World Cup 2018: How Fair Play could settle Spain and Portugal's group
World Cup Group B has the potential to get very complicated on matchday three. With Morocco already out, Spain, Portugal and Iran are fighting it out for the two qualification berths. While the two European giants are strongly expected to progress, there are several scenarios which could see Fair Play settling who wins the group and potentially even who goes through.
As it stands Spain and Portugal cannot be separated by any of the conventional means. Having drawn 3-3 with each other, both sides won their next game 1-0 to leave the Iberian neighbors deadlocked with an identical record.
Step forward FIFA Fair Play to put Spain in top spot via a superior disciplinary record. Both sides actually have very good ones with Spain's only yellow card dished out to Sergio Busquets in the draw with Portugal. The Portuguese meanwhile have had two players booked and are only in 2nd due to Adrien Silva's 92nd-minute booking in their second game against Iran. It's unlikely but still feasible that Silva's seemingly innocuous yellow could be the difference between Portugal winning this group and finishing 2nd or even worse between them going through and being eliminated.
How FIFA's Tiebreakers Work
FIFA has eight tiebreakers to settle group positions. With only three rounds of fixtures being played, it's quite possible that some of the lower ones will be needed to ultimately settle a few of these groups:
1. Points, 2. Goal Difference, 3. Goals Scored
If two or more teams are equal on the basis of the above, their rankings are determined as follows:
4. Points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned, 5. Goal difference in those matches, 6. Number of goals scored in the group matches between the teams concerned
7. If the teams can't be separated by any of the above, then Fair Play points are counted in the following manner:
First yellow card: minus 1 point
Indirect red card (second yellow card): minus 3 points
Direct red card: minus 4 points
Yellow card and direct red card: minus 5 points
8. Drawing of lots by FIFA Committee
Possible Final Day Scenarios in Group B
Spain and Portugal both just need to avoid defeat to progress, which shouldn't be beyond either of them. However, if they end up winning or drawing with the same scoreline as each other, then Fair Play will determine who wins the group. Spain currently hold the advantage in that so they would claim top spot in that event if they avoided any cautions or sending offs against Morocco. However, should they end up with one more disciplinary point than Portugal, the drawing of lots would be needed to settle the group winner and each side's potential path to the final.
The doomsday scenario for Spain and Portugal would be both teams losing their final match which would see Morocco qualify as group winners and leave the Iberian pair scrapping it out for 2nd place. Once more, if they were to lose by the same margin, then Fair Play would be needed and it is possible we could see either Spain or Portugal exit the World Cup by virtue of the number of bookings received.
Which teams do you think are likely to be eliminated from Group B? Let us know in the comments.