World Cup Permutations: England's likely knockout opponents and more
As the final round of Group games gets under way, Max Liu looks at each group and discusses who could play who in the first knockout round...
"But the permutation that stands out here above all others is the prospect of Brazil winning Group E while Germany qualify as Group F runners-up. Meaning the two superpowers would set for a second round showdown."
So far, six teams have qualified for the second round of the World Cup. They are Russia, Uruguay, France, Croatia, England, Belgium. By Thursday night, a further ten will have joined them. But who is likely to play who in the first knockout round?
Let's start with England, not because it makes alphabetical sense (it doesn't, obviously), but because that's what we're all interested in most. England and Belgium have both qualified from Group G for the second round. Both teams have goal difference of +6 but England currently top the table because they have received fewer yellow cards than the Belgians.
Who can England play in the first knock-out round?
The winner of Thursday's match between England and Belgium will win the Group. At the moment, the Belgians [2.82] are marginal favorites, with Gareth Southgate's men [2.98], and the draw [3.15]. If it's the latter outcome then discipline will determined who tops the group. England are [1.8] favourites.
The winner of Group G will play the runner-up in Group H and vice-versa. After yesterday's win for Colombia, and the draw between Senegal and Japan, that group is wide open, with that trio of teams on three, four and four points respectively. Whatever happens between England and Belgium, the Three Lions will play one of those three mentioned teams from Group H.
Groups A and B - hosts heading for knock-out match against Ronaldo and co.?
After two convincing victories, Russia are [1.5] to win Group A and Uruguay are [2.88]. Both teams have six points and have qualified for the knockout stages. With one match each to play, the hosts have a superior goal difference by five.
If the market has it right then Russia will play the runner up in Group B. That could well be Portugal who face a tricky final Group match against Iran (the Iranians are [6.2] to qualify).
Spain are [1.6] to top Group B, so could face Uruguay in the first knockout round, with Luis Suarez facing a few of his Barcelona team-mates.
Groups C and D - Will it be Griezmann v Messi in the second round, or can the Eagles soar?
France have qualified from Group C and are [1.25] to win it ahead of their final match against Denmark. The Danes are [1.18] to qualify but Australia, who play Peru in their third match, are still in contention at [6.2].
In Group D, Croatia are through and a shoo-in to finish top. So they look destined to play either Denmark or Australia. The real battle in Group D, concerns second spot. Argentina, who have one point, are [1.83] to grab it by beating Iceland and set up a second round tie against the French. but don't rule out Nigeria at [3.0] They already have three points.
Groups E and F - Brazil heading for second round showdown with Germany?
For a while in the second-half of their match against Costa Rica, it looked like pre-tournament favourites Brazil might crash out of the Group Stage. Then they scored two goals and now they're [1.12] to qualify from Group E. They're [1.5] to win the Group, while Switzerland, who also have four points, are [3.5] finish top and [1.05] to qualify. Serbia, who play Brazil in the final round of Group matches, are [5.9] to make the knockout stages.
If Neymar and co. go through as runners-up they'll meet the winners of Group F. Bettors make it [1.4] that'll be Mexico who began their campaign with a win against Germany. The defending champions are [1.16] to qualify after narrowly beating Sweden on Saturday night. But the Swedes, who are [3.0] to qualify, will go into their final Group match determined to get through.
But the permutation that stands out here above all others is the prospect of Brazil winning Group E while Germany qualify as Group F runners-up. Meaning the two superpowers would set for a second round showdown. Brazil are [6.6] second favourites, behind Spain, to win this World Cup, while Germany are [8.0]. There is now the strong possibility, however, that one of them is heading out in the first knockout round.