Belfast Telegraph

Finishing top of group bodes well for England’s World Cup title hopes in Russia

Since the World Cup switched to a last 16 knockout stage in 1986, the eventual champions have always won their group.

England secured a place in the last 16 of the World Cup following an impressive 6-1 victory over Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday.

The Three Lions currently top Group G ahead of the showdown with rivals Belgium in Kaliningrad on Thursday night.

Since the World Cup switched to a last 16 knockout stage at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, the eventual champions have always won their group.

Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at how the statistics stack up for England’s hopes of World Cup glory in Russia.

Mexico ’86

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Argentina captain Diego Maradona led his side to victory at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico (Peter Robinson/EMPICS Sport)

Winners: Argentina (1st, Group A)
Runners-up: West Germany (2nd, Group E)
Third: France (2nd, Group C)
Fourth: Belgium (3rd, Group B)

With an initial six-group stage, the best four third-placed teams also progressed. Argentina topped Group A ahead of Italy and Bulgaria. West Germany were runners-up in Group E behind Denmark.

Italia ’90

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Lothar Matthaus led West Germany to victory over Argentina in the 1990 World Cup final (Peter Robinson/EMPICS Sport)

Winners: West Germany (1st, Group D)
Runners-up: Argentina (3rd, Group B)
Third: Italy (1st, Group A)
Fourth: England (1st, Group F)

West Germany advanced undefeated from their group as winners, ahead of Yugoslavia and Colombia. Diego Maradona’s team had progressed as one of the best third-placed teams after recovering from the shock defeat by Cameroon at the San Siro in Group B.

USA ’94

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Brazil defeated Italy on penalties to win the 1994 World Cup final at the Rose Bowl (Peter Robinson/EMPICS Sport)

Winners: Brazil (1st, Group B)
Runners-up: Italy (3rd, Group E)
Third: Sweden (2nd, Group B)
Fourth: Bulgaria (2nd, Group D)

Brazil won their fourth World Cup title having coasted through as Group B winners ahead of Sweden. Italy had to lift themselves following a 1-0 defeat against the Republic of Ireland in New Jersey, eventually edging into the last 16 as one of the best third-placed sides.

France ’98

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France won the 1998 World Cup on home soil (Adam Butler/PA Images)

Winners: France (1st, Group C)
Runners-up: Brazil (1st, Group A)
Third: Croatia (2nd, Group H)
Fourth: Holland (1st, Group E)

In a first tournament to feature 32 teams across eight opening groups, hosts France topped Group C with three wins and went on to defeat Brazil in the final – the holders having come through top of Group A after opening with a 2-1 win over Scotland.

South Korea/Japan 2002

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Brazil defeated Germany to lift the World Cup again in 2002 (Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport)

Winners: Brazil (1st, Group C)
Runners-up: Germany (1st, Group E)
Third: Turkey (2nd, Group C)
Fourth: South Korea (1st, Group D)

In the first co-hosted World Cup, Brazil went on to become champions again, lifting the trophy for a fifth time, after comfortably progressing as winners of Group C ahead of Turkey. Germany, meanwhile, had topped Group E, with the Republic of Ireland as runners-up.

Germany 2006

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Italy continued the progress of group winners as they went on to lift the World Cup in 2006 (Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport)

Winners: Italy (1st, Group E)
Runners-up: France (2nd, Group G)
Third: Germany (1st, Group A)
Fourth: Portugal (1st, Group D)Italy delivered a fourth World Cup triumph, winning Group E ahead of Ghana. France progressed to the last 16 as runners-up in Group G, which had been won by Switzerland.

South Africa 2010

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Andres Iniesta helped fire Spain to glory in the 2010 World Cup – where they had lost their opening match (Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport)

Winners: Spain (1st, Group E)
Runners-up: Holland (1st, Group E)
Third: Germany (1st, Group D)
Fourth: Uruguay (1st, Group A)

Spain claimed a first World Cup crown after having lost their first match against Switzerland, but going on to win Group H ahead of Chile. Holland, meanwhile, won all three of their group matches to reach the last 16 with Japan in second place.

Brazil 2014

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Mario Gotze (right) was on target for Germany in the 2014 World Cup final (Nick Potts/EMPICS Sport)

Winners: Germany (1st, Group G)
Runners-up: Argentina (1st, Group F)
Third: Holland (1st, Group B)
Fourth: Brazil (1st, Group A)Germany were crowned world champions for the fourth time, reaching the last 16 as group winners ahead of the United States of America. Argentina had also topped their group, with three wins, to qualify with Nigeria in second place.

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