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Senegal became the first team to get knocked out of the World Cup due to FIFA fair play points on Thursday. Should FIFA be using fair play points or should they switch to an alternative method to determine who moves on?

By Grant Wahl and Brian Straus
June 28, 2018

Senegal became the first team to be knocked out of the World Cup due to FIFA fair play points on Thursday, begging the question of if that process is actually fair or if FIFA should look into alternative methods. We discuss fair play points and how potentially counting corners or shots on goal could work as a better indicator of who should move on. 

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Here's a selection of episode 15, which can be listened to in its entirety in the podcast console above:

GRANT WAHL: Every day of the four days of these group finales we've had at least one dramatic finish and, once again, we did today involving Japan, Senegal and Colombia. Colombia and Japan end up advancing, Senegal is out. And in an unprecedented moment in World Cup history, the tiebreaker used to determine Senegal being out instead of Japan is FIFA fair play points, which if I'm being honest, I had never thought about until today.

BRIAN STRAUS: I think it's like driver's license points. Because maybe Senegal's bus ran a stop sign on the way to the stadium so they're going home. I may be wrong on this ... I think when Canada won their only Gold Cup title in 2000 I think it was, I think they advanced on lots. 

GW: Oh, really?

BS: Yeah, I think they got out of the group stage by the drawing of lots and I don't even know what that means. I don't know what a lot is but they draw them and I assume that means like picking instead of pen and paper. But they draw something called a lot and Canada went on to win the Gold Cup. And that's the only time I know of where something like that has happened. But then FIFA introduced this driver's license thing and Senegal is out, which is kind of a bummer because they were kind of fun to watch but they're gone.

GW: My suggestion or at least guess instead of drawing lots—that method Chuck Blazer just sort of decided who advanced in the Gold Cup, the same way they kind of come up with groups for the Gold Cup—but it's kind of crazy when you think about it. I'm trying to think of fans of any team, what would go through their mind if that's how your team went out. And so I spent the rest of the day trying to think of better ways to break a tie and came up with either shots on goal for the group or expected goals, if you wanna placate the data wonks.

BS: Well, so I actually mentioned this on Twitter and had a couple people get back to me ... and said that there was something to it. I have a memory of many, many years ago, my father grew up in New Jersey and—he played tennis and basketball—he was not a soccer player, but he liked the sport and he would go see his high school team play and he had friends on the team and stuff like that. Soccer being relevant in New Jersey way back when, as we know. And I remember having a conversation with him a very long time ago and him telling me that they used to count corner kicks. 

GW: Right.

BS: This was before penalty shootouts existed. My dad was in high school in the early 60s. And they would count corner kicks in like the tournament game and the state playoffs where someone had to move on, the reasoning being that the team that had more corners probably was on the attack more, probably produced more offense, probably, therefore, was the better team and that was an easy, none arbitrary, quantitative way to determine the team that advanced. So you could count corner kicks through the group stage and have it be a thing. So, to me, that would be more satisfying and perhaps more indicative of what went on on the field than yellow cards. Because they give yellow cards for all kinds of s***. They give yellow cards if you take your shirt off or whatever, so yeah, it's unsatisfying. 

GW: I mean, the only thing I would say, I like corner kicks better than fair play points but I also could imagine a scenario where, if teams know this, them trying furiously, at the end of a game, to win corners. Which would be hilarious, but kind of ridiculous.

BS: It would be hilarious but is it more ridiculous than what Japan and Poland did in the last 10 minutes of their game? 

GW: Yeah, that was bad. It's a good question. I always root for chaos if it's not my team so I think a coin flip would have been an interesting thing. I would have loved to see a public coin flip, kind of like in Friday Night Lights

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)