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Are World Cup groups decided by goal difference or head to head? What happens if England and Belgium are level on points?

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What happens if two or more teams finish level on points at the group stage of the 2018 World Cup in Russia?

FIFA have set out an extensive set of rules to cover each and every scenario, just in case a pair of sides (potentially England and Belgium) end up on the same number of points after three games.

England could hypothetically end up level on points with Belgium at the top of Group G

The first thing to note is that World Cup groups are decided by goal difference first, not head to head.

After goal difference comes goals scored, then head to head, fair play points and finally a drawing of lots.

In the unlikely event that three teams all finish on the same number of points, their positions are once again first decided by goal difference and goals scored.

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However, if they’re still even on that front, then FIFA create a head to head mini-league between them which consists solely of the games the three teams played against one another.

They are then ranked by their position in this league, before it goes to fair play points and drawing of lots.

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So, to clarify…

If two teams finish level on points in a World Cup group, then they are separated by:

1. Goal difference in all matches

2. Goals scored in all matches

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3. Winner of the head to head meeting between two teams who finished level

4. Greatest number of fair play points (yellow card = -1 points, two yellows resulting in a red card = -3 points, straight red card = -4 points, yellow card, then straight red card = 5 points)

5. Random drawing of lots

If the teams are level on absolutely everything else, then a random draw will be forced to decide who finishes highest

If three teams finish level on points in a World Cup group, then they are separated by:

1. Goal difference in all matches

2. Goals scored in all matches

3. Most points in head to head league between the three teams

4. Goal difference in head to head league between the three teams

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5. Goals scored in head to head league between the three teams

6. Greatest number of fair play points (yellow card = -1 points, two yellows resulting in a red card = -3 points, straight red card = -4 points, yellow card, then straight red card = 5 points)

7. Random drawing of lots

talkSPORT will be with listeners all day and all night at this year’s 2018 FIFA World Cup™ with over 800 hours of World Cup content and all 64 games live across the talkSPORT network.

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