Why soccer tournaments are fun, part 26:
Most tournaments, Euro 2008 included, begin with group stages. After each team in a group plays the others, a certain number advance to the knockout stage. There are numerous tiebreakers, which aren't necessarily the same from one tournament to the next. In the case of Euro 2008, the #1 tiebreaker is head-to-head record. No one's talking about #2, but I assume it is Goal Differential, which is often #1. The top two teams in the four-team groups advance.
What does this mean? Well, today was the first of the "second" group games. Each team has played once. The four Group A teams met, and in the first match, Portugal defeated the Czech Republic. Those two teams had won their first matches ... you get 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw ... so as the Swiss and Turkish teams met in the second match of the day, the standings looked like this:
Czech Republic 3
If this second match ended in a draw, Portugal would advance no matter what happened in their third match, since they would be guaranteed at least a second-place finish. All three other teams would still be in contention. If Turkey won, the Portuguese would advance due to head-to-head results. If the Swiss won, all four teams would still have a chance.
The Swiss scored in the first half, which made the provisional standings: Portugal 6 Czech 3 Swiss 3 Turkey 0. The Czechs have already beaten the Swiss, so the Swiss need to finish with more points than the Czechs, unless there's a three-way tie for second place, in which case the second tiebreaker would take effect.
Early in the second half, Turkey equalized. This returned to provisional standings to POR 6 CZE 3 SWI 1 TUR 1. As noted, if this happens, Portugal would advance but nothing else would be decided. Since the Swiss still have to play Portugal, the best of the four teams, and since most people assume the Swiss will lose that third match, then the provisional standings of the moment meant if Turkey could beat the Czechs in their third game, they would advance.
And then, in extra time, Turkey scored the game-winner. And the standings now look like this:
Czech Republic 3
Portugal thus advances to the next round, no matter what, since the Czechs and Turks play each other, and so only one of them could possibly catch Portugal. Meanwhile, Switzerland, co-hosts of the tournament, are eliminated, no matter what they do in the third match, since the best they can finish is third.
That means the Portugal-Switzerland match is meaningless. Portugal wins all tiebreakers, so they will finish first, and the Swiss won't advance. Meanwhile, the Czechs and Turks will meet, with the winner advancing and the loser going home. If they draw? Well, the first tiebreaker will be tossed out in that case. Goal Differential? Both are at -1, so there's nothing there if they draw. I don't know what the third tiebreaker is, but it isn't likely to help ... both teams have scored the same number of goals so far and have allowed the same number.
So let's just say I hope there's a winner in that match.