Most Controversial World Cup Tiebreaker Moments


The ‘fair play’ tiebreaker was introduced by FIFA for the 2018 World Cup in Russia as a way of settling ties in the group stage, factoring the number of yellow and red cards accumulated.

If teams are tied on points, differential and goals scored during the group stage, the tiebreak is decided on ‘fair play conduct points’ – meaning the team with the least yellow and red cards will avail.

A yellow card is one point, a second yellow card resulting in a sending off is three points and a straight red is four points; for example, one yellow and a straight red is five fair play conduct points.

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Senegal eliminated in 2018 World Cup through tiebreak rule

Senegal became the first victim of the World Cup’s new tiebreak rule in 2018, shortly after it was introduced by FIFA for the tournament in Russia.

Both Senegal and Japan lost their final match in the group stage and were tied on points, differential and goals scored, alongside drawing 2-2 when they faced each other in Group H.

Senegal had accumulated two more yellow cards than Japan in the three group games and were therefore eliminated, with Japan advancing to the knockout stages on fair play conduct points.

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Poland edge out Mexico to advance to last 16 

Group C offered just about as much drama as it could on Wednesday evening, with Poland and Mexico battling it out for a spot in the knockout stages of the 2022 World Cup.

Until the 95th minute in Saudi Arabia vs Mexico, Poland were set to move through to the last 16 and win the tiebreak on fair play conduct points with two less yellow cards than the South Americans.

Poland were losing 2-0 to Argentina and Mexico were beating Poland 2-0, meaning the pair were tied on points, goal difference, goals scored and head-to-head – there was no way to separate the two sides.

However, a Saudi Arabia goal from Salem Al-Dawsari in the dying moments all but confirmed Poland’s place in the next round as Mexico’s time in Qatar came to an end and the Poles advanced on goal difference.

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