The FIFA World Cup has been pretty strange thus far with a mixture of incredible games and fixtures that, in many ways, fell short of the mark.
One thing it has truly delivered on, though, is surprises.
A lot of that stems from the bigger nations not being able to live up to their potential. Sometimes it’s due to their own misgivings but on other occasions, it’s simply because they haven’t wanted it as much as their ‘lesser’ opponents.
Now, heading into the final set of group stage fixtures this week, a handful of teams are on the verge of letting it all slip away – and we’re here to assess the likelihood of that.
The Dutch did well to win their opener but after letting another victory slip through their fingers against Ecuador, they find themselves in a precarious position – despite being top of the table.
We say precarious, but it’s definitely more likely that they’ll go through. However, if Qatar put in the performance of a century and put them to the sword, a draw between Ecuador and Senegal could knock them out on goal difference.
It isn’t going to take a whole lot for Argentina to go out of the group which is kind of crazy, given that they entered the tournament as one of the clear favourites to go far and maybe even win it – especially with Lionel Messi at their disposal.
Alas, if they drop points to Poland, it swings the door wide open for Saudi Arabia or Mexico if one of them can win their corresponding fixture. It’s also a bit unlikely given the stakes, but it’s on the table.
Germany are bottom of Group E with just one point from their first two games. They simply have to beat Costa Rica to stand any chance and their best bet, really, is hoping Spain gets the job done against Japan.
A win for the Spanish and the Germans would send both through but if Japan can secure a point, it’ll come down to goal difference with Germany needing to put Costa Rica away in style.
Belgium take on Croatia in their final group stage game knowing that a draw simply isn’t good enough, unless Canada do the unlikely and absolutely batter Morocco – aka one of the few sides that hasn’t conceded yet.
The Red Devils need to defeat Croatia which will put them above the 2018 finalists, meaning that whatever happens in the Morocco/Canada game won’t actually end up mattering too much.