Premier League Playback: Who has edge in top four race?

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There is a special scenario playing out in the Premier League this season, hence why this edition of Premier League Playback is focusing solely on the crazy top four race.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

With Chelsea eight points clear at the top, it seems like this season will become all about the race for second place. And third place. And fourth place. Just two points separates Spurs in second place and Manchester United in sixth after the weekend games in Week 25.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

With six giants of English soccer scrambling for the top four with their big-name managers, there is so little to divide these behemoth clubs.

Yet, let’s have a go shall we? Might as well…

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Below is a look at how many points each of the five contenders for the three remaining UEFA Champions League spots (let’s be very realistic a little wild and assume Chelsea wins the PL…) will get, thus predicting who will finish in the top four.

My word, it’s going to be tight.


MANCHESTER CITY

Why they’ll finish in the top four: Pep Guardiola‘s side have to play four of the top six in the final 13 games of the season, leaving them with a very tough schedule. A spell at the end of March and start of April will decide their season with a triple header of Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea, plus potential Champions League and FA Cup games. Given the fact they’ll likely go deep in the UCL and the FA Cup, that will mean plenty of rotation in the squad. With Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany and Kelechi Iheanacho in reserve right now, that should be fine. You get the sense the penny has dropped for Pep’s players in recent weeks. Expect them to go on a run and finish his opening season as a coach in the PL strongly. Chelsea will beat them to the title, for this season at least, but finishing second (especially after their poor start) would be a good achievement. 
Toughest games remaining
: vs. Manchester United (TBA), vs. Liverpool (Mar. 19), at Arsenal (Apr. 1), at Chelsea (Apr. 5)
Predicted final points total: 82 points (2nd place finish)


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Why they’ll finish in the top four: Following their early UCL exit, Spurs’ players will be determined to put things right in Europe next season. Given their remaining schedule, plus it being their last season at the old White Hart Lane, motivation levels will be high. You’d like to think there won’t be a late season collapse a la 2015-16 and Mauricio Pochettino and his players will have learned from that. Harry Kane and Dele Alli have to turn up in the big games as Spurs only have one win this season against the current top six. Luckily they only have two games against the current top six in their remaining 13 fixtures. That’s the main reason they’ll seal a top four finish. 
Toughest games remaining
: vs. Arsenal (Apr. 29), vs. Manchester United (May 13)
Predicted final points total: 78 points (3rd place finish)


LIVERPOOL

Why they’ll finish in the top four: With no European or cup action to worry about, Klopp’s men have 13 cup finals to get themselves into the top four. Like Chelsea, that’s a massive bonus. With Sadio Mane back, plus injuries at a minimum, Liverpool has a great chance to finish in the top four. Like Spurs, they could easily go unbeaten in their final 13 games of the season and delivering a UCL spot was always the target this season. Looks like Liverpool will do it. Just about. It all depends on limiting those sloppy defensive mistakes and the only other issue is the fact that they play a couple of relegation contenders who will be scrapping for their lives in the final weeks of the season. That always throws up some bizarre results. 
Toughest games remaining
: vs. Arsenal (Mar. 4), at Manchester City (Mar. 19)
Predicted final points total: 77 points (4th place finish)


MANCHESTER UNITED

Why they’ll finish in the top four: All of those draws look like they will cost surging United dear. Jose Mourinho’s men have only lost three games this season and none of their last 16 in the PL in a fine unbeaten run. But with Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs to play in the final six weeks of the season, they’ll likely drop plenty more points. With Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs to come in their last six games of the season, Mourinho’s men have to rack up the points now and then hope they can power over the line. Having a taxing Europa League campaign, plus FA Cup involvement, will make that tough. You get a horrible sense that they may have left this surge in the second half of the season just a little too late. 
Toughest games remaining
: at Manchester City (TBA), vs. Chelsea (Apr. 15), at Arsenal (May 6), at Tottenham (May 13)
Predicted final points total: 77 points (5th place finish, on goal difference)


