How Argentina can advance at the World Cup

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In what may prove to be Lionel Messi’s final World Cup, 2014 finalist Argentina is on the verge of an embarrassing exit in the group stage after a shocking 3-0 loss to Croatia on Thursday. Argentina opened play in Group D with a 1-1 draw with underdog Iceland, and now has just a single point with one game left to play.

Fortunately for Argentina, the squad will still have a chance to sneak into the knockout round, barring a massive rout in Friday’s Iceland-Nigeria game – but Messi’s team will have to play much better in its group stage finale than it has so far in Russia. If Argentina only manages a draw with Nigeria on June 26th, the country can’t possibly advance.

Here’s how Argentina can make it through as the runner-up in Group D:

If Nigeria beats Iceland Friday:

This is what Argentina fans will be hoping for. A Nigerian win will give the team three total points, but Argentina will play Nigeria on June 26th and have a chance to vault into second in the group.

  • Argentina must beat Nigeria on June 26th
  • Croatia must win or draw with Iceland on June 26th
  • If Iceland beats Croatia to get to four points, Argentina must overcome the goal difference between the two teams (currently -3)

If Iceland beats Nigeria Friday:

This is the worst-case scenario for Argentina. A win gives Iceland four total points, which Argentina can only match. To make matters worse, the lopsided loss to Croatia means Argentina would have to overcome at least a four-goal difference to win a tiebreaker with Iceland, assuming Croatia beats Iceland in the group finale.

  • Iceland must to lose against Croatia on June 26th
  • Argentina must beat Nigeria on June 26th by a wide margin
  • Argentina would have to match Iceland’s goal difference in the group and eclipse Iceland’s goal total to win the tiebreaker.

If Iceland and Nigeria draw:

An Iceland draw would be great for Argentina, assuming group leader Croatia doesn’t lose. This result would give Iceland two points and Nigeria one point heading into the final day.

  • Argentina must beat Nigeria on June 26th
  • Iceland must lose or draw with Croatia on June 26th

No matter what happens, the runner up in Group D will meet the winner of Group C, which is likely to be France, in the Round of 16.

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