Olympics: Advancement Scenarios for the Final Match Day of Group Play

[Notes: (1) For those looking for a schedule of Tuesday’s matches, see the third section. (2) Hopefully the math for these scenarios is correct, but if you see an error or would like clarification, (as always) feel free to bring that up in a comment.]

Although five teams, the United States, Great Britain, Brazil, Japan, and Sweden, have secured spots into the quarterfinals of the women’s soccer tournament at this year’s London Olympics, those teams’ placement, as well as the placements for the other quarterfinal hopefuls remains in the balance and will be settled on the final group match day, Tuesday, July 31st.

All of the remaining seven teams could theoretically advance to the next round, but only France, who should win their match against Colombia, is the closest thing to a sure bet. Canada, already with 3 points in Group F, are in strong position to make the quarterfinals, as long as they do not lose by more than a goal or two to Sweden. North Korea’s 0:5 loss to France on Saturday greatly dented the Koreans’ their chances of advancement, while giving a bit more hope to New Zealand. The Football Ferns, who have yet to earn a point,  could still make the quarterfinals with a win over Cameroon and favorable results in other matches.

For all the groups, most of the final rank positions are up for grabs, with only Brazil and Great Britain guaranteed the top two spots in their group. Meanwhile, World Champions Japan, reigning Gold Medalists United States, and Sweden could both potentially finish up either first, second, or third in their respective groups

Similarly, Canada, France, and North Korea could each potentially win its group or be eliminated.

* * *

TABLE: Group Standings, After the Second Match Day

GROUP E         PTs   GD | W  D  L | GF  GA
Brazil*           6   +6 | 2  0  0 |  6   0
Great Britain*    6   +4 | 2  0  0 |  4   0
New Zealand       0   -2 | 0  0  2 |  0   2
Cameroon          0   -8 | 0  0  2 |  0   8

GROUP F         PTs   GD | W  D  L | GF  GA
Sweden*           4   +3 | 1  1  0 |  4   1
Japan*            4   +1 | 1  1  0 |  2   1
Canada            3   +2 | 1  0  1 |  4   2
South Africa      0   -6 | 0  0  2 |  1   7

GROUP G         PTs   GD | W  D  L | GF  GA
United States*    6   +5 | 2  0  0 |  7   2
France            3   +3 | 1  0  1 |  7   4
Korea DPR         3   -3 | 1  0  1 |  2   5
Colombia          0   -5 | 0  0  2 |  0   5

*Teams that have secured a place in the quarterfinals.

Adapted from FIFA’s website (http://www.fifa.com/womensolympic/standings/)

* * *

THE MATCHES

Groups are in order of their match kick-off time, which are simultaneous for each group. The below hyperlinks are for NBCOlympics.com “Live Extra.” — And, if there’s one day when that feature is needed for this tournament, this match day is that day.

For all matches except USA vs. North Korea, there may be cut-ins to other sports for the live airings on MSNBC.

(Complete listings for NBC’s coverage of the women’s soccer tournament is available here.)

Group F: Kick-off at 9:30 a.m. EDT.

Japan vs. South Africa: Japan should come away from this match with a win and 3 points, thus securing the top spot in Group F. Anything less opens the door for Sweden or even Canada to claim first place in the group. South Africa is not yet mathematically eliminated, but they would need a large victory over the reigning World Champions just to have a chance. (TV: tape delay on Soccer)

Canada vs. Sweden: Although Great Britain vs. Brazil is the marquee clash of the day, this match between Sweden who have a comfortable 4 points, and Canada, who need at least a draw to guarantee themselves a spot in the quarterfinals, will likely be the most important in terms of determining the third-place wildcards. If Canada does fall to Sweden, then they could still advance as a wildcard if they can keep the margin of loss close. (TV: MSNBC, Soccer)

Group G: Kick-off at 12:15 p.m. EDT.