ARSENAL

Why they’ll finish in the top four: Because it’s Arsenal. Duh. Seriously, they have a better defense than last season and despite the “Wenger Out” brigade once again warming up their vocal chords, things aren’t that bad. The only thing which could derail their top four chase is if one, or all three, of Wenger, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil decide to make an announcement about a future move away from the Emirates before the end of the season. That, plus actually getting past the UCL Round of 16, would throw a major spanner in the works. It will be a close call for the Gunners because they arguably have the hardest remaining schedule of any top four contender. Looks like they may just miss out when you consider the fixtures below…
Toughest games remaining: at Liverpool (Mar. 4), vs. Manchester City (Apr. 1), at Tottenham (Apr. 29), vs. Manchester United (May 6)
Predicted final points total: 74 points (6th place finish)


Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here.

Japan comes back to beat Spain, finish top of group in incredible fashion

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Japan came back from a goal down at halftime to beat Spain 2-1 and finish top of the group in truly stunning, heart-stopping fashion at the 2022 World Cup on Thursday.

WATCH FULL MATCH REPLAY

Ahead of matchday 3 in Group E, the simplest math was as follows: a German win, plus a Japanese loss (to Spain), would see the 2014 world champions jump from 4th to 2nd and avoid a second straight World Cup group-stage exit.

The first part of that equation seemed to be going relatively straightforward, as Serge Gnabry opened the scoring in the 10th minute. A minute later in the other game, Alvaro Morata put Spain ahead and Germany were going through as things stood. But, Ritsu Doan and Ao Tanaka struck twice in six minutes to start the second half and overturn the deficit to a European giant, just as they did against Germany in the opener.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Then, something even more unthinkable happened: Costa Rica equalized, and then they went ahead. At that point, they were going through as runners-up. That lasted for all of three minutes, until Kai Havertz lifted the ball over Keylor Navas to make it 2-2. Havertz struck again 12 minutes later to make it 3-2, and give Germany a small glimmer of hope — that Spain might equalize and save Germany from elimination, but they never did.

In the end, Japan (6 points) advance as Group E winners, joined by Spain (4) in the round of 16.

[ MORE: Latest Group E standings, schedule, scores ]


How to watch Japan vs Spain live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Thursday (December 1)
Stadium: Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Spain were at their brilliant best as they put seven goals past Los Ticos in their opener, before coughing up a late lead and settling for a 1-1 draw with the desperate Germans in game no. 2. All in all, it’s been a good start to the World Cup for Luis Enrique’s exciting, young side. Six different attacking players have scored a goal for Spain, with Alvaro Morata and Ferran Torres the only ones to find the back of the net twice thus far.

As for Japan, it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions this World Cup. Their comeback victory over Germany in the opener seemed to signal their arrival in a new tier on the world’s biggest stage, before falling flat on their faces in a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica, who had conceded seven goals just four days earlier. Instead of clinching their place in the round of 16 with a win, Japan need at least a draw from their toughest group game in order to move on.


Japan quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 24
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 7
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC
Coach: Hajime Moriyasu
Key players: Maya Yoshida, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Takumi Minamino, Daichi Kamada

Spain quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 7
World Cup titles: 1 (2010)
World Cup appearances: 16
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Luis Enrique
Key players: Rodri, Pedri, Pau Torres, Jordi Alba

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Germany out of World Cup after Group E finishes in absolute chaos

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Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2 to close out group-stage play at the 2022 World Cup on Thursday, but it wasn’t enough for Hansi Flick’s side to advance to the knockout rounds.

WATCH FULL MATCH REPLAY

Ahead of matchday 3 in Group E, the simplest math was as follows: a German win, plus a Japanese loss (to Spain), would see the 2014 world champions jump from 4th to 2nd and avoid a second straight World Cup group-stage exit.

The first part of that equation seemed to be going relatively straightforward, as Serge Gnabry opened the scoring in the 10th minute. A minute later in the other game, Alvaro Morata put Spain ahead and Germany were going through as things stood. But, Japan scored twice in six minutes to start the second half and pull off another unlikely comeback, just as they did against Germany in the opener.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Then, something even more unthinkable happened: Costa Rica equalized, and then they went ahead. At that point, they were going through as runners-up. That lasted for all of three minutes, until Kai Havertz lifted the ball over Keylor Navas to make it 2-2. Havertz struck again 12 minutes later to make it 3-2, and give Germany a small glimmer of hope — that Spain might equalize and save Germany from elimination, but they never did.

