World Cup: Previewing the Group Stage Finales
Food pairings for fútbol fans
By Nick Barbaro,
12:30PM, Mon. Jun. 25, 2018
So, with the conclusion of the group stage second round, the tournament is exactly halfway over – 32 games played, 32 to go. And exactly half of the early losers are decided: eight teams are already eliminated*, eight more will be sent home after their next games.
But even though six teams** already know they're going through, not a single spot in the 16-team final bracket is set yet. That all gets decided over the next four days, with two pairs of groups finales each day. That full schedule is below, plus some suggestions on what to eat while watching:
Monday, 1pm: Iran-Portugal, Spain-Morocco. Pasteis de Bacalao, a Mediterranean selection of olives, goat cheese, tomatoes, Moroccan sardines, and other tapas. Persian dates and halvah. Fresh fruits and flatbread. Spanish beer & wine, Vinho Verde, juices, etc.
Tuesday, 9am: Denmark-France, Australia-Peru. Croissants & danish, coffee, fruits, juices, marmite.
Wednesday, 9am: South Korea-Germany, Mexico-Sweden. Going largely with the European side of this menu: German cheeses, strudel, Swedish smorgasbord with gravlax, rollmops, knackebrod, etc. Tequila and Aquavit for anyone who doesn't have to go to work afterwards.
The knockout round starts with the round of 16, Saturday through Tuesday, June 30-July 2, 9am & 1pm.
* Already out: Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Egypt, Morocco, Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, Poland
**Guaranteed to advance: Uruguay, Russia, France, Croatia, England, Belgium
Group Finales: The Full Schedule:
9am: Group A: Uruguay-Russia, Saudi Arabia-Egypt. Russia and Uruguay have each won twice, and will advance; surprisingly, Russia has looked the better of the two, and has the tiebreaker as they meet to decide the group winner.
1pm: Group B: Iran-Portugal, Spain-Morocco. Portugal has looked great, but still needs at least a draw against Iran to move on; an upset puts Iran in instead. Spain advances with a draw against already-eliminated Morocco, or even a loss, depending on the other result.
9am: Group C: Denmark-France, Australia-Peru. France hasn’t looked great, but they’ve won twice, and are guaranteed at least second place. Denmark can win the group by beating them, though, or take second with a draw. A loss opens the door for Australia to nab second if they beat hard-luck Peru, who’ve deserved a better fate.
1pm: Group D: Nigeria-Argentina, Iceland-Croatia. Argentina and Leo Messi have looked dismal, and the team is reportedly in open revolt against their coach; nonetheless, they’ll likely advance to the knockout round if they beat Nigeria’s Super Eagles. Nigeria’s in with a win, or likely a draw. But underdog favorite Iceland still has an outside shot if they can upset Croatia, who are almost certain to win the group in any case, based on goal differential in the first two games.
9am: Group F: South Korea-Germany, Mexico-Sweden. Mexico has two wins, but could still be edged out with a loss here, that could leave them in a three-way tie with Sweden and Germany. The defending champs looked like themselves again in dominating Sweden, but likely still need a result against 0-2 South Korea to be safe.
1pm: Group E: Serbia-Brazil, Switzerland-Costa Rica. Brazil and Neymar finally broke out late against Costa Rica; they need just a draw to advance, and knock out Serbia; Switzerland will almost certainly take the other qualifying spot, and can win the group by running up some goals on the game but overmatched Ticos.
9am: Group H: Japan-Poland, Senegal-Colombia. This one’s still wide open, except for top seed Poland, who are out after two bad losses. Colombia has looked like the best team in the group, but likely need to beat a very lively and dangerous Senegal to stay alive. Japan needs just a draw to clinch a spot in the last 16, but may find an angry Poland wanting to play the spoiler.
1pm: Group G: England-Belgium, Panama-Tunisia. Belgium and England cruise into this final matchup with a pair of easy wins and identical 8-2 goal differentials. England holds the last tiebreaker at this point, based on “fair play” ratings – one fewer yellow card assessed – and by the time this game is played, the whole rest of the bracket will be set, so if they care to, the teams can judge whether it’ll be an advantage to finish in first or second place.
Very tentative Round of 16 Schedule:
Sat., June 30
9am: France?C1 vs. Argentina?D2, Kazan (Fox)
1pm: Uruguay vs. Portugal?B2, Sochi (Fox)
Sun., July 1
9am: Spain?B1 vs. Russia, Moscow (Fox)
1pm: Croatia?D1 vs. Denmark?C2, Nizhny Novgorod (Fox)
Mon., July 2
9am: Brazil?E1 vs. Germany?F2, Samara (FS1)
1pm: Belgium?G1 vs. Japan?H2, Rostov (Fox)
Tue., July 3
9am: Mexico?F1 vs. Switzerland?E2, St. Petersburg (FS1)
1pm: Senegal?H1 vs. England?G2, Moscow (Fox)