With the World Cup knock-out places starting to take shape, the final Group G match between England and Belgium on Thursday risks descending into farce with both sides having plenty to gain by avoiding finishing ahead of the other.
Group standings after end of second round of games
The second-placed nation in the group will go into the side of the draw that is likely to feature Brazil, Germany, France, and one of Spain and Portugal, as well as wildcards Nigeria, who will take on Argentina in a Group D shoot-out, and Senegal, who could yet top Group H.
The other side of the draw is a less daunting prospect, with the winners of Group G likely to play either Japan or Colombia, with Senegal facing already eliminated Poland in their final game.
Mexico or Switzerland could be potential quarterfinal opponents, with Uruguay, Croatia, Denmark, Spain or Portugal in the semi-finals.
Fair Play system could be used to avoid tougher route
England and Belgium are locked on points and goal difference and in the case of a draw in Kaliningrad the group winner will be decided by Fair Play. Roberto Martínez’s side currently have three cautions and Gareth Southgate’s two, which would send England through as group winners.
In order to avoid finishing top in the group, both sides may go out of their way to get their names in the referee’s notebook. If it finishes all square and both teams have the same number of cards the outcome will be decided by the drawing of lots, which has not occurred at a World Cup since 1990 when Ireland progressed ahead of the Netherlands after being separated by the same method.
Fair Play points system at the World Cup
Yellow: 1 point
Dismissal for two yellows: 3 points
Straight red card: 4 points
Yellow and straight red: 5 points