Why Do All Last Group Matches Start At The Same Time? (Explained)

Last updated on November 27th, 2022

As a football fan, there is a huge possibility that you have witnessed some particular cases in competitions where games are played simultaneously.

This may surprise you, as most games are staggered out.

Here’s what you need to know about the rationale for certain matches starting at the same time:

Why do all of the last group matches start at the same time?

In most international and club tournaments, the final group matches are usually scheduled such that they commence at the same time. By doing so, the players have no prior knowledge of how the other team has performed, and this means they will perform at their best in the final game. 

There is a wisdom behind the decision of some organizers asking that games be held concurrently at some stage in their competitions. This is done to stop the results of one game from influencing the outcome of another.

When matches are played simultaneously, it makes it fairer for all teams involved and eliminates the possibility of the performances of players being influenced by the scores of their opposition’s game before their own game.

You can find out more about the differences between club football and international football here.

World Cup

During the 2014 World Cup, there was a lot of drama in Group G, which consisted of these 4 countries:

  1. Germany
  2. Portugal
  3. USA
  4. Ghana

The United States impressed in a 2-2 draw with Portugal, and it was a tense final group round with these 2 matches were played at the same time:

  1. United States vs Germany
  2. Portugal vs Ghana

Even though Portugal and United States ended up level on points, the United States progressed due to a much better goal difference (0 vs -3).

Both of these matches were held at the same time, so it did not give either team an advantage knowing how the other team performed.

Champions League Group Stage

An excellent example of this was the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League season, where Chelsea played against these teams in the group stages:

  • Juventus
  • Zenit St Petersburg
  • Malmo

The Blues were top of the group after five matches and knew they needed to win to secure the top spot in the group. They faced Zenit in the last group match, and Juventus faced Malmo, with Chelsea and Juventus picking up 12 points going into the final game of the group stage. 

Juventus took an early lead and held on for a 1-0 win, while Chelsea conceded a goal in added time to ensure that the match ended 3-3.

The results from both games meant that Juventus went through as group winners with 15 points, and Chelsea finished second with 13 points.

Similarly, FC Barcelona faced Bayern Munich in the final match of the group stage, knowing that they needed to win to qualify for the last 16 of the competition.

At the same time, Benfica faced Dynamo Kyiv in the group’s other game. 

The Portuguese outfit won their game 2-0 while Barcelona lost 3-0 to Bayern Munich and missed out on a place in the last 16 by only one point

In both cases, if the matches had been played at different times, there is a strong possibility that things would have turned out much differently for the sides involved in the games highlighted. 

Africa Cups of Nations

In the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations that held in January 2022, the final games of each group kicked off at the same time. In Group B, Zimbabwe, Guinea, and Malawi were drawn alongside eventual winners Senegal

The teams went into the last group game knowing that any of them could still make it to the knockout rounds provided results went their way, but first, they had to win their own match. 

Zimbabwe defeated Guinea 2-1 while Senegal was held to a 0-0 draw by Malawi at the same time, ensuring that Senegal and Guinea occupied the top two spots in the group.

Perhaps if Malawi had played later and knew that Zimbabwe had beaten Guinea, they would have defeated Senegal to pick up the ticket.

Why do all Premier League games start at the same time?

In the Premier League, all games do not start simultaneously except on the last day of the season. Unlike most other leagues around the world, the final day of the English Premier League season is usually one to savour as it provides the greatest entertainment for fans and followers of the league.

On the final day, the culmination of 37 weeks of hard work ends with teams battling for the league title, qualification for continental competition, and a chance to stay in the league beyond the end of the season.

To spice things up, the league usually holds all its games on the same day and at the same time. Many unforgettable memories have been created as a result of the decision to hold all the matches simultaneously.

One example that comes to mind is the final day of the 2011-12 season when Manchester United and Manchester City were neck-and-neck in the title race, going into the final day of the season separated by goals. Manchester City had a goal difference eight more than that of their rivals. 

On the day, Manchester United had defeated Sunderland 1-0 because their game finished early while Manchester City were 2-1 down to QPR going into additional time. As things stood, the Red Devils were to be crowned the Premier League winners for the 20th time. 

However, their dreams were crushed when, Edin Dzeko first equalized in the 92nd minute for Manchester City, and then Sergio Aguero scored a 94th-minute winner to secure a 3-2 win for Manchester City.

Aguero’s goal in that match represents one of the league’s most iconic moments ever, helping the Etihad Stadium side to win their first Premier League title in 44 years.

Similarly, Manchester City and Liverpool were locked in an intense title race going into the final day of the 2021-22 season, with only one point separating both sides.

Manchester City was to face Aston Villa while Liverpool needed to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers on the final day to have a chance. The final day of the season ended up providing a great deal of drama. 

Manchester City had to come from two goals down to beat Aston Villa 3-2 and run away with the title, while Liverpool finished second despite a 3-1 win over Wolves.

Both games took place at the same time, creating a great deal of excitement as they went on. 

Away from the title race, Leeds United and Burnley were engaged in a relegation scrap on the last day of the 2021-22 season. With two teams (Norwich and Watford) confirmed to be relegated, one of Leeds United and Burnley would need to join dropping off to the Championship. 

Leeds United won their game 2-1 against Brentford, and Burnley lost theirs to Newcastle United, condemning them to the Championship for at least the 2022/23 season

Also, in the race for UEFA Europa League and UEFA Champions League qualification, Manchester United, West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur, and Arsenal were all involved until the last day of the season. 

Tottenham Hotspur clinched the final Champions League place after a 5-0 win over Norwich City despite Arsenal’s 5-1 win over Everton. As a result, Arsenal had to settle for a place in the Europa League. 

In addition, Manchester United picked up the final Europa League place despite losing 1-0 to Crystal Palace. This was after West Ham lost 3-1 to Brighton to give Manchester United the privilege.

There are several examples of seasons where everything went down to the wire on the final day, but the 2021-22 and 2011-12 seasons are the two that easily come to mind.

This highlights the significance of having all the Premier League matches on the last day played at the same time.


Scheduling the final round of matches at the same time and date is something that is quite popular.

The decision is always significant as it allows teams to play their matches without the advantage of having known their rivals’ results beforehand. This, in turn, gives the teams the platform to perform at their best.

It also ensures a great deal of excitement for fans in those matches!

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