Belgium, Colombia on top as Japan squeeze through

  • Japan become the first team to qualify for the knockout rounds on Fair Play points

  • Belgium beat England to win Group G

  • JPN 0-1 POL | SEN 0-1 COL | PAN 1-2 TUN | ENG 0-1 BEL

DAY REPLAYED – There was a first in FIFA World Cup™ history on Thursday, as Russia 2018 became the first edition of the competition in which group positions had to be decided on the basis of the fair play rule.

The team who benefited were Japan, who lost 1-0 to Poland but advanced to the last 16 thanks to Colombia's defeat of Senegal. Tied on every other criterion in second place in Group H, the Japanese advanced at the expense of the Senegalese due to the fact that they amassed -4 fair play points (calculated according to the number of yellow and red cards received) to the Africans’ -6.

They will now take on Belgium in Rostov-on-Don on 2 July, the Belgians having topped Group G thanks to a 1-0 defeat of England, with Adnan Januzaj scoring a wonder goal to settle the game. The Red Devils now find themselves in what is, on paper at least, the toughest half of the draw, which features teams who have won 10 World Cups between them and finished runners-up six times. The sides in the other half of the draw have won just two world titles in all (Spain and England) and include a solitary runner-up (Sweden).

England will now face Colombia in Moscow on 3 July, with Jose Pekerman’s side once again indebted to a Yerry Mina header as they saw off Senegal. Though delighted to have reached the last 16 for the third time in their history, Cafetero joy was tempered by the sight of James Rodriguez limping off with a muscle strain.

Tunisia signed off with a smile after winning their first world finals match since Argentina 1978, courtesy of a 2-1 defeat of Panama. Fakhreddine Ben Youssef’s goal, which brought the sides level at 1-1, was the 2,500th in the history of the World Cup.

Did you know? The only previous occasion on which fair play points decided group placings at a FIFA tournament was at the U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016, when USA edged out France in Group C.

Upcoming matches 30 June

France-Argentina, Round of 16, Kazan Uruguay-Portugal, Round of 16, Sochi

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