Europe stuttering to lowest 2nd round numbers

Monday, June 23, 2014 | 6:39 p.m. CDT

CURITIBA, Brazil — While teams from the Americas have largely flourished, Europe could have its lowest representation in the second round of the World Cup since the current knockout format was introduced in 1986.

With one round of group games to be played, as few as three of Europe's 13 teams could be in the knockout stages.

Ahead of Monday's matches, only the Netherlands and Belgium are guaranteed to reach the second round after winning their first two games. However, only a remarkable set of results will prevent France from joining them after its two convincing victories.

In the seven World Cups since 1986, Europe's representation in the second round has been 10 in no less than five tournaments.

The exceptions were the nine recorded in 2002 in Japan/South Korea and six in 2010 in South Africa, where Europe still provided three of the four semifinalists and both finalists in the Netherlands and Spain.

Here's how things look for European sides across the groups after two games:

In Group A, Croatia lost to Mexico and has been eliminated from the tournament. Brazil and Mexico move on to the knockout stage.

In Group B, the Netherlands has already qualified following its victories over Spain and Australia. Spain, the defending champion cannot qualify after its back-to-back defeats.

In Group C, Greece has a chance. It will have to beat Ivory Coast and hope Colombia maintains its 100 percent record by defeating Japan. If both Greece and Japan both win, it will go down to goal difference.

In Group D, England, following two defeats will be heading home after its last game against Costa Rica. With the Central American team already through, Italy needs a draw with Uruguay to qualify.

In Group E, France will qualify, barring a sensational set of results. Switzerland can only progress along with its neighbor if it gets more points than Ecuador in their final group fixtures. The Swiss meet Honduras, which in theory can still qualify too, while Ecuador meets France. Should Switzerland and Ecuador both win, it will go down to goal difference.

In Group F, Bosnia-Herzegovina is already out of the tournament after two straight defeats against Argentina and Nigeria.

In Group G, Germany only needs a draw against the United States to qualify. Portugal's hopes are slim because of its goal difference. Portugal's best hope of qualifying is if Germany beats the U.S. and it beats Ghana. A big swing in the goal difference would have to occur for it to go through.

In Group H, Belgium has qualified after two wins. Russia can advance but needs to beat Algeria and hope that South Korea does not defeat Belgium by a margin that erases the Russians' current advantage in goal difference.

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