World Cup Update: Breaking Down the Group Stage


Students watch the Cameroon/Brazil match that wrapped up the group stage of the World Cup on December 2. Photo by Fred Avett

Lila Sole and Shae Cotter

These past two weeks have been filled with action, surprises, and drama from Qatar. With the 22nd ever World Cup kicking off this winter, there have been triumphs and heartbreaks in countries all around the world, competing through the tough group stage of the tournament. Who made it through, and who will seize the opportunity of a lifetime by lifting the World Cup Trophy?

The 32 teams who qualified for the FIFA World Cup were split up into eight groups, four teams in each group. The goal of the group stage is to fight against your opponents to gain enough points to make it through to the knockout round of 16 teams. In order to complete this task, teams have to get first or second place out of their group of four, otherwise they are eliminated. Throughout the tournament thus far, there have been many surprises as there always are in the World Cup, but here is the Blue & Gold’s complete rundown of what happened during the Group Stage of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Group A
1: Netherlands, 2: Senegal, 3: Ecuador, D: Qatar

Group A was one of the few groups that turned out as I predicted. The Netherlands topped the group, and are set to face off against the US Saturday, December 3, in the round of 16. Though the US has had an impressive run, many find that the Netherlands are more likely to advance further.
“I mean I looked at the score prediction and it said that the Netherlands have a 70% chance of winning,” said Brendan Cole (‘25).
These beliefs are justified. The Netherlands are currently strong contenders, with quality players like Virgil van Dijk and Frankie de Jong boosting the squad, but some still have their doubts.
“I haven’t been super obsessed with Holland – or the Netherlands – so that gives me a lot of hope for the US,” said teacher and soccer coach Darren Silberman.
While the Netherlands won both their games versus Senegal and Qatar, they failed to beat Ecuador in a draw where they were far from their best, with Ecuador eventually getting 15 shots to the Netherlands’ 2.
Senegal was the second team out of that group to advance, playing England on Sunday. The host nation Qatar lost all of their games, and were the first team to be eliminated after their loss vs. Senegal, while Ecuador also eventually came up short with only four points.

Group B
1: England, 2: USA, 3: Iran, 4: Wales
Group B was full of surprises, firsts, and heartbreak. England managed to top the group with 7 points, and are set to face Senegal in the knockout round of 16 on December 4 at 2 p.m. Along with that, the US managed to pull off a 1-0 win against Iran, securing their spot in the round of 16. They are set to play the Netherlands. Many people had a lot to say about the US and their run so far in the World Cup.
“I thought it was interesting that the United States made it out of the group,” said Eli Ritchey (‘22). “I was happy for them to make it through, but I honestly didn’t think they would.”

As many are following the US and their run in this year’s cup, the team has held an impression comparatively different than other years.
“Well living in the US we are all following and want them to do well, so I think that’s the team that has stood out the most for me,” said Silberman.
Since finally competing in the World Cup after not qualifying since 2014, the team was composed of many fresh faces. This year’s USA squad is the second youngest team of the competition with an average age of 25.2 years old. Only Ghana had a younger squad, proving that the US team may be considered inexperienced because of this age difference, but by going through they proved many of these opinions differently. Losing to the USA, Iran just nearly missed out on gaining a spot in the top 16. After only scoring one point with a controversial tie to the USA, Wales were quite a long way away from the knockout rounds, finishing bottom of their group.

Group C
1: Argentina, 2: Poland, 3: Mexico, 4: Saudi Arabia

This group was one of the most interesting, and started with a shocking upset. The very first game of Group C saw a Saudi Arabia team ranked 51st in the world beat the number three Argentina by 2-to-1, snapping a 36 game unbeaten streak for Argentina.
“Saudi Arabia beating Argentina [was the biggest surprise] so far,” said Brady Price-Wittenauer (‘25).
Despite a rough start, Argentina eventually pulled it together, with wins over both Mexico and Poland, and finished top of the group.
“[Argentina’s] been great, they were great yesterday, and Messi’s turning on the juice slowly but surely so they’ve been everything that we all expected for them,” said Silberman.
Saudi Arabia eventually ended up only with the three points from their win versus Argentina, and finished bottom of the group. The competition for the coveted second spot in the knockout rounds was tough, with Mexico and Poland, who drew 0-0 in their match, eventually finishing level on points, after both teams lost to Argentina and beat Saudi Arabia. However, in the end, Poland had the better goal differential and will be playing France in the round of 16. This marked the first time that Mexico hasn’t advanced to the knockout round in the World Cup since 1978.
“The Mexico team hasn’t been as strong this year as it has in the past,” said Eli Ritchey (‘25).

Group D
1: France, 2: Australia, 3: Tunisia, 4: Denmark

Group D was a smashing battle between France, Australia, Tunisia, and Denmark that oozed drama all the way down to the last day. By no surprise, the reigning champions of the 2018 World Cup, France, finished top of their group with 6 points, but the second place team took many people by surprise, with Australia gaining this seed. Australia even narrowly missed out on topping the group, but it all went down to goal differential. Denmark was the most surprising of the group. They went from placing fourth in the Euros to getting knocked out of the World Cup Group Stage.

