Can England be knocked out of the World Cup tonight?

We've analysed all the permutations for tonight's crucial match against Uruguay, and it's good news: even if we lose we can still qualify! (just)

Everyone knows England’s clash with Uruguay tonight is a “crunch match”, but just how crunchy is it?

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If England lose, does that mean there’s no point turning up for the final match against Costa Rica? And if Roy’s boys pull off a famous victory, can fans expect a painless ride to the knockout stages?

Well, it’s a little complicated, but the good news is that there are only two possible permutations in which England can actually be knocked out tonight. Phew! The bad news is that there’s absolutely no way England can guarantee qualification tonight. Oh.

As it stands Costa Rica and Italy top Group D with three points each; Costa Rica are marginally ahead with +2 goal difference thanks to their 3-1 win over Uruguay; Italy have +1 after their 2-1 win over England last Saturday. England and Uruguay are both at the foot of the table with 0 points.

Win, lose or draw, we’ve done the maths to see what could happen tonight… and beyond.

After round two Italy win Draw Costa Rica win
England win ITA   6
ENG 3
COS 3
URU 0
COS 4
ITA  4
ENG 3
URU 0
COS 6
ITA  3
ENG 3
URU 0
Draw ITA  6
COS 3
ENG 1
URU 1
COS 4
ITA   4
ENG 1
URU 1
COS 6
ITA   3
ENG  1
URU  1
Uruguay win ITA  6
COS 3
URU 3
ENG 0
COS 4
ITA   4
URU  3
ENG  0
COS 6
ITA   3
URU  3
ENG  0

1. England beat Uruguay…

…and Italy beat Costa Rica: England stay in the World Cup! (with destiny in their own hands)

England move into second or third position on 3 points behind Italy on 6 points.

And then what?

England will qualify by beating Costa Rica regardless of the Italy v Uruguay result.  A draw against Costa Rica is OK if England are in second place, ahead of their opponents on goal difference before kick-off. This will depend on the exact results of England v Uruguay and Italy v Costa Rica. Losing the last game will not be an option.

…and Italy draw with Costa Rica: England stay in the World Cup (with destiny in their own hands)

England would stay in third position behind Italy on 4 points and Costa Rica on 4 points.

And then what?

England really need to beat Costa Rica in the final game to guarantee qualification. A draw would still get them through, but only if Uruguay beat Italy in the final game by two or more goals OR England have beaten Uruguay by two or more goals. If both games have been won by one goal, England and Italy finish with identical points and goal difference. If England have scored more goals, they’re through; if not, Italy go through on tiebreaker rules thanks to winning their match against England. Still with us?

… and Costa Rica beat Italy: England stay in the World Cup (with destiny in their own hands)

Costa Rica would lead the group with 6 points. England and Italy would have 3.

And then what?

Even England beating Costa Rica in the final game wouldn’t guarantee going through, since if Italy beat Uruguay there’ll be three teams on 6 points, with goal difference deciding. A draw against Costa Rica still leaves England sweating on the result of Italy v Uruguay: an Italy win puts Italy through, a Uruguay win puts England through, and an Italy/Uruguay draw means England and Italy on the same number of points.


2. England draw with Uruguay…

… and Italy beat Costa Rica: England stay in the World Cup (but rely on other results in final round)

England stay in third place, moving to 1 point. They remain behind Costa Rica on 3 points and Italy on 6 points.

And then what?

England would have to beat Costa Rica in the final game and hope that Uruguay lose to, or draw with, Italy to guarantee qualification. Goal difference could still see them through even if Uruguay beat Italy.

… and Italy draw with Costa Rica: England stay in the World Cup (with destiny in their own hands)

England stay in third place with one point; Italy and Costa Rica will both have four.

And then what?

England have to beat Costa Rica. England beating Costa Rica by two or more goals would put them ahead of Costa Rica on goal difference and see them through. Beating them by one would mean hoping Uruguay beat Italy, leaving everyone on 4 points. Things get really complicated here.

… and Costa Rica beat Italy: England stay in the World Cup (but rely on other results in final round)

England would remain in third place with 1 point. Italy would remain on 3 points and Costa Rica would lead the group with 6 points.

And then what?

England would need to beat Costa Rica to have any chance of overtaking Italy. An Italy win against Uruguay would put England out regardless. Italy and Uruguay drawing, or Uruguay winning, would leave two teams on four points, bringing it all down to goal difference.


3. England lose to Uruguay…

… and Italy beat Costa Rica: England stay in the World Cup (but rely on other results in the final round)

England go bottom of the table behind Costa Rica on 3 points and Uruguay on 3 points. Italy head the group with 6 points.

And then what?

England have to beat Costa Rica in the last game, and hope that Italy beat Uruguay.  Goal difference would then separate England, Costa Rica and Uruguay. (UPDATE: here’s exactly how that would work.)

… and Italy draw with Costa Rica: ENGLAND EXIT THE WORLD CUP IMMEDIATELY

England move bottom of the group on 0 points behind Costa Rica and Italy on 4 and Uruguay on 3 points.  There is no mathematical possibility of qualification from this position.

And then what?

It’s over. Properly, finally over. The Costa Rica game becomes irrelevant to England fans.

… and Costa Rica beat Italy: ENGLAND EXIT THE WORLD CUP IMMEDIATELY

England move to the bottom of the table on 0 points.  Costa Rica lead the group with 6 points, with Italy and Uruguay both on 3 points. England can reach 3 points by beating Costa Rica, but one of Italy and Uruguay must end up with at least 4.

And then what?

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We head for the airport. There’s no coming back from here.