What To Know About The World Cup So Far

It seems like only yesterday that the 2014 World Cup kicked off in Brazil, and yet here we are about to say goodbye to half the teams. This year’s World Cup games have been particularly high-scoring: There have been about 126 goals in the first round so far compared to 145 in the entire 2010 World cup. This Saturday, the Group of 16 matches get underway, bringing us one step closer to crowning a new world champion. 2010 champions Spain have already been eliminated, so it’s truly anyone’s game at this point. To help you hold your own in public gatherings over the coming weeks, here’s what you need to know heading into the next round!


How Elimination Works

In the beginning, there were eight groups of four teams, created based on geography and relative strength. The teams within the group played each other to establish a hierarchy of sorts, the idea being that the two strongest teams from each group would advance to the next round. To determine the two strongest teams, the World Cup uses a point system that awards three points for each win, one point for a tie, and zero points for a loss. In the event two teams tie, their goal differential is taken into account, meaning the difference between the goals they made and the goals they gave up. If teams are still equal after goal differential, the head to head match is taken into account, and after that they (seriously) draw straws. The bottom two teams are then eliminated from the tournament.

We’ve already seen most eliminations. Spain lost their first two matches (Netherlands and Chile), resulting in a zero score before their third match. Australia also lost their first two matches, whittling down Group B early on. Other eliminated countries include Japan, England, Italy, Ivory Coast, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Cameroon, Croatia, Ecuador, Honduras, and Iran. At this point, only Groups G and H have outstanding slots to be filled for the next round.


Advancing Teams

Among the teams already set to advance are a few standouts. The Netherlands is literally eating every single team they play (well, not eating like Uruguay…see below). Their opener resulted in a 5-1 win over Spain, which really set the tone for both teams moving forward. Colombia also won every match, scoring a total of 9 goals and giving up only 2. Argentina also remains undefeated, moving forward with Nigeria for Group F. Group D had some of the biggest surprises of the tournament, with Costa Rica winning the group and Uruguay coming in second over Italy and England (though there was a great deal of controversy in the Italy-Uruguay game, with Suarez of Uruguay currently under investigation for his third biting incident)(yes, like Mike Tyson biting). Belgium will definitely be moving on and could join the ranks of undefeated teams with a win over Korea today.

Only Group G (a.k.a. “The Group of Death” due to strength of the teams…a.k.a. the U.S.’s group) is totally up in the air, with no team having been eliminated or qualified for the next round, making today’s results especially exciting. The U.S. and Germany are playing each other (at 11am CST!), and only need a tie for both teams to advance. Any other outcome will lead to tie-breaking points that could land Ghana or Portugal in the next round.


Looking Forward

During the Group of 16 matches, teams from different groups will go head-to-head for some instant elimination action. July 4 will be the beginning of the quarter-finals, and the whole tournament ends with the final match on July 13.

For a full report that is constantly updated, check out The New York Times‘s coverage.

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