jorge perez-navarro

today's matches: fair play

It was an odd day, when the most important things happened just to the side of the actual events.

Group H went first. The live table as the matches began: (Senegal 5 Japan 5) Colombia 4 Poland eliminated.

In the 59th minute, Jan Bednarek scored to put Poland up 1-0 against Japan. SEN 5 (JPN 4 COL 4).

In the 74th minute, Yerry Mina scored to put Colombia up 1-0 against Senegal. COL 6 (SEN 4 JPN 4).

Senegal tried for an equalizer, but Colombian keeper David Ospina made a couple of saves, and, to be honest, Senegal didn't show much. Colombia ended atop the table with 6 points, Senegal and Japan with 4. Which led to tiebreakers.

The first two tiebreakers are Goal Differential and Goals Scored. Both teams scored 4 and allowed 4.

Next is head-to-head. (I'm skipping some that don't seem necessary to me, important only if more than 2 teams have tied.) When the two teams met, they drew, 2-2, in one of the more entertaining matches so far.

Which leads to the "Fair Play" tiebreakers. The team with the best record in yellow and red cards finishes ahead of the other team.

In three games, Japan received 4 yellow cards. Senegal received 6. Japan advances, Senegal goes home.

You might say Polish star Robert Lewandowski, who had a disappointing tournament, was as crucial as anyone. In the 66th minute of today's game, he was fouled by Tomoaki Makino, leading to a yellow card. In the second half of the match between Senegal and Poland, the African team received two yellows for fouls on Lewandowski. In a group where Fair Play mattered, Lewandowski drew three yellows from the teams in question.

Of course, Senegal had two more yellows than Japan, so Lewandowski wasn't the only reason Japan advanced. But I'll put him forward as the Forgotten Man of this World Cup thus far, for his mediocre play, and for his ability to draw yellow cards.

Group G

Here's how important Group G action was today: I'm writing this at halftime, because the only match that matters is largely a sham. As I type, Panama leads Tunisia, 1-0, at the half. Both teams are already eliminated, and the only goal of the match was an own goal. Meanwhile, England and Belgium are scoreless at the half. The crucial stat in that game: Belgium has gotten two yellows, England none. If the teams finish the game tied, this one will also go down to Fair Play, and in the "Live Table", England is leading the table. (In fairness, Belgium just scored, so it won't finish 0-0.)

It gets better/worse: there is some debate whether either team actually wants to win the group. The winner faces Japan in the next round, the second place team takes on Colombia. But it's what might come down the road that has people wondering. If the winner beats Japan, their likely next opponent would be Brazil. If the second place team beats Colombia, their next opponent would be Sweden or Switzerland. So, all else being equal, the Group G winner would face Japan and Brazil, the second place team would face Colombia and, say, Sweden. Some people think this means the second place team is in better shape than the winner.

Should I wait until the matches are over to post this? Nah.