How the Matildas can qualify for WC Rd16

The Matildas' pathway to the World Cup knockout stage is more complicated than it looks.

clare polkinghorne of the matildas runs with the ball during the international friendly match between the australian matildas and thailand at nib stadium in perth australia
CLARE POLKINGHORNE of the Matildas runs with the ball during the International Friendly Match between the Australian Matildas and Thailand at NIB Stadium in Perth, Australia. Picture: Will Russell/Getty Images

MAKING SENSE OF THE MATILDAS QUALIFYING ROUTE FOR WORLD CUP ROUND OF 16

The Matildas' first-up loss to Italy makes their next clash with Brazil crucial in determining their World Cup fate.

But it's not a do-or-die game, given the complicated format.

* How can the Matildas qualify for the knockout stage?

Traditionally at major tournaments, two teams qualify from each group of four.

In France, 24 competing teams are shed to 16 teams; meaning the four best third-placed finishers will join the top two from each group to produce a round of 16.

After one round of matches, Italy and Brazil have three points, Australia and Jamaica have none.

* How many points do you need to finish third?

Let's look at previous 24-team tournaments that have employed the system.

At the 2015 Women's World Cup, Sweden went through with three points after three draws and a goal difference of zero.

At the 2016 European Championships, both Portugal - the eventual winners - and Northern Ireland also snuck through with three points and a neutral goal difference.

Earlier this year at the Asian Cup, Vietnam snuck through with three points and a goal difference of negative one; edging Lebanon.

So, history would suggest four points, or three points and a positive goal difference, is enough to advance from the group stage.

* So third is good enough, right?

Not so fast. If the Matildas get through their position will also determine who they play in the next round.

If the Matildas finish top, which is unlikely but still possible, they will play a third-placed finisher.

If the Matildas place second, they will play the runners-up from Group A; most likely Norway.

If the Matildas finish as one of the best third-placed finishers, they are likely to play the winner of Group A; most likely France.

So, if Australia are keen to avoid a likely round-of-16 date with the tournament hosts and favourites, defeating Brazil is critical.


AAP