Explainer: How yellow and red cards could decide England's group - and why they might be better off coming second
Fifa’s fair play rules could yet come to decide England’s final position in World Cup 2018 Group G – and whether or not Gareth Southgate’s side end up in the same half of the draw as Brazil and Germany.
After two group games apiece, England and Belgium are level on points, goal difference and goals scored.
England began their World Cup campaign with a 2-1 win over Tunisia before thrashing Panama 6-1 in a record-breaking performance.
Belgium meanwhile beat Panama 3-0 in their opening fixture and yesterday overcame Tunisia 5-2 in an eye-catching display.
That means that – ahead of their crucial meeting in Kaliningrad next Thursday – both countries have six points, having scored eight goals and conceded two. And so if the sides draw next week they will finish the group stage with identical records.
In that case, Fifa uses fair play rules to determine the group winner.
The rules dictate that over the course of the three group games, sides lose one point per yellow card. Three points are lost for an indirect red (two yellow cards) and four for a direct red card. Meanwhile five points are lost for a yellow followed by a direct red.
England have currently received two yellow cards and no red cards after two games.
Belgium have received three yellow cards and no red cards – meaning England currently top Group G by a single Fifa fair play point.
But Southgate would likely rather see his side come second, due to the way the tournament has opened up.
Coming second would likely lead to a Round of 16 game against Senegal before a quarter-final against Mexico or Serbia.
But topping the group would lead to a tricky game against either Poland or Colombia, before a meeting with tournament favourites Brazil in the quarter-finals.
Independent News Service