Only three group runners-up have won their Round of 16 matches over the last three tournaments. In fact, in the last World Cup in Brazil, none of the runners-up won their Round of 16 matches.
In the 2002 edition of the World Cup, at least four group runners-up won their ‘Round-of-16’ matches and went through to the quarter-finals. That came down to 2 in 2006, 1 in 2010 and 0 in 2014.
If we look at how many group runners-up made it to the semi-finals, only one has done so in the last three World Cups, France in 2006. The team also made it to the final, where they lost to Italy.
And if we look at how many teams that have won the World Cup after finishing second or third in their group, we have had none in 36 years.
There were three World Cups in a row in 1974, 1978 and 1982 that were won by teams that had finished as runners-up or third in their groups (West Germany, Argentina and Italy respectively).
But after 1982, no team that finished 2nd in the group phase has won the World Cup (see table below).
How far have second - or third-placed teams gone?
This table looks at the best positions historically of teams that have finished 2nd or 3rd in the group phase of the World Cup.
|Year||Farthest a Group Runners-Up or 3rd-placed team has gone||Team|
|1930||no places for runners-up||-|
|1934||not applicable, straight knockout format||-|
|1938||not applicable, straight knockout format||-|
|1950||no places for runners-up||-|
|1958||Semi-finals||France, West Germany|
|1966||Quarter-finals||Argentina, North Korea, Hungary, Uruguay|
|2014||Round of 16||Chile, Uruguay, Nigeria, Algeria, Mexico, Greece, Switzerland, United States|