Now the World Cup will feel more like March Madness. With the penalty shootouts in group play, every game except the first one will feel like an elimination game.
They are opening the door for some score collusion like the famous 1982 West Germany - Austria game.
Imagine the following scenario:
Game 1: France defeats Egypt 3 : 0
For the next game, Egypt must win so this is like an elimination game:
Game 2: Egypt defeats United States 2: 1
Now for the last game, the US must win, so this is an elimination game
Games 3: France vs United States.....
Egypt has 3 points and a -1 goal difference.
France already has 3 points and a +3 goal difference.
The US has zero points and a -1 goal difference. The US desperately needs a win...1-0 will give them 3 points and a zero goal difference. As long as France doesn't lose by 4 goals, they don't care, so they play their U23 youth team, lose 1-0 and US and France are through.
Or worse, Austria can agree to lose by a gentlemanly 1-0 giving away a penalty in the first 10 minutes and then playing keep-away for 80 minutes against their friends the West Germans to screw Algeria out of a fair chance.
They have to ensure that the worst-seeded team gets to play the last game to prevent this chicanery. First games can be boring, so you have to make the lowest seed team play the first game as well. It would never do for the headline game of the group to be a cautious, dull 0-0 affair settled on a shoot-out. So the highest seeded team gets a warm-up game. The second seeded team has to jump into the fire against the best seeded team who has had a game to stretch their legs already. Then the final game is most likely against the 2 and 3 seed fighting for their lives. On the odd chance that the #2 seed wins its game against the #1 seed, the final game is the #3 seed fighting for its own life. If we are going to screw a team with collusion, make it the #1 seed because that is less likely to happen.
March Madness is cool in an American sort of way, but the last day of group play was the closest thing to the old New Year's Day in college football where the results, not only winners and losers but each goal scored, across different games played at the same time mattered to everyone. Groups A and B in the 2002 World Cup were good examples of this.
The downside of the last day of group play is two simultaneous games. The new way, each game can gave its own time slot for more TV money.