By the end of the night, England might be forced to look to a most unlikely saviour to get them through to the next round – a flippin’ coin.
Yes, after millions of dollars invested, and with millions more at stake for the countries who advance in the tournament, it could all come down to what amounts to the flip of a coin to decide who progresses in Group C of World Cup 2010.
Technically, the rules state that a drawing of lots will be used after all methods of tie-breaking have been used to separate England from USA if they are somehow tied in Group C, but a lotta the press are just calling it a coin toss.
It’s not quite the same scenario Nike had pictured for Wayne Rooney in those “Write Your Future” ads, but it could very well happen: Rooney could be living in a trailer with a pot belly and matted beard if the coin drops on the wrong side.
The “Write Your Future” advertisement:
I don’t know about you, but I actually hope it happens, just so we get to know exactly how it’s done, be it by tossing a coin, pulling a ball out of a bowl or some Who Wants To Be A Millionaire-style gameshow.
But I can totally imagine Fabio Capello and Bob Bradley drawing straws from Sepp Blatter – who’ll no doubt give a secret wink to Bradley just so that England get kicked out and he can keep moaning on about the Premier League being more successful than him – and Capello going “Dammit!” when he finds out he got the short one.
The chances of any of that happening are slim though. Here’s what the table looks like at the moment:
- Slovenia 4 pts / 3 goals scored / 2 goals conceded
- United States 2 pts / 3 goals scored / 3 goals conceded
- England 2 pts / 1 goal scored / 1 goal conceded
- Algeria 1 pts / 0 goals scored / 1 goal conceded.
So if both England and the USA draw their games tonight, they would be level on THREE points.
In that case, FIFA has a set of tie-breaking rules to help determine who goes through.
The first tie-breaker is goal difference. But both teams now have an identical goal difference, zero, and if they both draw their matches, their goal difference will remain the same.
So they’ll have to go to the next tie-breaker, goals scored. On that count, the USA are ahead, having scored two more goals. But if England have a high scoring draw, let’s say a 3-3 with Slovenia, and the USA only manage a 0-0, then England goes through.
But let’s say both teams end up with an identical goal difference AND goals scored column, FIFA would usually use head-to-head records as the third tie-breaker. That means the team that had a better goal difference or more goals scored in the matches between the two tied teams will go through.
In this case, however, England and USA only played once, a 1-1 draw courtesy of Robert Green’s excellent handling, which means their head-to-head records will be exactly the same.
And that leaves us with the awesome prospect of the most exciting coin toss/lot drawing/whatever it is in the history of the WORLD.
It would be tough luck, literally, for the team who gets knocked out that way, especially for the players who worked hard and dreamed their whole lives for this tournament.
But I guess in this age of lucrative global football broadcasting, re-jigging the TV schedule to fit in a play-off game isn’t really practical.
It’s sad, but that’s the reality of modern football. The game does need money to stay beautiful.