What are fair play points in the World Cup?

FIFA tiebreakers at the World Cup are all sorts of weird. Group C could come down to fair play points, which is the fourth group stage tiebreak.

Fair play points very rarely come into the conversation in the World Cup group stage, but for some reason FIFA decided to make thing confusing (and therefore more chaotic) for international fanbases around the world.

In Group C, Mexico and Poland were tied in points, goal differential and goals for towards the end of regulation, leaving matters to fair play points.

Sadly, for most soccer fans, we have no idea what that is. But don’t worry, I’m here to help educate the world.

What are fair play points in the World Cup?

I’m so glad you asked. NBC Bay Area laid this out before the 2018 World Cup, and thankfully updated their article with any and all relevant info. Per their sourcing:

“FIFA’s fair play rule is a new tiebreaker rule implemented in the group stage of the World Cup. The rule was placed for the first time in 2018, so this will only be the second World Cup that uses the system.

In the group stage, teams play three games. In order to avoid all possibilities of ties, FIFA created a system of tiebreakers to be carried out when both teams are equal on points, goal difference and number of goals scored in the group stage.

Therefore, results would be based on the number of yellow cards administered to each team at the end of the 90-minute match.”

So, to put it simply, basically the fair play rule is the number of yellow cards a squad racks up over the course of the three group stage games.

FIFA World Cup tiebreaker rules

The World Cup tiebreakers really aren’t that complicated until you get to the fair play rule.

If two teams are tied in points, the first tiebreaker is goal differential. If the teams’ goal differential is the same, then the ruling will go to the squad which has scored the most goals in the group stage. If those teams have scored the same number of goals, then and only then is the fair play rule taken into account.

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