One thing has become clear in this World Cup: Anything is possible. Throw the common wisdom out the window.
The reigning champs are already out.
Three teams from CONCACAF, the confederation of North and Central American teams, could make it to the knockout round for the first time ever.
In Group C, the supposed group of champions, three teams ranked in FIFA’s top 10 — former World Cup champions Italy, England and Uruguay — were supposed to fight it out for two spots in the knockout stages. Instead, unheralded Costa Rica are through and currently top the group, England are out, and Uruguay and Italy face off for the right to move on.
The four tournament favorites have all looked beatable. Brazil drew with Mexico, Germany drew with Ghana, Argentina needed a stoppage time goal to beat Iran, and Spain is out of the tourney. Mexico, Ghana and Iran are ranked No. 20, 37, and 43, respectively, by FIFA.
Yes, all but one of the early teams to clinch advancement are highly ranked teams. But so much remains open that it feels like a different sort of tournament. Goal-scoring is up. Games are wild. This kind of thing doesn’t often happen.
Every team has one game left to play in the group stage, so every team knows what must happen for them to move on. Here’s a breakdown:
Eliminated: England, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Australia, Spain, Cameroon.
Advanced to second round: Netherlands, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Argentina, Belgium.
Several groups feature matches between two teams fighting for the same spot in the second round, notably Mexico-Croatia on Monday and Italy-Uruguay on Tuesday.
There is even the unlikely but possible scenario that one second-round spot could bedecided by a coin flip between Nigeria and Iran.
For full tiebreaker rules — and they definitely matter, certainly for Team USA — click here.