Decisions Decisions!

The format of certain competitions requires contenders to participate in group qualification where the winner of one group is usually required to play the runner-up in another group in the next round. In such cases coaches and managers may be tempted to manipulate their final position in a group in the hope of meeting weaker opponents.

Such is the format of World Cup football. The decision facing the managers of these teams is how they approach the third match. Anything happens in these events so there is no point trying to second guess who might be their opponents in the knock-out stage. Trying to manipulate your finishing position in a group in order to face weaker opposition is hardly a vote of confidence for your team. After all, Word Cup winners have to be capable of beating anyone.

It would be easy to say keep the same team. As the saying goes don’t change a winning formula.

There are obvious pluses and minuses to this, but team selection will be based on several factors. Overall player fitness, performance in games played, injury/yellow card status, strengths/weaknesses of opposition and squad depth.

To not try to top your group goes against the true nature and ethics of sport. Uruguay started their last group match with the view to finishing top: they beat Russia 3-0. This was a statement of intent: they mean business.

Winning matches builds momentum. And a winning team is a happy and confident team.