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The Tournament’s Wildest Group Will Finally Get Its Answers

The New Zealand team celebrated its win over Norway in its opening match. But now the host nation is in danger of being eliminated on Sunday. Credit…David Rowland/Reuters

It’s a tale of two World Cup groups on Sunday: Group A is almost entirely undecided through two games and Group H is under firm control after a win by Germany, one of the most powerful teams in the field.

The angst is palpable throughout Group A. There are multiple scenarios in which any of the four teams could advance, and therefore multiple scenarios in which any of the four sees its World Cup come to an abrupt end. Of course, winning is the easiest solution. But under some circumstances even that is not enough.

Norway vs. Philippines

This is not the World Cup that Norway had in mind. After being upset by New Zealand, 1-0, in the tournament opener, Norway lost its star, Ada Hegerberg, minutes before kickoff against Switzerland, a game that ended in a scoreless draw. Those results have left the Norwegians sitting at the bottom of Group A, a group they were expecting to win.

And if they are to get through, they’ll have to do so without Hegerberg, the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner, who was ruled out for the team’s third game, against the Philippines.

Norway will want to win and to score quite a bit to make it easier to advance to the round of 16, although again, the scenarios are complicated.

A romp will be easier said than done — the Philippines are coming off its first goal and first win in the World Cup in its defeat of New Zealand.

Switzerland vs. New Zealand

New Zealand has experienced many of the highs and lows of an international tournament condensed in the first week of this World Cup. The Football Ferns kicked off their campaign with a stunning upset of Norway in front of a home crowd, only to lose as favorites to the Philippines days later.

Now, New Zealand effectively must win against Switzerland. The scenarios are black-and-white (or in our case, pink-and-green): win and advance, lose and go home. There is limited potential for a draw to be enough, but that would depend on the outcome of Norway’s matchup with the Philippines.

Switzerland currently leads Group A, with a win over the Philippines and a draw with Norway. Unless the Swiss lose to New Zealand and Norway handily defeats the Philippines by a large margin, Switzerland would advance.

Germany vs. Colombia

While Group A battle it out until the final whistle, Germany is comfortably winning Group H after trouncing Morocco, 6-0, in its opening match. Having reached the quarterfinals every previous tournament, this year looks to be no different thanks to a favorable draw.

Colombia is capping off a strong year of international competition after a runner-up finish in last summer’s Copa América, where it lost the final to Brazil. The Colombians also opened their World Cup with a win over South Korea, 2-0. While it is unlikely they will be a match for the Germans, the Colombians are still in position to advance to the knockout rounds.

South Korea vs. Morocco

South Korea and Morocco are both looking to bounce back from opening losses. South Korea is the team with more experience in the tournament, having qualified three times in the last two decades while Morocco is making its debut. The South Koreans have made it to the round of 16 only once before, in 2015. Advancement for these teams currently looks unlikely, but a dominant win for either side could change the outlook for Group H.

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