With a 0:0 draw against Belgium in the 3rd round of Group F, Croatia secured a spot in the 2022 World Cup round of 16 on Thursday night.
Morocco topped Group F with seven points, Croatia finished in second with 5, and Belgium and Canada were knocked out of the tournament.
After Croatia and Belgium finished, the Group E matches were played. And what a crazy way we got to find out Croatia’s next World Cup opponent.
Japan beat Spain 2-1 and topped Group E, meaning they play Croatia as the second-placed team min Group F. Spain thus finished second in Group E and will play Morocco, who finished first in Group F. Germany and Costa Rica have been knocked out of the tournament.
You can find all of the possible scenarios of how Croatia learned about its opponent below.
How Croatia’s round of 16 match opponent was decided
If Spain beat Japan, they were guaranteed first place. A draw was enough for Spain to pass from first place. However, Spain could have dropped to second only if Costa Rica beat Germany. If Spain lost to Japan, they needed a draw between Costa Rica and Germany or for Germany to win to advance. In that case, goal difference is the deciding factor.
Japan could not lose if they wanted a spot in the round of 16. If Japan and Spain drew, Japan would go through if Germany and Costa Rica drew. A draw could also happen if Germany won, but then the total number of goals scored by those teams is considered. A Japan win secured their spot in the next round, almost certainly from first place.
Germany was in the most difficult situation in terms of points and only needed a win against Costa Rica. With a win, Germany would be in second place. However, they could only be first if Japan beat Spain – then the goal difference between Germany and Spain would be considered, and Spain has a big advantage there.
Costa Rica would be eliminated if they lost. They could only move on with a point if Spain beat Japan. If Costa Rica won, they could have been first only if Spain and Japan played a draw.
Croatia and Japan thus play their round of 16 match on Monday, December 5, at 6 pm local time.
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