One of the toughest World Cup groups is in chaos — How Argentina, Nigeria, and Iceland can all still qualify for the knockout round

Ryan Pierse/Getty ImagesAfter two disappointing results, Argentina’s window to escape the group stage of the World Cup looked to be closing, but Nigeria threw Lionel Messi and company a lifeline with its 2-0 win over Iceland on Friday.

With just two matches remaining before the knockout stage of the 2018 World Cup, Group D is in chaos.

After two disappointingperformances from group favourite Argentina, it looked as though Iceland’s path to advancing was clear, but on Friday the tiny island nation fell to Nigeria, and now we won’t know who will escape to the knockout stage until the final two matches are played on Tuesday.

Group leader Croatia has already sealed its spot in the final bracket of 16, but Argentina, Nigeria, and Iceland all still have paths to keep their World Cup dream alive.

Here is how each of the teams can advance to the knockout round:

Chances of advancing based on FiveThirtyEight’s SPI ratings.


Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images

Chance to advance: 48%

Scenarios to advance:

  • Argentina will advance with a win over Nigeria and an Iceland loss or draw with Croatia
  • If Iceland beats Croatia, Argentina can still advance if they beat Nigeria, and if they win the tiebreaker over Iceland (goal differential, goals scored, discipline). Iceland holds a one-goal advantage on goal differential.

One thing to know: Lionel Messi carries the hopes of a nation on his shoulders. Despite going scoreless through his first two matches at the World Cup, it takes only one brilliant performance against Nigeria, and a little help from Croatia, to save Argentina from a disastrous group stage exit.


Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Chance to advance: 45%

Scenarios to advance:

  • Nigeria will advance with a win over Argentina
  • If Nigeria draws with Argentina, they will advance if…

    • Iceland loses, draws, or wins by just one goal over Croatia.
    • Iceland wins by two goals, and Nigeria has the advantage in the remaining tiebreakers (goals scored, discipline).

One thing to know: Nigeria has the simplest path to the knockout round – win and they’re in, lose and they’re out. They’re also the only team that could catch Croatia to win the group, though it would take a sizable victory over the Argentines to pull it off.


Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Chance to advance: 7%

Scenarios to advance:

  • Iceland advances with a win over Croatia, an Argentina win over Nigeria, and an Iceland advantage over Argentina in the tiebreaker (goal differential, goals scored, discipline). Iceland holds a one-goal advantage on goal differential.
  • Iceland advances if they beat Croatia by three or more goals, and Argentina draws with Nigeria.
  • Iceland advances if they beat Croatia by two goals, Argentina draws with Nigeria, and Iceland wins the remaining tiebreakers (goals scored, discipline). Nigeria holds a one-goal advantage in goals scored.

One thing to know: Iceland missed its best shot at advancing by losing to Nigeria, but still have a chance to move on to the knockout stage should they pull the soccer equivalent of an inside straight. The team need to win first and foremost, by as many goals as possible. After that, it’s out of their hands. While they are ahead of Argentina in the standings now, Argentina has the advantage by playing their final game against the team (Nigeria) that Argentina and Iceland are chasing.

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