World Cup Qualification Scenarios

Photo courtesy http://www.flickr.com/photos/canadasoccer

What does Canada need to do over their last two games to ensure itself some hot Hex action? All your scenarios are laid out for you right here.

Two games left, and you'd think it'd be a lot easier to figure out exactly what Canada need to do to advance. In a way it is, win both games and they're in no problem. Stephen Hart suggested last week that 4 points should be enough, but it's very very possible that it wouldn't be. So what exactly do Canada need to do? What combination of results would see them through?

Firstly, here's the standings as they are now, Cuba's done but it's very tight among the top 3 teams.

Team
Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
Panama 4 3 0 1 5 1 +4 9
Honduras 4 2 1 1 4 2 +2 7
Canada 4 2 1 1 2 2 0 7
Cuba 4 0 0 4 0 6 −6 0

Next up, let's check the tiebreaker rules, as found on page 25 of this hefty document. It's determined by points in all games, then the following if necessary; Goal difference in all games, then goals scored in all games. If two or more teams are still tied (technically the three teams could finish on 10 points), then it goes to the record in the games between the tied teams, using the same order as above, and then going to away goals scored.

Even more confused than when you started? Well, here are the 9 possible combination of results from Friday's games, starting with the most beneficial and working our way down to the worst case scenarios, and what each would leave Canada needing on Tuesday to advance.

1) Results: Canada win, Panama win.
New Standings: Panama 12, Canada 10, Honduras 7.
Canada advances with A win? Yep.
A tie? Yep.
A defeat? Maybe, that would bring goal difference into play. If there's a 5 goal swing in Friday's games, (ie Canada wins 3-0, Honduras loses 2-0) or higher, that opens up the possibility of a 1 goal defeat still being enough to go through on goal difference, a 7 goal swing on Friday would mean a 2 goal defeat would be enough, etc etc. Ideally Canada can score plenty of goals against Cuba to give themselves a chance in the goals scored category if GD ends up tied, which is quite possible (a 4 goal swing followed by a 1 goal defeat). Unlikely

2) Results: Canada win, Tie.
New Standings: Panama 10, Canada 10, Honduras 8
Canada advances with A win? Yep.
A tie? Yep.
A defeat? Maybe. But only if Panama also lose to Cuba, and Canada makes up that 4 goal gap in goal difference over the two games. Very very unlikely.

3) Results: Canada win, Honduras win.
New Standings: Canada 10, Honduras 10, Panama 9
Canada advances with a win? Yep
A tie? Maybe, but only if Panama doesn't beat Cuba, or if Canada beats Cuba by 3 or more goals more than Honduras beats Panama. Unlikely
A defeat? Maybe, but only if Panama loses to Cuba, or ties them AND Canada makes up that 4 goal difference over the 2 games. Still very, very unlikely.

4) Results: Tie, Panama win
New Standings: Panama 12, Canada 8, Honduras 7.
Canada advances with a win? Yep.
A tie? Yep.
A defeat? Nope.

5) Results: Tie, Tie
New Standings: Panama 10, Honduras 8, Canada 8
Canada advances with a win? Yep
A tie? Nope, Honduras would definitely still have the better goal difference.
A defeat? Nope

6) Results: Tie, Honduras win
New Standings: Honduras 10, Panama 9, Canada 8
Canada advances with a win? Yep.
A tie? Maybe, but only if Panama loses to Cuba, and they lose the two games by more than 4 goals combined. Very very unlikely
A defeat? Nope.

7) Results: Canada defeat, Panama win
New Standings: Panama 12, Honduras 7, Canada 7
Canada advances with a win? Yep
A tie? Maybe, but only if Honduras lose to Panama by 3 or more goals more than Canada loses to Cuba. Very unlikely
A defeat? Nope.

8) Results: Canada defeat, tie.
New Standings: Panama 10, Honduras 8, Canada 7
Canada advances with a win? Yep
A tie? Nope
A defeat? Nope

9) Results: Canada defeat, Honduras win
New standings: Honduras 10, Panama 9, Canada 7
Canada advances with a win? Maybe, if: There's a two goal swing in Canada's favour between them and Honduras over the 2 dates, OR Panama loses, OR Panama ties leaving all teams on 10 points and Canada ends up with one of the top two goal differences. Very unlikely
A tie? Nope
A defeat? Nope

So there we go, out of the 27 possibilities, there's 11 yeps, and 9 nopes for sure. Excellent. Of the 7 maybes though, I'd categorise them as 2 unlikely, 2 very unlikely and 3 very very unlikely, relying on either Panama not beating Cuba, OR a lopsided result either way in the Panama vs Honduras game, OR Canada suddenly turning into goal machines. None of them are all that plausible, so all in all, I'd go with 11 positive scenarios, 16 negative.

If Canada wins on Friday, there's no way they're automatically through, they're going to need some kind of result on Tuesday. On the flip side, even if Canada loses on Friday, they're still not out of it, though they'd almost certainly need a win. In Hon-bloody-duras. Who's confident of that? Didn't think so. Let's hope for Canada and Panama wins on Friday.

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