draws.
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There is still room for all four teams to advance in this open group. Mexico is at the bottom of the group standings with just one point, while Saudi Arabia and Argentina, their surprise victims, each have three points. Poland leads the group with four points, but they are not quite out of danger.
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The first team in Qatar to secure its spot in the Round of 16 was the world champions France, who finished with six points from two games. As a result, the remaining group permutations become a little clearer. Denmark and Tunisia both have one point, while Australia has three.
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Everyone anticipated that Spain and Germany would easily win Group E. And everyone was at least somewhat correct, with Spain comfortably leading the pack after two games and four points. Germany, on the other hand, lags behind the rest of the group as Coach Hansi Flick’s goal of restoring Germany to its pre-2018 football glory appears to be a longer-term undertaking than initially anticipated. After their matchup on Sunday, Japan and Costa Rica both had three points, which allowed any of the four teams to still advance.
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The second team to book their return tickets was Canada. Croatia, Morocco, and Belgium can still qualify as a result. The second-ranked Belgians were predicted to win this group, but on Sunday’s 2-0 thrashing by Morocco, everything changed.
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Brazil’s victory over Switzerland gave the five-time world champions a game-in-hand advantage. The Swiss are most likely to do the same because they won their first game as well. However, despite their entertaining tie doing neither team any meaningful favors, Cameroon and Serbia still still have a chance.
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With their 2-0 victory over Uruguay on Monday, Portugal advanced to the Round of 16, but the rest of the group is still up for grabs.
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