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How important is winning your group?

Originally Published: March 28, 2010
By Paul Carr | ESPN Stats & Information

At the World Cup, group winners are better than group runners-up. An advanced statistics degree or thorough knowledge of soccer isn't necessary to figure that out.

Yet every tournament inevitably raises questions about how important it is for a team to win its group after locking up a knockout-stage berth before its final match. Some analysts advocate resting players or allowing youngsters to gain experience. Others encourage strategic maneuvering to obtain specific matchups in the round ...

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