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World Cup permutations: how can Argentina qualify for last 16?

Lionel Messi Argentina

With one round of group games to go at Russia 2018, we've wrapped up all of the possible outcomes for the eight pools

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Argentina are the biggest World Cup nation in danger of being sent home early from Russia 2018. After taking a single point from their first two matches in Group D, Lionel Messi & Co. need to produce a winning display against Nigeria to stay in the tournament.

But there are plenty of other teams yet to secure their place in the knockout stage of the World Cup. Here, we wrap up everything you need to know about the permutations for all eight groups heading into the final round of fixtures...

Group A

Russia and Uruguay have already confirmed their places in the last 16, but top spot is still up for grabs when they meet in Samara on Monday. But with Spain potentially finishing behind Portugal in Group B, the advantage may be minimal. 

In the other game between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, only pride is at stake. Saudi Arabia have finished bottom of their group at their past three World Cups.

Group B

Euro 2016 champions Portugal and Iberian neighbours Spain were strongly tipped to progress from Group B, and with one game remaining that looks to be the case. 

Spain play already-eliminated Morocco in their last game and only need a point, while Iran have to upset Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal to leapfrog them in the table and qualify. But who finishes top is on the table: both nations have matching goals for and against.

Group C

Despite failing to impress in one-goal wins over Australia and Peru, France are guaranteed a place in the last 16. Les Bleus play Denmark in their final fixture, with the latter requiring a point to be certain of following them through Group C.

With Peru out after failing to score in either of their defeats, Australia will be hoping for three points that would draw them level with Denmark, should they lose to France.

If teams finish level on points, goal difference will be used to decide the final group placings. Goals scored is the next criteria, followed by the head-to-head record of the tied teams. Should there still be no winner, fair play points will be tallied. And if it's still a tie, FIFA will draw lots.

Group D

Argentina's fate is out of their hands, but Nigeria's defeat of Iceland on matchday two was a good result for the two-time winners. Jorge Sampaoli's men must beat the Super Eagles to move onto four points, giving themselves a chance of progressing.

But they could be out anyway if Iceland can beat Group D leaders Croatia, who may feel their last match is a chance to rest players for the knockout rounds. Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel has already warned Croatia to play their strongest side against Iceland.

Should Argentina be knocked out, it will be the first time they fail to make it through the group stage in 16 years.

Group E

While Argentina have toiled in Group D, South American rivals Brazil look set to make it through Group E - even though their passage has not been straightforward, with two late goals needed to down Costa Rica in their last match.

Tite's men are through if they get at least a point against Serbia in Moscow on Wednesday. After Xherdan Shaqiri's late winner in Switzerland's 2-1 defeat of Serbia, they are in pole position to follow Neymar's side through.

Costa Rica are out, and Switzerland only need to avoid defeat to guarantee qualification from the group stage for a third time in the last four World Cups.

Group F

Toni Kroos' dramatic late winner on Saturday kicked Germany's campaign into gear, and they can secure their progression to the last 16 if they match Sweden's result in the final game.

Mexico only need a draw against Sweden to qualify, while the latter will go through should they better Germany's result against South Korea.

South Korea face an uphill challenge: they must beat the defending world champions and hope Sweden lose, while also improving their goal difference.

Group G

Things are very simple for England and Belgium: they're both already through with six points, and the winner of Thursday's game would top the group. 

Were the clash to end as a draw, first place would be decided on the number of cards received due to identical records elsewhere. England currently have one fewer. Should both sides finish with the same number, lots will be drawn.

Group H

Poland are out, but the remaining three teams could still reach the knockout stage.

Draws for Japan (against Poland) and Senegal (against Colombia) will send the top two through, but Colombia will qualify if they beat their African rivals.

If Colombia win, Japan will need to lose by fewer goals than Senegal to progress.

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