World Cup Today: History is made as fair-play points send Japan into final 16

Through the years, FIFA has adopted any number of different ways to break ties.

The 1934 and 1938 World Cups were knockout competitions from beginning to end, and replays were used if matches were tied. (A replay in Paris sent Switzerland through at Germany's expense in 1934, the last time Germany failed to get out of the first round until this year.)

In 1954 and 1958, playoffs were used if teams were tied on points for second and third place. (Germany won the 1954 World Cup after getting out of the group stage thanks to a playoff win over Turkey.)

In 1990, the drawing of lots was used to separate Ireland and the Netherlands for second and third place -- both advanced, Ireland in second place and the Netherlands as one of the four best third-place teams.

But a tie has never been broken like it was in Group H on Thursday.

Japan and Senegal went into the final day of group play tied for the group lead with four points, one more than Colombia. They had both opened with 2-1 wins, then played to a 2-2 tie. Both lost 1-0 on Thursday, leaving them tied on points, goal difference, goals scored and in head-to-head play.

FIFA's rules now call for one final tiebreaker before the drawing of lots: fair-play points. FIFA attributes negative points to yellow cards and red cards and the team that advances is the one with the most fair-play points (fewest negative points).

Senegal went into Thursday's action with five yellow cards, two more than Japan, and both teams picked up one on Thursday.

When Colombia scored to go ahead against Senegal in the 74th minute, Japan knew it was still through even though it was trailing Poland, 1-0, as long as Senegal didn't even things up.

That resulted in Japan spending the last quarter hour in Volgograd making sure it didn't allow another goal -- and didn't pick up two yellow cards or a red card. It didn't go over well with fans in the Volgograd Arena, but it worked.

“I decided that I was going to rely on the other match’s result,” Japan coach Akira Nishino admitted.

The results -- and fair-play standings -- stood, and Japan was through to the final 16 for the third time in its history.

Trivia. Senegal's exit meant that no African team made it to the final 16 for the first time since the knockout stage was expanded to 16 teams in 1986.

Group H ...
Tuesday, June 19
2 Colombia 1.
(Kagawa pen. 6, Osako 73; Quintero 39. Att.: 40,842.)
Senegal 2 Poland 1.
(Own goal 37, Niang 60; Krychowiak 86. Att.: 44,190.)
Sunday, June 24
2 Senegal 2.
(Inui 34, Honda 78; Mane 11, Wague 71. Att.: 32,572.)
Colombia 3 Poland 0.
(Mina 40, Falcao 70, Cuadrado 75. Att.: 42,873.)
Thursday, June 28
1 Japan 0.
(Bednarek 59. Att.: 42,189.)
Colombia 1 Senegal 0.
(Mina 74. Att.: 41,970.)

1. Colombia, 6 points (5-2)
2. Japan, 4 points (4-4)
3. Senegal, 4 points (4-4)
4. Poland, 3 points (2-5)
1 comment about "World Cup Today: History is made as fair-play points send Japan into final 16".
  1. Robert Golden, June 28, 2018 at 10:21 p.m.

    I think more negative points should be assessed for Japan’s late game tactics than for accumulated yellow and red cards. I have a hard time acknowledging their advancement on the basis of fair play. They were gaming the system. I don’t blame them. It turned out to be a successful strategy. I’m just saying there should be some disincentive for such an unwatchable display.

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