Netherlands, Chile, Colombia guaranteed to advance
Luis Suarez leading Uruguay to a late victory over England grabbed headlines on the eighth day of World Cup group play, but before that match began another team had an arguably more important victory.
Colombia’s 2-1 defeat of Ivory Coast means that the South Americans will definitely go through to the knockout stage of the competition, regardless of the results of their final group match next week, against Japan.
Colombia becomes the third team guaranteed to go through.
There are also three teams that definitely cannot qualify for the knockout stage. Defending champs Spain are the highest-profile early casualty, but they’re not alone.
Beyond that, things get more complicated.
Friday sees four teams trying to book a place in the knockout stage, as Italy face Costa Rica and France play Switzerland.
All four teams won their first match. Remember, a team gets three points for a win and one for a draw.
If two teams have the same number of points, the one with the greater goal difference is ahead, so — for example — Costa Rica’s 3-1 victory over Uruguay puts them at the top of Group D, while Italy’s 2-1 victory over England is good enough for second.
In theory, any of those four teams can still go through at this point, which is why Italy’s Mario Balotelli said he wants a kiss (on the cheek) from the Queen if his side beats Costa Rica — that would keep England’s chances alive, if slim.
It may not be a surprise that Group D is turning into the most complex battle so far. Its teams are, as a whole, the highest ranking in the World Cup, with Uruguay ranked seventh in the world, Italy ninth, England 10th and Costa Rica 28th.
The France-Switzerland match for the top of Group E is more likely to produce a group leader. Each team won their first match and has three points, so a draw will mean each has four and a victory for either side will give them six.
The other two teams in the group, Ecuador and Honduras, both lost their first matches and have no points, so they both have to fight for a big win to have much hope of going through. If they draw, they get one point each and would only go through if either France or Switzerland win tonight, and the winner of the Ecuador-Honduras match also wins big in their last match of the group.