In almost every measure, England and Belgium have been equals in Group G of the World Cup.
They’re both 2-0. They’ve both outscored opponents 8-2. And they’ve both secured spots in the next round.
But, because they’re playing one another to conclude the first round, deciding the order in which the two sides enter elimination play could get messy.
Obviously, a draw would render them even in points and just about every tiebreaker.
Then it’d be up to the World Cup’s tiebreaker No. 7:
1. Greatest number of points
2. Goal difference in all group matches
3. Goals scored in all group matches
4. Greatest number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned
5. Goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned
6. Greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned
7. Greater number of points obtained regarding fair play conduct (yellow cards = -1, indirect red card (as a result of a second yellow card) = -3, direct red card = -4, yellow card and direct red = -5, with only one of the deductions applied to a player in a single game)
8. Drawing of lots by FIFA
Essentially, whoever’s been worse-behaved, according to accumulated cards, would be the lower-seeded team.
The problem is, both teams might prefer such an outcome.
The group’s runner-up, on the other hand, would get the less-daunting Group H‘s champion in the Round of 16, and probably a matchup with Mexico or Switzerland if they advance.
If either England or Belgium find themselves above losing intentionally, playing to a draw while racking up penalties would also improve their chances in elimination play.
Belgium has three yellow cards under their belts, to England’s two, so if everything holds firm in the sides’ Thursday meeting, they’ll be the group’s runner-up.