WORLD CUP 2018

Spain avoid toughest route from the last 16 stage

Spain avoid toughest route from the last 16 stage

Fernando Hierro's team end the group phase top of their group and avoid possible meetings with Brazil, Germany, France, Argentina and England.
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Four teams have booked their place in the next round at Russia 2018 and the route to the final is starting to take shape with the left-hand side of the qualification diagram looking increasingly like the toughest path for those hoping to lift the trophy. Following that course to the final are a group of countries who have a combined 15 World Cup crowns between them: Brazil (five), Germany (four), Uruguay (2), Argentina (2 - if they do qualify, it will be as runners-up in their group which means they will take the harder route) and France (1). England, who have won the trophy once, could also fing themselves on the wrong side of the qualification trail if they finish as leaders of Group G.

More accessible route to the final

If the group stage finishes as many expect it to, Spain could have a theoretically slightly more accessible path in which they would face teams who have never been crowned world champions or reached the final in previous editions. For that to happen, La Roja need Sweden to be knocked out, for Mexico to finish top of Group F and for Belgium to come second in Group G. With that outcome, the teams on the right-hand side of the knockout stage would include Spain, Russia, Croatia, Denmark, Mexico, Switzerland or Serbia, Belgium and Japan, Senegal or Colombia