I like soccer. I’ve played it and coached it - women’s, girl’s and boy’s soccer - at the community and college level. I don’t watch it much any more, except the rare times when the Toronto Football Club (TFC) is on television.
To be fair, the soccer I watched on television growing up was usually pretty dull stuff. Playing was waaaaay more fun. I learned how to slide tackle when I was seven-years-old after watching it being done on TV. But I understand people’s criticism of the so-called beautiful game.
During this year’s world cup, that national teams had to earn placement into in carious localized tournaments, there were four teams each in a total of eight divisions.
That’s 32 teams. Each team would play the other three teams in their division (aka bracket) once, with the top two teams from each division moving on to the next round of 16, where it’s a winner-take-all scenario in single game action.
During the round-robin play of the divisions, each win = three points; a tie is worth one point; and a loss mans zero points.
Again… the top two teams from each division with the most points go through.
But what if there’s a tie between the second and third-place team - each having the same number of points.
This happened between Japan and Senegal, but note that they also had Colombia and Poland in their division.
Here’s a recap of the three game each team played, in what was called Group H:
June 19, 2018
Japan: 2 - 1 :Colombia
Senegal: 2 - 1 : Poland
June 24, 2019
Japan: 2 - 2 :Senegal
Colombia: 3 - 0 :Poland
June 28, 2019
Colombia: 1 - 0 :Senegal
Poland: 1 - 0 :Japan
Colombia had 2 Wins and 1 Loss; Goals For (scored by them) 5; Goals Against (goals they let into their net) 2.
5-2 = 3. This is their Goal Differential
Poland had 1 Win and 2 Losses; Goals For (scored by them) 2; Goals Against (goals they let into their net) 5.
2-5 = -3. This is their Goal Differential
Senegal had 1 Win; 1 Draw (tie game); and 1 Loss; Goals For (scored by them) 4; Goals Against (goals they let into their net) 4.
4-4 = 0. This is their Goal Differential
Japan had 1 Win; 1 Draw (tie game); and 1 Loss; Goals For (scored by them) 4; Goals Against (goals they let into their net) 4.
4-4 = 0. This is their Goal Differential
So… the winner of Group H was Colombia - they go to the Round of 16.
Japan and Senegal have the same number of points: 4 and are tied for second
Poland only had three points and are out.
But what to do about Japan and Senegal. How do you break the tie to determine who goes home, and who gets to live again and join Colombia in the Round of 16?
FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) says - keeping in mind that the tie-breaker is settled by the following, in ORDER:
1. greatest number of points obtained in all group matches;
2. goal difference in all group matches;
3. greatest number of goals scored in all group matches.
Hmm… Japan and Senegal have 4 points each; a Goal Differential of 0 each; and have each scored the same number of goals at 4 each.
If still tied, FIFA says the following criteria are used, in the ORDER of their listing:
1. greatest number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned;
2. goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned;
3. greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned;
4. greater number of points obtained in the fair play conduct of the teams based on yellow and red cards received in all group matches;
5. drawing of lots by the FIFA.
Let’s see: Senegal and Japan tied each other when they played, so point 1 is moot;
Goal difference between the two teams, which (am I missing something), was 0. So moot. (If the game was won by one team, then no biggie.. but if the No. 1 criteria shows a TIE/DRAW, then the Goal Differential between the two teams is ALWAYS Equal!!!!) If one team has WON the game between them, ergo No. 2 is not even required to be listed here.
Okay… whatever. Item 3… same number of goals scored between Senegal and Japan when they played each other.
No. 4 Fair play… and yellow card and red card accumulation.
In this case, you do NOT want to have more yellow or red cards than the other team.
A yellow card is given at the referee’s discretion if someone commits a foul against a player on the other team - basically. Referee’s discretion changes between referees, between what two teams are playing, the importance of the game, and even if they (the referee) simply wants the game to finish quickly.
What is a yellow card to some referees is not a yellow card to others.
A Red card is handed out if a player receives two yellow cards in a game, or over the Round Robin, for example, or if a player commits a very dangerous foul with seemingly complete disregard for player safety… or even a handball.
So… in this case, FIFA officials count up the number of Red and Yellow cards issued to each team.
Senegal received 6 yellow cards;
Japan received 4 yellow cards.
No red cards were issued to either team
Because Japan received fewer Yellow cards over the past three Round Robin games within Group H, Japan moves on in the World Cup 2018 to the Round of 16, while Senegal and its fans gets to go home.
By the way… do you know what happens if both teams end up with the same number or Yellow and Red Cards?
FIFA says they draw lots… but it really comes down to a coin toss. I think Scotland took one up the kilt back in the 1970s via this scenario.
Look… I love Japan, but this is a stupid way to decide the future of one tam over another in a global soccer tournament.
Because Japan was nicer, they win.
WTF. Fair Play rule…
Here’s what I propose:
Instead of this ridiculous Fair Play or Lot Drawing scenarios.. before it gets to that… or rather, eliminate that, and at least see how EACH team did against the TOP team in the Round Robin Group.
Top Team in Group H = Colombia
Japan beat Colombia
Senegal lost to Colombia
In this scenario, Japan goes through because they beat the top team, Colombia.
Now… what if both teams tied Colombia… or if both teams were vying for Top and Second spot… and they had to determine ranking to see who plays whom next?
Well, then check the record against the other team in the Group H.
Other Team in Group H = Poland
Poland beat Japan
Senegal beat Poland.
In this scenario (tiebreaker) Senegal goes through to the next round, and Japan is out.
Now… what should happen if they are still tied after all of that?
Every month, FIFA provides a global ranking for teams.
Poland was 8th in the world;
Colombia was 16th in the world;
Senegal was 27th in the world;
Japan was 61st in the world.
By the way... tiny Albania is ranked 58th. And, not one to talk, Canada is ranked 79th… immediately behind Lebanon… aren’t they involved in a war right now with Israel? Yes, they are.
Ergo, Senegal, by virtue of being the higher-ranked team by FIFA, would gain entry to the next round and Japan would be out.
Hey… these FIFA rankings need to carry weight, don’t they?
So… Japan scrapes through to the next round… and now I hope you have a better understanding of why.
As for poor Senegal… it wasn’t because they were a worse team than Japan. It was because they were called for “penalties” more often than Japan.
To me, using "penalties" given out during the games is just dumb.
By the way… Japan knowing what Senegal’s score was, knew it was perfectly acceptable for it (Japan) to lose 1-0 to Poland... and so… for the final 10 minutes of the game between Japan and Poland, the Japanese played keep-away by not trying to score and merely passing the ball back and forth to avoid the chance they might be called for a foul and earn a yellow card.
Japan turned that so-called beautiful game into a sham.
They wanted to avoid the possibility that it could pick up any Yellow cards by trying too hard.
If this was my introduction to soccer - the Japan-Poland game - I would never watch soccer again.
They wasted time for 10 minutes… I'm sure the fans who payed a lot of money to see the game were not entertained.
Fair Play? What fair play?
The Japan national soccer team calls itself the Samurai Blue… and do you know what the samurai of old would do if they had disrespected their master or themselves or the Bushido code of samurai ethics?
They would kill themselves.
I’m not calling for anyone to do that… but yeah… you won Japan… but without honor.
Let's make the beautiful game beautiful again.
PS: In the photo above, a referee gives a Senegal player (in green) a yellow card for his fould against a Colombian player.