“Denmark as a whole was underwhelming. Everyone thought they would do really well like in their last run in the Euros, but I found them underwhelming,” said Silberman.
Besides their shocking tie in their opener vs Tunisia, Denmark ended their run with a whopping one point, raising many eyebrows. Speaking of Tunisia, they placed just above Denmark in the Group D standings, just out of reach for competing in the round of 16.

Group E
1: Japan, 2: Spain, 3: Germany, 4: Costa Rica

In a World Cup group stage full of excitement and shock eliminations, group E stood out as particularly astounding. In a turn of events that almost no one predicted, Japan ended up finishing top of the group, advancing onward with Spain, but knocking out Germany.
“Germany losing to Japan [was a big surprise],” said Ritchey.
The surprises didn’t end there, either. After Spain demolished Costa Rica, Costa Rica ended up beating Japan, leading some to think Japan’s good form was up. However, after Spain drew Germany, Japan beat Spain in a stunning match by 2-to-1. This meant that even after Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2, Germany was effectively edged out, tying on points with Spain, but losing on tiebreak.
Japan has easily been one of the biggest standout teams so far, as many saw Spain and Germany (ranked 7th and 11th in the world, respectively) moving on, but Japan crushed Germany’s hopes with a fabulous group stage performance that stunned the world.
“Japan has been amazing,” said Silberman.

Group F
1: Morocco, 2: Croatia, 3: Belgium, 4: Canada

Shocking wins and defeats were all that was known in Group F. Filled with four teams Morocco, Croatia, Belgium, and Canada, many people went for the names they knew well, but Morocco led the way of the group proving everyone wrong, topping the group with 7 points.
“The biggest surprise for me was Morocco making it through, even topping the group. I am from South Africa so I follow all the African countries, and that was a huge plus for us and them in general. They also have one Chelsea player and I’m a huge Chelsea fan, yea Hakim Ziyech, and he scored a bunch of goals for them, so that was my biggest surprise so far,” said Silberman.
Hakim Ziyech has scored two incredible goals from his midfield position. The first goal was a smashing strike from his defensive half, chipping the keeper in his efforts. Not only was it the second quickest goal scored in the tournament, but many believe it will be a contender for goal of the tournament announced at the end of the competition.
Croatia placed second as they have been in perfect form in the last decade. Not only did they reach the final in the 2018 World Cup, but they have also gotten to the top four in the Nations League this year. They gained a win over Canada and two ties completing their five points that earned them their place in the round of 16.

Belgium was the most surprising out of this group. With incredible players like Kevin De Bruyne who is considered the best midfielder in the world, as well as Cortois who is considered the best goalkeeper in the world after his efforts to win Real Madrid the Champions League in 2022, many people were shocked by them being eliminated so early.
“I had Belgium going far on my bracket, so I’m really surprised that they didn’t even make it out of the group,” said Maya Rao (‘25)
After their disappointing run, Belgium ended up in third with 4 points, only placing higher than Canada. Canada had one of the worst times in this World Cup, being just the second team eliminated after Qatar, and losing all three of their games, ultimately gaining 0 points in the competition.

Group G
1: Brazil, 2: Switzerland, 3: Cameroon, 4: Serbia

Some things just hold true in World Cup play, and Brazil held true. They won their first two matches – enough to qualify for the knock-out stage – and lost their third match to Cameroon. Many students at CHS feel Brazil is the team to beat in this World Cup.
Switzerland also made it out of the group with a third round win over Serbia.

Group H
1: Portugal, 2: South Korea, 3: Uruguay 4: Ghana

As one of the last groups to be resolved, group H provided a fascinating penultimate addition to the group stage. In another underdog upset, South Korea finished second in the group after Portugal to secure a spot in the group stage.
“South Korea’s playing has been shaky, but recently they’ve started to show their strength,” said Ethan Huang (‘25).
“Uruguay played a hard and tough game, scored a lot of goals, but they needed one more, and they didn’t get it. It must be heartbreaking for the Uruguayans to win their game, but not make it,” said Silberman.

Knock-Out Round

The 16 teams that made it out of the group stage begin play on December 3, and lo and behold the first of these eight games will be the United States against the Netherlands. The orange played very well during their group games and the Americans are banged up – Christian Pulisic suffered a brutal injury during the match with Iran, finished that match somehow and is expected to play Saturday – but all eyes will be on this match to see if the underdogs can pull off an upset.
These matches continue Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and each one is a win or go home scenario. Teams will play to the two 45-minute halves, and then go into extra time if they are tied, and ultimately end in penalty kicks to decide a winner if needed.
Our best guess? The quarterfinals will feature: the Netherlands, Argentina, England, France, Japan, Brazil, Portugal and Spain. Sorry USA.
The quarterfinals begin on December 8 (during the school day) and we will update our thoughts and predictions on December 7.