Group B is settled. Venezuela is the winner; Mexico limped over the finish line as the second-best of the also-rans. Germany will like its chances of advancing as one of the better third-placed teams from the group stage, though it hasn't provided many reasons for anyone believe it is capable of sticking around beyond the round of 16.
Venezuela 1-0 Mexico
Mexico will feel like it has been improving as this tournament as progressed, but its results are not all that impressive: a narrow win over Vanuatu, a tie with a lackluster Germany, and a loss to the only team in Group B that has looked consistently capable of winning games. El Tri can justly point out the game against Venezuela could have gone either way. One might counter by pointing out Sergio Cordova's match-winner wasn't even Venezuela's best chance.
Venezuela cruises into the knockout rounds with a perfect record: three wins from three games; 10 goals scored, zero conceded. Yes, seven of those goals were scored against Vanuatu; yes, Mexico and Germany look under-cooked so far in this tournament - but Venezuela will feel justly confident about its chances in the later stages. The team is inventive and effective up front; questions about its defense should be referred to the three consecutive shutouts it has posted.
Mexico, on the other hand, has yet to convincingly look like a team that can challenge the best in this tournament. Yes, it held Venezuela to just one - fortunate - goal. But it also had a close game against Germany and Vanuatu. And its only win in the group stage was over Vanuatu.
Indeed, it is to Vanuatu that Mexico owes its qualification for the round of 16. After 50 minutes of the final games of this group, El Tri was looking at third place in Group B and a possibly anxious wait to see if it would advance. Germany was 3-0 up on Vanuatu, Mexico was 1-0 down to Venezuela: goal difference was seeing Germany through to the runner-up spot in the group, and it seemed mostly likely Germany's goal difference was only going to get better.
But Vanuatu battled back and ultimately the Germans could only manage a 3-2 win, while Mexico prevented Venezuela from adding any more goals to its tally. So El Tri is entering the knockout rounds in modest form with much owed to the ability of Vanuatu to bloody the noses of supposedly superior opponents.
Germany 3-2 Vanuatu
All was going to plan for Germany until the 52nd minute of this match. The Germans needed to win big and hope Venezuela beat Mexico to sneak into second place in Group B. Kentu Malcolm Badu opened the scoring for Germany in the 27th minute. Fabian Reese added the second in the 32nd. Even a missed penalty didn't seem likely to be significant: Emmanuel Iyoha had Germany's third by the 50th minute.
Keep scoring and all would be well - Venezuela was beating Mexico, the runner-up spot was there to be claimed.
But Vanuatu had other ideas. Pressing high up the field triggered a cascade of errors in Germany's defense, and Bong Kalo got his team on the board in the 52nd minute. And Vanuatu's 77th-minute second goal could not be attributed to any mistakes from the opposition: Kalo chipped a free kick perfectly over the wall to a corner of the goal no 'keeper would have reached.
Germany had plenty of chances to run up the score, but couldn't convert. And Vanuatu proved the scare it gave Mexico in the opening game of this group was no fluke. It leaves this World Cup without a point, but having done enough to mean a Vanuatu team appearing on this stage in future won't be written off as a pushover.
And the Oceania qualifiers have had an impact on the tournament: if Germany misses out on the knockout rounds, it is because this result was closer than expected. The Germans should make it through to the round of 16, but the reason there is any doubt is because they have a -1 goal difference and only three goals scored, and that might not be enough if there are a cluster of third-placed teams on four points and goal difference or goals scored are the tiebreakers that decide which sides make it to the next round.
|Position||Team||Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Goals For||Goals Against||Goal Difference||Points|
- Venezuela is waiting for the qualifying third-placed teams from the group stage to be determined. It will play either Argentina (third in Group A), or the third-placed team from Group C (Costa Rica, Portugal, or Iran) or D (Italy, Japan, or South Africa).
- Mexico will play the Group F runner-up, which could be the USA - but could also be Ecuador, Senegal, or Saudi Arabia.
- Germany is likely through as one of the top-ranked third-placed teams from the group stage, and will play either the winner of Group C (probably Zambia; maybe Iran) or the winner of Group D (probably Uruguay; maybe Italy or Japan).