Drawing lots? Iran, Nigeria, US and more could have fate decided by chance


It’s 2014, and at least two knockout round participants could make their way past the group stage via the same system early Christians used to select the successor to Judas.

Think about that.

Tiebreakers between Nigeria/Iran and the United States/Portugal could come down to drawing lots. Yes, really. If goals scored and points in matches between tied teams are equal, FIFA goes back to the 6th century BC to divide even teams.

This means that both Wednesday and Thursday could perceivably see groups come down to a lottery. Here are your scenarios:

If Iran beats Bosnia & Herzegovina 1-0 and Nigeria loses 1-0 to Argentina, there would be a drawing 90 minutes after both games to see who makes it through: Iran or Nigeria.

The U.S. scenario is a little less likely. There’s a chance for Germany and Ghana to have to draw lots, but we’ll deal with the USMNT’s scenarios. From Yahoo Sports great Dirty Tackle blog:

If the U.S. loses and Portugal wins on Thursday by a combined margin of five goals and Portugal scores exactly two more goals than the U.S., Germany would top the group with seven points, while Portugal and the U.S. would be even with four points, a goal difference of somewhere between zero and minus-3 and the same amount of goals scored.

For example:

U.S. vs Germany; 2-3

Portugal vs. Ghana; 4-0

In this case, the U.S. and Portugal would be tied at four points and a 6-6 goal differential, after having drawn 2-2.

Another example:

U.S. vs. Germany; 1-3

Portugal vs. Ghana; 3-0

So in this situation, not without precedent, there would literally be a physical selection of lots by the opposing teams. Bananas. Or ping-pong balls. Or tiny slips of paper.