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26th Jun 2018

Why World Cup games are kicking off at the same time this week

Quite simple really

Darragh Murphy

Decisions, decisions.

It was so simple last week. Three games a day, all taking place three hours apart, meaning that the entire day was taken up with World Cup action.

On the first Saturday of the tournament, we even got four games on the one day! It was bloody brilliant.

But things have changed. We’re getting four games on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week but there’s some bad news.

You’re no longer guaranteed to catch every second of the football as the final games in each group will take place simultaneously.

On Monday, Group A came to a close when Saudi Arabia beat Egypt and Uruguay thrashed Russia, with all four teams kicking off at 3pm. Group B finished in dramatic fashion a few hours later; with Iran, Portugal, Spain and Morocco all playing at 7pm.

The same schedule is in place for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. And several supporters are experiencing a mixture of confusion and disappointment.

Well there’s a very simple reason behind the decision to stage the final games in each group at the same time.

The schedule is an attempt from Fifa to minimise teams’ knowledge of what is required to finish top and second of their respective groups and therefore limit the possibility of sides playing for anything other than a victory in order to secure a more favourable tie in the round of 16.

We have seen teams in the past play out draws if it ensured both would progress at the expense of another and some teams have even appeared content with defeats if it resulted in qualification or a more winnable fixture in the knockout stages.

While score updates are always going to be delivered in real time as supporters and members of teams’ backroom staff keep an keen eye on other games going on in the group, Fifa hope to minimise anything close to match-fixing in Russia by putting final group games on simultaneously.

The decision to do this is not a new one by any means and final group games have been staged at the same time ever since the mid-1980s.

It was likely prompted by the infamous group game between West Germany and Austria in the 1982 World Cup, when a 1-0 victory for the Germans ensured that both teams would qualify for the next round at the expense of Algeria, who had played a day earlier.

The controversial match, often called ‘The Disgrace of Gijón’, inspired Fifa to make some changes to avoid a repeat of the farcical game which saw neither side attempt to score after the opening goal.

As for supporters who are afraid of missing out on the action with the third group game schedule this year, we’d recommend following George Cook’s lead…