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Group play wraps up Friday

After Friday's games, the world will know all of the countries that have advanced to the Round of 16 in the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. Spain will open the games, playing against Saudi Arabia in Kaiserslautern at 9:55 a.m. ET on ESPN and Ukraine will face Tunisia at the same time in Berlin (ESPN2).

With advancement already assured and the top spot in Group H virtually guaranteed, Spanish coach Jose Luis Aragones will give some rest to some of his regular starters and use a totally different team than that which won the first two matches.

The chances of Saudi Arabia of advancing to the next round are at best remote. The Saudis have to beat Spain and hope to advance ahead of Tunisia or Ukraine on goal differential.

Ukraine goes into the game against Tunisia knowing that it determines its own destiny. A victory will guarantee passage, but a draw could set up the possibility of another tie-breaking situation on goal difference. Tunisia, meanwhile, which hasn't won a World Cup game since its debut in 1978, has to defeat Ukraine and hope that Saudi Arabia does not defeat Spain by a large margin.

If the possibility for a second spot fight in Group H is complicated, the Group G situation is even more muddled. The possibilities of advancement for Switzerland, France and Korea (Togo is out) have an endless amount of combinations that could even lead to a triple tie that would have to be decided by the drawing of lots. FIFA is prepared for such a case and the draw will take place in Berlin 30 minutes after the games.

For example, if France beats Togo 2-1 and Switzerland and Korea tie 0-0, Switzerland will finish atop the group and the second spot will be decided in the draw in Berlin between France and Korea.

France will play against Togo in Cologne (2:55 p.m. ET, ESPN) without Zinedine Zidane, who is suspended for yellow card accumulation. 'Les Bleus' need a victory; any other result will put an end to their World Cup adventure. The 1998 champions were eliminated four years ago in the group stage, as well.

Switzerland and Korea lead the group with four points each and will face each other in Hannover (2:55 p.m. ET, ESPN2) knowing that a victory for either side will secure a spot in the Round of 16. A victory or a tie by Togo will guarantee both Switzerland and Korea a spot in the knockout phase.

Alejandro Zarza is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.