Following Argentina's 2:0 win over Mexico we now know the various permutations required for Poland to reach the World Cup knockout stage for the first time in the 21st century.
Prior to the final round of fixtures, Poland top the group with four points with a goal difference of +2, Argentina are second with three points (+1), Saudi Arabia third, also have three (-1) and Mexico are bottom, with one point (-2).
A draw for Poland in their final group encounter with Argentina - regardless of the outcome of the Mexico-Saudi Arabia clash - will see Poland through to the last 16. If, in that scenario, the Saudis draw their match, Poland will progress as group winners, as would victory for the Poles against Argentina.
Poland won 2:0 against Saudi Arabia in a heated World Cup Group C clash at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan. The Poles have four points...
The permutations if Poland lose to Argentina?
- If Mexico are also defeated, Poland will be eliminated.
- A draw between Mexico and Saudi Arabia will mean Poland cannot afford to lose to Argentina by more than two goals.
- If Mexico beat the Saudis by a single goal, a defeat by two goal margin to Argentina would still be enough. In the event of a three-goal defeat, Poland will have the same goal difference as the Mexicans, and will need to have more goals scored than them to progress.
- If Mexico beat the Saudis by two goals, Poland can afford defeat to a degree. A three-goal victory for the Mexicans and a one-goal defeat for the Poles would be sufficient, provided Poland score more goals than them.
- In the event of a four-goal winning margin Poland will be eliminated if they are beaten by Argentina.
- If we lose 0:2 to Argentina and Mexico beat Saudi Arabia by the same scoreline, yellow cards will come into play. The team with the fewest bookings will progress. Currently Mexico have accumulated six to Poland’s four.
The last scenario is a relatively plausible one, and raises the question, is the team with the fewest yellow cards really the best way to determine who should qualify?
Whilst fair play should be encouraged, surely the essence of the game is entertainment and attacking play should be rewarded.
There are many data metrics which do a good job reflecting a team’s attacking intent. The number of shots a team has could be used or for a more accurate interpretation of attack mindedness is a team's expected goals (XG). XG is a statistical measurement of the quality of goalscoring chances and the likelihood of them being scored.
With all four teams in Group C in with a fighting chance of qualifying for the last 16 the final round of fixtures promises to be a nai0biting affair for all involved. The two matches will proceed simultaneously on Wednesday at 20:00 CET.