Rule of thirds: Who are the best third-place teams in the Women's World Cup?

Twelve teams have already booked their places in the Women's World Cup Round of 16. As the tournament heads into the last leg of the group stage, here's what the knockout qualification game looks like.

Womens World Cup

The tournament is still wide open with nine teams still fighting for to book their places in the Women's World Cup Round of 16.   -  Reuters, AP, Getty Images

Eight games remain in the group stages of this edition of the FIFA Women's World Cup and 12 teams have already qualified to the Round of 16. The top-two teams from every group automatically qualify.

France, Germany, Italy, England, Japan, USA, Norway, Canada, Netherlands, China, Spain and Sweden have secured their knockout berths.

It all boils down now to the best third-place teams.

READ | Women's World Cup: Results and standings

As the tournament heads into the last leg of the group stage, here's what the knockout qualification game looks like.


Group A: France and Norway are already through to the last-16. South Korea has been eliminated after its loss to Norway on Monday. Nigeria will have to wait with bated breath to see how the other group results turn out for a chance to make it to the knockouts. Nigeria has three points with a goal difference of -2. It has managed to score 2 goals.

Group B: Germany and Spain - the top-two teams in this group - have automatically qualified. China has qualified as one of the best third-place teams, courtesy of four points from the group stages and a decent goal difference. South Africa bowed out of the tournament after a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Germany.

Group C: This group is still wide open, with only Italy confirming its last-16 berth. Brazil and Australia only need a draw from their final group matches to guarantee a place in the knockouts. Jamaica has a Herculean task at hand. With a goal difference of -8, it must beat Australia by a margin that nullifies this GD to have a chance to claim a spot in the knockouts. This, and a little bit of luck with the results of other fixtures, might give the Reggae Girlz a slim chance of progressing.

Group D: England and Japan are already through. With a game each, this will be about deciding who takes the top spot in the draw. Scotland will feel the jitters though as it must beat Argentina to have a claim to that third-place spot. A draw or a loss will mean elimination.

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However, there are loopholes to this algorithm, even if Scotland wins. If all of the following possibilities take form, Scotland is in trouble if:

  • China vs Spain ends in a draw
    UPDATE: The tie between China and Spain ended in a goalless draw.
  • Brazil, Australia, Nigeria and Norway win their games:
    UPDATE: Norway finished with a win against Korea, while Nigeria lost to France. Brazil managed a victory against Italy and Australia thumped Jamaica in their final group games.
  • Cameroon vs New Zealand ends with a winning margin that's two more than Scotland's victory over Argentina.
  • Chile beats Thailand by five goals more than Scotland's win margin. If Scotland finishes with a better goal difference than any of the winners from the remaining clashes in Groups E and F, it will comfortably sail through, for the first time.

GAME UPDATE: Argentina held Scotland to a 3-3 draw.

Argentina now finishes with 2 points and a goal difference of -1. Scotland drops to fourth in the table and finishes with 0 points, effectively eliminating it from the tournament.

Argentina has a slim chance of staying in this tournament, if the Cameroon vs New Zealand and Chile vs Thailand end in draws. If

Group E: Canada and the Netherlands are through to the last-16. Cameroon and New Zealand need a win to advance and will hope the other third-place contenders fall short in their respective pursuits. If Cameroon or New Zealand win by 2 goals, then the winner makes it through. That will take Argentina out of the running.

Group F: Defending champion USA and Sweden are both through to the knockouts. Thailand stares at a goal difference of -18 which it needs to nullify, and improve on, to have a chance to scrape through. Luck favours Chile here if it can manage a win over Thailand when the two face off later in the week.

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A knockout qualification is only half the job done as the third-place teams usually face group leaders in the knockouts. In 2015, none of the third-spot sides managed to progress to the business end of the tournament. One will have to wait and see if 2019 follows suit.