Spain and Portugal advanced to the knockout stage of from group B of the 2018 World Cup. They scored 5 points each while Iran and Morocco earned 4 and 1 points respectively.

5 points is the fewest number of points I can recall that the top seed of a group earned to advanced to the knockout round of the World Cup. The only other time I recall this is when Sweden, England, Argentina, and Nigeria scored also 5-5-4-1 points in 2002.

Since the introduction of the current format where 4 teams in a group play round robin games with winners earning 3 points, what are the top 5 lowest point total of the top seed in the history of the world cup? Similarly what is the lowest point total of the top 2 seeds in a group?

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Restricting to the current 3 points win/1 point draw format, the minimum possible is 3, if all 6 games are tied. 4 is possible if all four teams are 1-1-1. Otherwise, 5 is the minimum; if one game is not a tie, then you will have 5-3-3-2; if two games are not tied, then you will have 5-5-3-1, 5-5-2-2, or 5-4-3-2 depending on which teams lose.

5 has been accomplished many times. In 2010, the US won Group C in identical fashion to Spain/Portugal this year (US and England both had 5 points to finish in first and second, and 4-1 for third and fourth). The same year, Group F was won by Paraguay over Slovakia 5-4 (-3-2). Similarly, as mentioned in the question, 2002 saw Group F won by Sweden over England 5-5 (-4-1). In 1998 Group E was won by Netherlands over Mexico 5-5 (-3-1).

However, Group E in 1994 holds the distinction of having a first place team with four points. All four teams won, lost, and drew, for a 1-1-1 record, and had a zero goal differential, the only time this has ever occurred in the World Cup. Mexico won the group by virtue of having scored one more goal than the other teams; Ireland took second on head to head with Italy (their lone win). 1994 was the first cup that 3 points were awarded for a win, and so before this points cannot be compared.

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