World Cup clinching scenarios: How Canada can reach the Round of 16


Canada find themselves down but not out in Group F after losing 1-0 to Belgium to kick off their 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign.

The one-goal loss, decided by Michy Batshuayi's powerful half-volley against the run of play, means that Canada cannot lose another match if they hope to advance to the Round of 16. But they still control their destiny, with wins in their next two matches pretty much guaranteeing them a place in the first knockout round.

The good news is, according to the FIFA World Rankings, their hardest match is out of the way. Having barely lost to No. 2-ranked Belgium, they'll have plenty of positives to take into their next matches against 12th-ranked Croatia (Nov. 27) and 22nd-ranked Morocco (Dec. 1).

Group F standings - Matchday 1

Croatia and Morocco split the points from a 0-0 draw in Wednesday's earlier Group F match, which is about as good of a result as Canada could have hoped for – bearing in mind that goals scored are an important tie-breaking metric.

Goals (for, against, GD)
1. Belgium
1; 0; +1
2. Croatia
0; 0; 0
3. Morocco
0; 0; 0
4. Canada
0; 1; -1


Canada cannot clinch a spot in the Round of 16 when facing Croatia on Sunday (11 am ET | FS1, Telemundo) at Khalifa International Stadium. A loss, however, would guarantee elimination – though they would still play their last scheduled match against Morocco next Thursday (8 am ET | FS1, Telemundo).

Below is a breakdown of Canada's likelihood to advance based on potential point totals after all three of their matches – currently carrying no points:

  • 6 points (win next two matches): ADVANCE
  • 4 points (win one match, draw the other): Fairly likely to ADVANCE but not guaranteed
  • 3 points (win one match, lose the other): ELIMINATED
  • 2 points (draw next two matches): Almost definitely ELIMINATED
  • 1 point (draw one match, lose the other): ELIMINATED
  • 0 points (lose next two matches): ELIMINATED

*Hard to believe, but gaining two points from the next two matches is slightly favorable to gaining three. That's because there's a scenario where Belgium win all three matches and Canada, Croatia and Morocco draw each of the matches between them, creating a three-way tie for second place with two points per team. Canada could then theoretically advance on a tiebreaker, whereas losing to either Croatia or Morocco – even if they beat the other – means they mathematically cannot advance.

Here is a breakdown of Canada's specific clinching scenarios depending on the result against Croatia.

  • Canada beat Croatia:
    • Advance to Round of 16 with a win against Morocco
    • Advance to Round of 16 in most, but not all, scenarios with a draw against Morocco
    • Eliminated with a loss to Croatia
  • Canada draw Croatia:
    • Advance to Round of 16 in most, but not all, scenarios with a win against Morocco
    • Eliminated in nearly all scenarios with a draw
    • Eliminated with a loss against Morocco
  • Canada lose to Croatia:
    • Eliminated with a win, draw or loss against Morocco


In order of priority:

  1. Goal differential
  2. Goals scored
  3. Head-to-head result
  4. Goal differential in matches between tied teams (only in a three-way tie)
  5. Goals scored in matches between tied teams (only in a three-way tie)
  6. Fair play tiebreaker (based on negative points for yellow and red cards)
  7. Drawing lots

Chance of advancing

After Wednesday's results, the status gurus at FiveThirtyEight give Canada the longest odds to advance from Group F to the Round of 16:

  • Belgium: 78% chance
  • Croatia: 52% chance
  • Morocco: 44% chance
  • Canada: 26% chance