Japan has had a bit of a rough start at the 2014 World Cup. After losing to 2-1 against the Ivory Coast, the team came back strong against Greece and got an amazing…0-0 tie. Well, it’s better than losing right?

Though you may be ready to throw in the towel for the Japanese soccer team, we’re here to tell you that things aren’t quite as bleak as they may seem. While having lost the first game of the tournament certainly isn’t a good sign, there are teams who’ve made it to the next round in similar circumstances!

In fact, since 1998 (when the World Cup format changed to accommodate 32 teams), there have been four teams that have made it to the Round of 16 after losing their first match. The question now is: Can Japan take a place in history and become the fifth?

▼Actually, the question is: What the hell is happening in this picture?


First, in case you’re unfamiliar with the point system at the World Cup, points are awarded to teams based on whether they win, draw, or lose a game. A win nets a team three points, while a draw only earns them one point, and a loss gets them…well, nothing. No surprise there. Since we’re still in the group stage, the loss against the Ivory Coast hasn’t put Japan out of the tournament yet–but the final match of the group stage to be held next Tuesday, will determine it all. If Japan can beat Colombia, there’s a chance they’ll make it to the Round of 16. And if they can’t…well, it’ll be a sad homecoming for the team, we suppose.

But let’s look on the bright side! It’s not impossible…though it’s not exactly very likely either. The only four teams who’ve been able to make it to the Round of 16 after losing their first game are: Turkey (in 2002), Ghana (in 2006), Ukraine (also in 2006), and Spain (in 2010). Of course, Ghana, Ukraine, and Spain all won their next two games and got through to the next round with six points. Even so, Japan still has a glimmer of hope in Turkey: The Turkish team also took a draw in their second game in 2002. They made it through the group stage with only one win–the third game.

▼Though no one said they played fair…


But how could anyone get to the Round of 16 with only four points? Well, it looks like everyone was having a bad time in 2002–Costa Rica, who was also in their group, also had only four points. In the case of a tie, the winner is decided based on the goal differences in all group matches, which allowed Turkey to advance. So, will Japan get lucky and end up in the Round of 16? Well, let’s look at the results as they stand now.

So far, Colombia has 6 points, having won against both the Ivory Coast and Greece. And then the Ivory Coast has 3 points from their win against Japan. Finally, Japan and Greece both only have one point each, after their draw with each other. In order for Japan to get to the next round, a few different things will need to happen. First, they’re going to have to beat Colombia to get another three points. Next, Greece will either have to beat the Ivory Coast or tie with them–otherwise the African team will have six points, beating Japan by two.

▼All this math is enough to drive anyone crazy!


From there, things get a bit more tricky, since Japan will be tied with either the Ivory Coast or Greece with four points. There is a list of seven ways to break a tie in this case, but let’s just stick with the first one: Goal difference, which is found by subtracting the number of goals conceded from the number of goals gained. At this point, it would be nearly impossible to say how that would turn out, but the current goal difference for Japan is one, for Greece the goal difference is three, and for the Ivory Coast, the goal difference is zero. A smaller goal difference is apparently better, so it’s a good thing for the Japanese team that they’re not breaking a tie with the Ivory Coast today!

While the team’s fate hangs by a very thin thread, they can take some hope from their one-time rivals Turkey. The Turkish team, which was in the exact same position in 2002, not only made it to the Round of 16, they even beat Japan and Senegal to make it all the way to the semifinals, where they were beaten by the tournament champion Brazil. Even better though, they were able to at least pick up third place by defeating South Korea.

So, take heart, Japanese World Cup team! It’s a near miracle you’ll have to pull off to get to the next round…but it’s a miracle with precedence!

Sources: Football Sokuhou, Wikipedia
Images: WeHeartIt, Football Memes, MemeCenterWikipedia (Agência Brasil)