In the end, Japan (6 points) advance as Group E winners, joined by Spain (4) in the round of 16.

[ MORE: Latest Group E standings, schedule, scores ]


How to watch Costa Rica vs Germany live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Thursday (December 1)
Stadium: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

For Germany, it’s been a struggle to finish scoring chances rather than waste loads of expected goals (3.09 vs Japan, and 1.29, double that of Spain). 26 shots, 5 big chances nearly 700 passes translated to just one goal against the Samurai Blue, and they were made to pay for their transgressions. Hansi Flick is undoubtedly already under immense pressure ahead of Thursday’s game, through very little fault of his own.

As for Costa Rica, it seemed beyond impossible that they could be in such a position heading into the third game. Even in the victory over Japan, they manufactured all of 0.11 expected goals on 4 shots attempted. Win, lose or draw, that’s paltry offensive output that you might be able to overcome and steal one result at a World Cup, but for most sides it proves to be their undoing. They couldn’t it again, could they?


Costa Rica quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 31
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified from CONCACAF via interconfederation playoffs
Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez
Key players: Keylor Navas, Joel Campbell, Celso Borges, Bryan Ruiz

Germany quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 11
World Cup titles: 4 (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014)
World Cup appearances: 20
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Hansi Flick
Key players: Manuel Neuer, Antonio Rudiger, Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka

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Key battles for the USMNT versus Netherlands in World Cup Round of 16

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The United States men’s national team will match wits with Netherlands at 10am ET Saturday in the 2022 World Cup’s Round of 16, the biggest match for the program since the 2014 knockout round scrap with Belgium that cemented Tim Howard’s status as a USMNT icon.

If the Yanks hang with the Netherlands, let alone beat them, there’s a good chance another USMNT player tattoos his name on the national team’s history. Christian Pulisic may have already done so against Iran but let’s face it: The knockout rounds are a different animal.

[ MORE: Netherlands vs USA preview, stream info ]

That means winning a match-up or two, and Netherlands presents a bunch with world-class players In defense — to a man — as well as midfield in Frenkie de Jong and emerging attacker Cody Gakpo up top.

And there’s another match-up we’ll get to, an internal one, by the end of this post.

Netherlands vs USA key battle No. 1: The front three versus Van Dijk, Timber, and friends

This one could start with Christian Pulisic versus Virgil van Dijk, as the Chelsea man has had plenty of luck against the once-imperious Liverpool man over his career, but there are two problems with that.

The first is that Pulisic may not be fit to start the match and the second is that Van Dijk in a back three versus Chelsea is much different as Van Dijk in a back three versus international competition.

Make no mistake about it: The Netherlands back three is a luxury most nations envy. Beyond Van Dijk, there’s young Jurrien Timber, Man City’s Nathan Ake, Juventus’ Matthijs de Ligt and Inter Milan’s Stefan de Vrij. That’s a special, special group.

And with Josh Sargent’s ankle, we can’t even cheat and make it about VVD versus the USMNT’s center forward. So suffice it to say that Gregg Berhalter’s front three is going to have to find a way behind and between a terrific defense. Timothy Weah might be the best bet to get behind, but will he have Pulisic to pull the strings?

Netherlands vs USA key battle No. 2: Yunus Musah versus Frenkie de Jong

This isn’t really a 1v1 scrap, either, though it’s a battle of who will out-produce the other.

Tyler Adams will do a lot of the dirty work for the United States, but the USMNT will look to Musah to take the ball off the backs and off Adams and progress the ball forward.

That’s very much what FDJ thrives doing, and the Dutch will be expected to have more the ball in this game.

If Musah’s carries, final third entries, and dribbling distance is anywhere near De Jong’s, the U.S. will probably be having an okay day. It does not bode well if De Jong’s is superior, because the Barcelona player’s midfield mate may also have similar numbers and USA will be all about the counter attack.

