Iceland certainly never do things the easy way. After a memorable draw against Argentina in their first ever World Cup game, we seemed tired and struggled to click against an energised Nigeria, losing 2-0 in the fly-ridden heat of the Volgograd Stadium.
Now, there’s a narrow window of opportunity to progress. Firstly, a win in the final game against Croatia is imperative. If that happens, finishing the group on four points could mean that deciding the two teams who’ll progress to the Last 16 will come down to goal difference (that is, a total drawn from which team has scored the most, and been scored against the least.)
Still with me? So far, so good. Here’s how the group has to play out if Iceland are to get through to the knockout stages.
Iceland have to beat Croatia to Progress
✅ If we don’t beat Croatia, we’re going home—it’s as simple as that. A draw against Croatia would mean Nigeria end with a minimum of 3 points to our 2, and Iceland are dumped out of the tournament no matter what happens in the other game. A win puts us on four points, and depending on what happens in Nigeria-Argentina, that might be enough. If…
Argentina Beat Nigeria
✅ This is the best-case scenario for Iceland. If Argentina beat Nigeria, and we beat Croatia, it will come down to goal difference. Argentina have only one goal to their name so far, and Croatia put three past them, meaning Iceland could beat Croatia one-nil and go through. The dream scenario for Iceland is a one nil Argentina win over Nigeria, and an attainable one-nil victory over Croatia. Then again, if…
Nigeria draw with Argentina
✅ This means a possible but highly improbable route to the knockout stages for Iceland. It would come down to goal difference, with Iceland and Nigeria both on four points. If Nigeria-Argentina ends 0-0, Iceland need to beat Croatia by 2; if Nigeria-Argentina ends 1-1, Iceland would have to beat Croatia by 3, meaning an unlikely 3-0 or 4-1 result to Iceland in that game. This would not be a favourable result for Iceland, who have scored only one in their first two games, and probably won’t “do an England” and go on a goal crazy rampage against a sturdy Croatia side.
Nigeria Beat Argentina
❌ If Musa does a number on Argentina and powers the Super Eagles to victory, we’re going home. Nigeria finish on six points. If Iceland manage to beat Croatia, this cruel combination would mean Iceland’s victory is for nothing, and Nigeria could even top Group D.
Croatia beat Iceland
❌ In any configuration of results, this means we’re going home, and could finish at the bottom of the group with only one World Cup point.
Finally, if Iceland draw second place on four points against Argentina or Nigeria with an equal goal difference, it could come down to the disciplinary record: that is, who has the least yellow cards and red cards to their name. But that possibility gives us a migraine, so let’s skip it.
If all these permutations make your head explode, check out this handy Group D calculator, made by a techie Iceland fan, to see a nice visual representation of the permutations for yourself.
— Ian Hutchinson (@ihutc) June 24, 2018