JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A team could advance from the group stage of the World Cup for the first time ever by having their name drawn out of a hat later this week.
With results and standings in six of the eight groups being so close, a number of teams in each section could all finish level on points, goal difference and goals scored as well as matches between themselves.
The provision for a team to advance by the luck of drawing lots is buried away in Article 39 near the end of FIFA’s book of World Cup regulations and has never been activated.
Replays and playoffs were used in the World Cup until 1958 and since then, despite the expansion of the tournament from 16 to 24 and then 32 teams, all qualifying issues have been settled by the six factors used to determine a team’s group ranking.
The first is obviously points, followed by goal difference in all matches, and if that is equal then goals scored.
If two or more teams are equal on the basis of those criteria, then head-to-heads come into play.
If teams still cannot be separated then the greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams involved is used and finally, if they are still equal, FIFA draws lots.
FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot told reporters Groups A, C, D, F, G and H could yet be decided by the drawing of lots.
“The possibility still exists in six groups out of the eight,” he told reporters.
Any draw would take place at Soccer City at 7pm local time (6:00 p.m. British time) after the last group matches that kickoff at 4pm and 11.30pm for the games starting at 8.30pm and would be conducted by a member of the World Cup Organising Committee.
Editing by Ken Ferris
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