England v USA: Group B - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
(Photo by Eddie Keogh – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

Netherlands vs USA key battle No. 3: Tyler Adams versus the Dutch midfield and defense

Following the tone set by key battle No. 2, the USMNT is going to want Tyler Adams dictating the pace and electricity of the game if it can have the ball as much as it would like in this Round of 16 matches.

Adams being able to decide whether he’s playing the old John Brooks role of picking up audacious long passes or shuttling the ball to Musah or another player for progression and combination play is a boon to the USA when it has enough control of the game to make Adams a quarterback.

To borrow and mutilate a pop song from years ago, the Yanks would love to be all about the pass, about the pass, no dribble.

But if the Yanks are reduced to having to make the most of counters, with limited passages of play with strong possession, then it becomes less about Adams with the ball and more about an off-his-game (for now) Weston McKennie and his friends creating mayhem for the Dutch. That can be fine, too, but we bet Berhalter is watching the Dutch matches from Group A and speculating that he can have around 45 percent of the ball.

Netherlands vs USA key matchup No. 4+5: Christian Pulisic vs his pelvis, Gregg Berhalter vs himself

Gregg Berhalter has done a pretty good job setting up the Yanks for games here, and deserves a whole lot of credit for that as well as the USMNT’s growth from game-to-game and its keeping its head in the wake of federation-inflicted controversy prior to the Iran match.

But this one’s a big one. If Christian Pulisic can start the match against the Netherlands, the USMNT’s odds of winning the game shoot up exponentially.

If not, Gregg Berhalter’s seeming preference to slot in Brenden Aaronson over Giovanni Reyna opens the Yanks up against a team that would love to see the Yanks more opened up.

Let me explain.

Aaronson is an exceptional talent, a whirlwind of concern of the opposition as he presses like few others and seemingly never really tires. He’s also a smack talker of the highest order, but that’s beside the point and not just because Reyna possesses skills in that department.

The right-footed Aaronson is such a good presser and runner that he ranks high amongst top-five league forwards in pressures, interceptions, blocks, and clearances. That’s important, but it also leaves space on the pitch for tidy teams to exploit.

While the Yanks aren’t cooked with Aaronson in Pulisic’s spot, they are far more like-for-like when Borussia Dortmund starlet Giovanni Reyna is in the fray. Reyna fits the bill in a lot of the above pressing quotes but is just a bit better in the small spaces, a bit closer to Pulisic. Consider Aaronson more in the Adama Traore or Jack Harrison role, while Reyna is more like club teammate Marco Reus.

World Cup 2022 schedule – how to watch, groups, calendar, match schedule, brackets, dates

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The World Cup 2022 schedule is locked in and this tournament in Qatar has been sensational as action throughout November and December will capture the imagination of the world.

[ LIVE: Watch World Cup en Espanol en Peacock ]

Saudi Arabia, Japan and Morocco have already pulled off huge upset wins over Argentina, Germany and Belgium respectively as the tournament has delivered plenty of shocks.

From the USMNT and England getting out of their group to Lionel Messi dragging Argentina through and Mexico just missing out on getting out of the group stages, Australia making it to the last 16 amid upsets galore, there are plenty of intriguing games in the group stage.

[ MORE: World Cup rosters for all 32 teams ]

Then we have the small matter of the Round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals, and final to look forward to. Bring. It. On.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]  

Below is the schedule in full, details on how to watch the games and everything else you need..

[ MORE: World Cup odds ]


World Cup 2022 schedule, start time, dates, how to watch live

  • When: November 20, 2022 to December 18, 2022
  • Group stage game kick-off times: 5am, 8am, 10am, 11am, 2pm (all ET)
  • Location: Qatar
  • TV channels en Español: Telemundo, Universo, Peacock
  • Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)

Follow along with ProSoccerTalk for the latest news, scores, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 World Cup, and be sure to subscribe to NBC Sports on YouTube!


Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D | Group E | Group F | Group G | Group H

Group A schedule (all kick off times ET)

Recap/highlights: Qatar 0-2 Ecuador – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Senegal 0-2 Netherlands – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Qatar 1-3 Senegal – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Netherlands 1-1 Ecuador – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Netherlands 2-0 Qatar – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Ecuador 1-2 Senegal –  Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan

Group B schedule

Recap/highlights: England 6-2 Iran – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: USA 1-1 Wales – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: England 0-0 USA – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Wales 0-2 Iran – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Wales 0-3 England – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Iran 0-1 USA – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor

Group C schedule

Recap/highlights: Argentina 1-2 Saudi Arabia – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
Recap/highlights: Mexico 0-0 Poland – Stadium 974, Doha
Recap/highlights: Argentina 2-0 Mexico – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
Recap/highlights: Poland 2-0 Saudi Arabia – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Poland 0-2 Argentina – Stadium 974, Doha
Recap/highlights: Saudi Arabia 1-2 Mexico – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail

Group D schedule

Recap/highlights: France 4-1 Australia – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
Recap/highlights: Denmark 0-0 Tunisia – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: France 2-1 Denmark – Stadium 974, Doha
Recap/highlights: Tunisia 0-1 Australia – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
Recap/highlights: Tunisia 1-0 France –  Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Australia 1-0 Denmark– Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah

Group E schedule

Recap/highlights: Spain 7-0 Costa Rica – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Germany 1-2 Japan – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Spain 1-1 Germany – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Japan 0-1 Costa Rica – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Thursday, December 1: Japan vs Spain (preview) – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm
Thursday, December 1: Costa Rica vs Germany (preview) – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm

Group F schedule

Recap/highlights: Belgium 1-0 Canada – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Morocco 0-0 Croatia – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 5am
Recap/highlights: Belgium 0-2 Morocco – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Croatia 4-1 Canada – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Croatia 0-0 Belgium – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights Canada 1-2 Morocco – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor

Group G schedule

Recap/highlights: Brazil 2-0 Serbia – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
Recap/highlights: Switzerland 1-0 Cameroon – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
Recap/highlights: Brazil 1-0 Switzerland – Stadium 974, Doha – 11am
Recap/highlights: Cameroon 3-3 Serbia – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
Friday, December 2: Cameroon vs Brazil – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm
Friday, December 2: Serbia vs Switzerland – Stadium 974, Doha – 2pm

Group H schedule

Recap/highlights: Portugal 3-2 Ghana – Stadium 974, Doha
Recap/highlights: Uruguay 0-0 South Korea – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Portugal 2-0 Uruguay – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm
Recap/highlights: South Korea 2-3 Ghana – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Friday, December 2: South Korea vs Portugal (preview) – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am
Friday, December 2: Ghana vs Uruguay (preview) – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah – 10am


Round of 16 schedule

Match 49 – Saturday, December 3: Netherlands vs USA (preview) – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am

Match 50 – Saturday, December 3:  Argentina vs Australia – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm

Match 52 – Sunday, December 4: France vs Poland – Al Thumama Stadium, Doha – 10am

Match 51 – Sunday, December 4: England vs Senegal – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm

Match 53 – Monday, December 5: Winners Group E vs Runners up Group F – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah – 10am

Match 54 – Monday, December 5: Winners Group G vs Runners up Group H – Stadium 974, Doha – 2pm

Match 55 – Tuesday, December 6: Winners Group F vs Runners up Group E – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am

Match 56 – Tuesday, December 6: Winners Group H vs Runners up Group G – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm


Quarterfinal schedule

Match 58 – Friday, December 9: Winners Match 53 vs Winners Match 54 – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am

Match 57 – Friday, December 9: Winners Match 49 vs Winners Match 50 – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 10am

Match 60 – Saturday, December 10: Winners Match 55 vs Winners Match 56 – Al Thumama Stadium, Doha – 10am

Match 59 – Saturday, December 10: Winners Match 51 vs Winners Match 52 – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm


Semifinal schedule

Match 61 – Tuesday, December 13: Winners Match 57 vs Winners Match 58 – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm

Match 62 – Wednesday, December 14: Winners Match 59 vs Winners Match 60 – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm


Third-place play-off

Match 63 – Saturday, December 17: Losers Match 61 vs Losers Match 62 – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm


Final

Match 64 – Sunday, December 18: Winners Match 61 vs Winners Match 62 – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 10am