Thursday, June 08, 2006

How does the World Cup work?

With the increase in media coverage over the past few days, I have seen an up tick in traffic. Since some of the folks hitting this blog might be a little green to soccer, I thought I would take a moment to answer a basic question I’ve heard asked a few times (by that I mean people searching google for the information).

How does the World Cup work?

There are 32-national teams in the 2006 World Cup. There are two phases in the World Cup. Phase 1 is the group phase while Phase 2 is the knockout phase.

Phase 1 – Group phase

The 32-teams have been divided into 8 groups of four teams each. These groups are labeled A-H.

All four teams in each group play each other once. Think of this as the regular season in basketball or baseball. Teams are award 3-points for a win and 1-point for a tie.

The two teams with the most points are the end of the group phase move on to the second phase. (see example below)

Phase 2 – Knockout phase

The knockout phase contains the top 2 teams from each of the 8 groups. These teams are seeded and then play a winner take all playoff. This is just like college basketball’s NCAA Championship or the American football playoffs.

In knockout games, there obviously cannot be any ties. If a game is tied after the 90-minutes of regular time, two 15-minute overtime periods will be played. Both overtime periods will be played even if a team scores a goal (there is no golden goal).

If the game is still tied after the extra 30-minutes, it moves to penalty kicks. Each team will take 5-shots. If one team gets more of these 5 then the other, they win. If they are tied after 5 shots, the game goes to a one shot system. If one team misses a shot while the other makes it, the game is over.

The 16 teams go down to 8 then to 4 then to the championship (there is also a third place game played by the teams who lost in the final 4). The winner of the championship game wins the cup.

I hope this helps explain how all this works.

Here is an example of the group phase:

Group A – Germany, Costa Rica, Poland, Ecuador.
Germany 3-1 Costa Rica (Germany gets 3 points)
Poland 2-0 Ecuador (Poland gets 3 points)

Costa Rica 1-1 Ecuador (both teams get 1 point)
Germany 2-0 Poland (Germany gets 3 points)

Costa Rica 2-2 Poland (both teams get 1 point)
Germany 1-1 Ecuador (both teams get 1 point)

Final Group table
Germany – 7points
Poland – 4 points
Costa Rica – 2 points
Ecuador – 2 points

Germany and Poland move on to the second phase.

If teams are tied on points, then you look at who won the game between the two tied teams. If neither team won, then you look at goal difference (number of goals they scored minus the number of goals other teams scored against them). The team with the best goal difference advances. If they are still tied, the team the scored the most goals during all of their group play advances.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great quick explanation!

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Cari said...

Thank you for the info. I tried to find it on the FIFA site. How do they pick which teams go in each group. Some seems much tougher than others such as USA in the "group of death"?

11:46 AM  
Blogger Mike H said...

Cari, here is my best shot of explaining the group selections:

yes, some of the groups are much harder then others. The US really got the bad end of the stick this time out.

hope it helps you out.

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I've been looking for an intelligent, concise explanation of the World Cup basics and couldn't find one until I logged on here.
Thank you very much!

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, this makes for a great carpool conversation.

3:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks! Very helpful!!

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks now i finally understand

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely incredible. You explained what countries around the world were incapable of explaining. The world cup is instantly more enjoyable. Cheers!

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your help. Things now make sense and I can enjoy the game more. Cheers

10:00 PM  
Anonymous death by vegemite said...

Nutella is great isn't it? So is your blog. Thank you for the great how-to-understand-it (how the world cup works). If only all sport lovers were as eloquent and succinct and decent as you!

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks from me too! I started watching a game at the gym yesterday and got curious as to how it worked.

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

brilliant - like others here you can wade your way through acres of official FIFA sites the world over and not one of them explains how the World Cup tournament actually works. Neither do any of the commentators on the television coverage. Neither do any of the newspaper tournament guides that list all the teams in each group but not how they get through the group phase. Thanks heaps, bro. I and my kids can now get a handle on what's going on!

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You seem to understand how it all works so...
What happens if Czech beats Italy and the US beats Ghana. As I understand it, that would give Czech 6 pts and both the US and Italy 4 pts making them tied for 2nd place in their group. Since the US and Italy tied when they played, how would the "second place" team be picked to go on? (A PK shootout?)

10:47 PM  
Blogger M.Bison said...

Brilliant Explanation!
I was at a loss completely as to how the system works but your explanation is concise.
Just 1 question. How does the points on in match work?
If its 2-0 winner gets 3pt
Draw - 1 pt each.
What about 2-1? or 1-0?

6:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the only explanation of the tournament anywhere. You can't even find this information on the official world cup OC website....ridiculous.

Long live the bloggers.

7:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, this was the only place I could find an explanation of how the world cup works. Fifa just assumes that everyone knows. Thank you!

9:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

whats all this crap about.."U.S.A got the rough end of the stick?", Italy is your only major threat, take alook at Togo's group or Australia's....I think ur excuses for sucking ass are a little lame

10:21 AM  
Anonymous cfboggs said...

What a great site, Mike. I love soccer (fell in love with Italy, playing with kids and going to their league matches), but don't know a lot about it. I appreciate your passion for the sport and your willingness to share your knowledge and experience with those of us just getting our toes wet on the technical end of the soccer pool.

10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with anonymous....USA soccer team does suck...actually....the USA soccer league sucks


11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I searched for "How does the World Cup work?" because I was hoping Google had a resource explaining exactly how the grouping system worked. I pressed "I feel lucky" and your page showed up.

Thank you.

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the simple explanation! Couldn't find anything anywhere else....

1:08 PM  
Anonymous melissa said...

Very Very good blog......I am not a soccer fan but I wanted to know as much if not more than my boyfriend so this kinda put the cherry on top.

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As Mother that had no idea what my kids were talking about before, I am happy I can now discuss the world cup with them and understand Thanks to your explanation above.

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, who's on first? Ha, ha....No, really, thanks for the help. I also goggled "How does the World Cup Work" and found the answer.

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Robin Tatam said...

Check out this 1-pager to outline all of the games and how the structure of the tournament is:

3:41 PM  
Anonymous mg said...

thank you for the great description! I'm looking foward to the next world cup, which i'll actually understand now thanks to this site.

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

here you go guys, a compilation of the greatest footballers of all time!

there's no pass, enjoy!

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, thank you for the great explanation. I've been curious about the sport for a long time now and still wasn't able to completely understand how it works. I've asked many a football/soccer fan to explain the game, did searches online, but no one explained it as brilliantly as you.

5:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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12:58 AM  
Anonymous Dylan said...

Hey thanks, but what if after all the games and they go into the tournament/bracket what happens if two teams are tied?

7:07 PM  
Blogger ians rant said...

can anyone help me i want to know who will play who in the group stages of the quarter finals can you send to thanks ian

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Help Thanks so much! So it seems like the world cup is a lot about chance and seeding. How Are the group arranged and selected?

7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks so much for the explaination. very succinct.

1:35 PM  
Anonymous England's gonna win said...

In the event of a tie during the group phase, the Fifa regulations are as follows:

1.greatest number of points in all group matches;
2.goal difference in all group matches;
3.greatest number of goals scored in all group matches;
4.greatest number of points in matches between tied teams;
5.goal difference in matches between tied teams;
6.greatest number of goals scored in matches between tied teams;
7.drawing of lots by the FIFA Organising Committee.

So except in extremely rare cases, it's based on the total goals scored by the tied teams. Can you imagine the uproar that would occur if Fifa had to draw lots to see who moved on?

3:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Much appreciated! Thanks for the clear cut explanation! :)

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks! Great Explanation

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks - a great explanation, and I was amazed to see nothing like this on Wiki or the FIFA site!

Very helpful - thanks again.

6:52 PM  
Blogger rlhurwi said...

This was incredibly helpful! It's years later... but I'm sure the same information applies. Thanks for breaking it down!

9:21 AM  
Blogger marylittlebit said...

thanks for the simple yet thorough explanation, and for leaving it on your blog so that four years later we would be able to find it! :)

2:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so very much! I wasted so much time at the official sites!

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wat the ****

3:52 PM  
Anonymous VonMarie said...

This is cool, thanks for the detailed explaination!

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice explanation......cheers mate...
comment by kailash dude :-)))))

4:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how long does the world cup last?

4:46 AM  
Anonymous Rich Levin said...

Perfect! Thank you,

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent explanation!

7:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly what I wanted to know. No bs! Great explanation!

5:00 PM  
Blogger kola said...

Hi - and thank you. but can you explain one thing to me? I read that if France can win the next game with South Africa, that they still might have a shot at advancing to the knockout phase AS LONG AS Mexico and uruguay don't tie. Can you help me understand this? Much Thanks! Enjoy the games!

11:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, This is exactly what I wanted. Glad Google had you as the top result!!!

12:31 AM  
Anonymous -Robert from Albany, New York, USA said...

Thanks a million for a concise and helpful explanation! You rule!

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't get it. In group H, Switzerland beat Spain head to head and have the same points. But why is Spain rank ahead of Switzerland. If team A beats team B, then clearly team A is better then team B.

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you! I feel like I can finally enjoy a game without feeling absolutely clueless!

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i felt like I was not a part of the group when all my friends talked about the world cup. i just cheered when they were happy and got mad when they were. lol
but now i can talk and actually have an idea of what's gong on~ :)

8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

shut up mike

11:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say that I really appreciate your clarity. It's hard to get interested in something when everyone else already assumes you know how the hell it works. Great job.

11:49 AM  
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