United States vs. North Korea: The USA needs at least a draw to finish at the top of the Group G, and get an easier-on-paper path to Gold Medal match, where they will play a third-place team from Group E or Group F in the quarterfinals… which would likely be Canada (in a re-match of their 2008 quarterfinal encounter), as a draw would also be enough for North Korea to claim a wildcard spot. (TV: NBCSN, Soccer)

France vs. Colombia: France will also be looking for at least a draw to secure passage into the quarterfinals, although they could still advance with a loss as long as the match does not turn into a blowout win for Colombia, which would give the South Americans a chance at making the quarterfinals. (TV: MSNBC, Soccer)

Group E: Kick-off at 2:45 p.m. EDT.

Great Britain vs. Brazil: This match will only determine who finishes first and second in Group F. The group winner will play a third-place team from the other groups in the quarterfinals, while the second-place team will face the second-place team from Group F. Great Britain will be without centerback Ifeoma Dieke due to an ACL injury incurred versus Cameroon (BBC). (TV: Soccer, in progress on MSNBC)

New Zealand vs. Cameroon: In the earlier matches, if Canada, North Korea, and France all get at least a draw, then the wildcard spots will be determined, and both New Zealand or Cameroon will be eliminated. However, Cameroon has a large goal differential (-8) to make-up, so only New Zealand has a realistic chance of being a third-place wildcard if it wins this match. Both teams will be without a key player on Tuesday due to accumulated cautions: Hannah Wilkinson (NZL, forward) and Christine Manie (CMR, defender). (TV: tape delay on Soccer)

* * *

RANKING CRITERIA AND TIE-BREAKERS

From the tournament regulations (PDF), here are the in-group ranking criteria:

29.5. The ranking of the teams in each group shall be determined as follows:

a) greatest number of points obtained in all group matches;
b) goal difference in all group matches;
c) greatest number of goals scored in all group matches.

If two or more teams are equal on the basis of the above three criteria, their rankings shall be determined as follows:

d) greatest number of points obtained in all group matches between the teams concerned;
e) goal difference resulting from all group matches between the teams concerned;
f) greatest number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned;
g) drawing of lots by the FIFA Organising Committee.

For the “two or more teams are equal…” criteria, this usually just involves two teams, so the two sides’ head-to-head encounter will determine who is higher ranked. If one of the teams wins that match, then they will have the “greater number of points.” However, if that match is a tie, then lots would be drawn per criteria “g.” — More exotic three-way and even four-way tie scenarios are possible, but those are fairly rare.

And, the criteria for ranking the third-placed teams:

29.7. The two best teams among those coming third shall be determined as follows:

a) greater number of points obtained in all the group matches;
b) goal difference resulting from all the group matches;
c) greater number of goals scored in all the group matches;
d) drawing of lots by the FIFA Organising Committee.

* * *

SCENARIOS FOR THE UNITED STATES WINNING ITS GROUP

DESTINY IS IN THEIR HANDS — If the USA at least draws with North Korea, then the United States will have a minimum of 7 points, while France can only get 6 points maximum.

But, allowing North Korea to get 4 points will secure the Asian squad’s passage into the quarterfinals, and likely mean that the USA’s quarterfinal opponent will be Canada. Although, should Canada lose to Sweden, New Zealand wins its match, and New Zealand makes up its goal differential to Canada, then the Football Ferns would automatically be the USA’s opponent.

AN UNNECESSARY  POINT — Even without at least a draw, the United States could still win the group in two basic scenarios:

First, if North Korea’s margin of victory is 4 goals or less and France does not win their match with Colombia.

Alternately, the USA could still take the top spot in the group with a loss (1) if France wins by only a goal, (2) the United States only loses by a single goal, and (3)  either (a) both the USA and France score the same number of goals — because the teams will then be tied on the main ranking criteria, but the USA wins on head-to-head — or (b) the United States scores more goals.

* * *

OTHER SELECTED SCENARIOS

The below scenarios ignores the possibility of advancement via the “drawing of lots.”

CANADA ADVANCES — Regardless of the result in the other matches, Canada can secure a spot in the quarterfinals with at least a draw against Sweden.

