What are the group stage tiebreaker rules at the 2022 World Cup?

The 2022 World Cup is already well underway and through the first matches of the group stage, we’ve seen many unpredictable results and upsets, including Saudi Arabia edging out Argentina and Japan toppling Germany.

While one loss doesn’t necessarily mean these pre-tournament contenders won’t make it to the knockout rounds, it does make the path significantly harder. Read on to see the World Cup tiebreakers that may come into play in determining which teams advance to the next round and continue on the path to football’s greatest glory.

How many teams will advance from the World Cup group stage?

Of the 32 teams at the 2022 World Cup, only 16 will advance to the next round of the tournament. The top two teams in each of the eight groups will advance to the Round of 16. From there, the tournament will be a single-elimination competition, with eight teams making it through to the quarterfinals and four to the semifinals. The winners of the semifinal matches will play in the final, while the losers will meet in the third-place playoff.

What are the tiebreakers for the group stage at the World Cup?

If two or more teams have an equal number of points after the conclusion of group stage matches, FIFA will use the following tiebreakers to determine which nations advance:

Goal differential – the team with the higher goal differential (total goals scored minus total goals allowed) will have the higher ranking
Number of goals scored – If multiple teams have the same number of points and equal goal differential, the team with more goals scored will be given a higher ranking than the lesser-scoring team

If two or more teams are still “tied” after applying these tiebreakers, FIFA moves on to a second round of tiebreakers:

Greatest number of points obtained in group matches between the teams concerned
Superior goal difference resulting from the group matches between the team concerned
Greatest number of goals scored in all matches between the teams concerned
Highest team conduct score – team conduct score is based on the number of yellow and red cards a team has obtained. The team with the highest team conduct score will receive the higher ranking.

Yellow Card: Minus one point
Indirect Red Card (acquired via two yellow cards): Minus three points
Direct Red Card: Minus four points
Yellow Card and Direct Red Card: Minus five points

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