If Canada loses, then it must keep the margin of defeat fairly tight and hope that in the later matches (1) South Africa does not win and make up the goal difference with Canada and (2)  either (a) New Zealand vs. Cameroon ends in a draw, (b) the winning team in that match does not surpass Canada on goal difference, or (c) the third-placed team from Group G does not have a greater goal difference than Canada, which would only happen in the unlikely situation of either a narrow France loss to Colombia or an even less likely situation of a blowout loss for France.

NEW ZEALAND ADVANCES — First, the Football Ferns must win over Cameroon. That is the minimum for any of these other scenarios to be viable:

Most Likely Route: In the earlier matches, if North Korea loses to the USA and France gets at least a draw with Colombia, then, regardless of how Canada finishes, New Zealand will just need a win over Cameroon, as the Football Ferns will have a superior goal differential over North Korea (at least -1, versus, at best, -4).

Less Likely Route: If North Korea gets a draw or better versus the USA, Canada loses to Sweden, and France does not lose to Colombia, then New Zealand has a chance of reaching the quarterfinals if they have a superior goal differential to Canada. Even if Colombia could somehow get a victory over France, Colombia would have to make up a significant goal differential difference with New Zealand.

FRANCE SOMEHOW FAILS TO ADVANCE — For France to bow out early, they would have to lose to Colombia by a large margin of 5 or more goals, which would give them at best a -2 goal differential at 3 points, while Colombia would also be on 3 points, but with a 0 goal differential. (If Colombia only wins by 4 goals, then France would still be third in the group because it has the advantage in goals scored.)

Automatically Out: Then, if North Korea gets at least a draw to secure at minimum a second place spot second place, France would be automatically eliminated as the fourth-placed team.

Not Even as a Wildcard: Or, regardless of how North Korea finishes, if, Canada either gets a result or loses by less than 3 goals, and New Zealand wins by any margin, and thus also have 3 points, although with no worse than a -1 goal differential, then France would also be eliminated. Cameroon is also not mathematically eliminated, bu they would need to score a lot of goals to knock-out France: E.g., if France falls 0:5 to Colombia, then Cameroon would need 7 goals.

COLOMBIA MIRACULOUSLY ADVANCES — If Colombia can win big against France, by 5 goals or greater, then that will push Colombia ahead of France for at least third-place in the group, and possibly second, if the USA defeats North Korea. If Colombia finishes third, then it will advance as a wildcard if either New Zealand vs. Cameroon ends in a draw or one of those teams does win that match, but cannot make up their goal differential difference with Colombia.

* * *

CARD SITUATION

Both New Zealand and Cameroon will be without key players for their match on Tuesday due to accumulated cautions: Hannah Wilkinson (NZL, forward) and Christine Manie (CMR, defender).

Colombia’s Lady Andrade has received a two-match suspension for her “sucker-punch” on Abby Wambach in the USA/Colombia match on Saturday (AP, via nbcolympics.com).

Twelve players have a lone yellow card and will miss their next match if they receive another yellow card:

  • Formiga (BRA)
  • Andreia (BRA)
  • Bibi Medoua (CMR)
  • Jeannette Yango (CMR)
  • Sonia Bompastor (FRA)
  • Eugenie Le Sommer (FRA)
  • Anita Asante (GBR)
  • Katie Hoyle (NZL)
  • Yun Hyon Hi (PRK)
  • Nothando Vilakazi (RSA)
  • Portia Modise (RSA)
  • Sara Thunebro (SWE)

Source: www.fifa.com/womensolympic/statistics/players/topcards.html

* * *

OTHER INJURY NOTES

As noted earlier, Great Britain’s centerback Ifeoma Dieke of Scotland had an ACL injury in Saturday’s match vs. Cameroon and is out for the Olympics. Dieke has been replaced by Dunia Susia, a fullback.

Canada has also lost two players to injuries:  Emily Zurrer and Robyn Gayle, both defenders. Melanie Booth and Marie-Eve Nault have been called in as replacements. (@FIFAMedia on Twitter)

For the United States, Shannon Boxx, who suffered a hamstring injury in the first match, is not expected to play.