Jun 20, 2014, 9:37 PM EST
The beauty of knockout tournaments is that conventional wisdom goes out the window and storylines build themselves.
It’s often evident in environments such as the NCAA Tournament and professional sports playoffs, where teams built for long-term seasonal success face one-and-done situations that become their demise.
North and Central American teams from the CONCACAF federation are raising plenty of eyebrows this World Cup, giving fans of countries along the corridor plenty to smile about, and validation that their region is no laughing matter.
It’s also doing more than giving people notice – it’s earning them points, valuable points as they push towards unlikely knockout round positions.
Costa Rica was drawn into the “Group of Champions” alongside Uruguay, Italy, and England. They’re already into the next round. The United States was apprehended into the “Group of Death” with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana.
Often dismissed as inferior by those following European and South American teams, the likes of Costa Rica, Mexico, and the United States at this point are…at risk of horrific jinx consequences…undefeated against the likes of Italy, Uruguay, Brazil, Ghana, and Cameroon.
That means 28th-ranked Costa Rica has beaten the 7th- and 9th-ranked teams, 20th-ranked Mexico held 2nd-ranked Brazil, and the 13th-ranked US exorcised awful demons against 37th-ranked Ghana and has the chance to make noise Sunday vs. 4th-ranked Portugal.
Only Honduras remains without a win, but even Los Catrachos showed signs of life in their 2-1 loss to Ecuador.
For more (current before the Honduras loss to Ecuador):
Percentage of possible World Cup points won vs other confederations so far: CONMEBOL 73% CONCACAF 72% UEFA 44% CAF 19% AFC 17%—
Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) June 20, 2014
The real noise is made during the knockout rounds of course, but with Costa Rica already through, Mexico in a very solid position, and the United States has an opportunity to continue CONCACAF’s shocking run.
Costa Rica proved tactically superior to both Italy and Uruguay, as the genius of Jorge Luis Pinto befuddled Uruguay with a dangerous counter-attack and shackled the Italian stars with a structurally sound back five.
If the US can at least pull out a draw against Portugal, something which is not considered a long-shot but is by no means an expected result, CONCACAF teams will have secured at least eight points of a possible 12 against top-10 FIFA ranked teams, and as many as 10 of 12, an incredible result.
And if we’ve learned anything from Costa Rica’s pair of wins, it’s that superior tactics can often outweigh superior talent, something the United States will likely lean heavily on against both Portugal and Germany.
But will this be enough to have an impact on future FIFA rulings involving World Cup qualifications? A lot has been made of talk that Asia and Africa could be given another guaranteed spot, taking one from Europe. And that makes no sense – but would be very FIFA.
However, CONCACAF has not been quiet about its desire to earn its fourth qualification spot as guaranteed rather than stuck in the playoff with Oceania as it stands now. They lobbied for a fourth guaranteed spot back in 2011 but were denied the spot for this summer’s Cup.
While Oceania has never provided a challenge – a struggling Mexico side dominated New Zealand 9-3 over two legs – there is a certain pedigree about owning four guaranteed spots, the same amount that South America currently has.
There’s plenty more to be played, and two or three surprise performances don’t justify a jump in qualifying procedures, but if the federation continues to produce points and results, there could certainly be discussions for future tournaments.
CONCACAF is on the rise, there’s no question about it, but is the federation here to stay? The United States and Mexico both have chances to stake their claim to that question.
Dec 21, 2014, 11:59 PM EST
Antoine Griezmann breaks out with three goals in Atletico’s 4-1 result over Athletic Bilbao.
A day of Ronaldo: Real Madrid star erects statue of himself, thinks Real can win Champions League again
Dec 21, 2014, 10:21 PM EST
Cristiano Ronaldo has made headlines twice today, for erecting a statue of himself and claiming Real Madrid could repeat in the Champions League.
Dec 21, 2014, 9:07 PM EST
The sky continues to fall in Dortmund.
Dec 21, 2014, 8:17 PM EST
Tim Howard converses about his recently released autobiography, “The Keeper.”
Dec 21, 2014, 7:40 PM EST
Jeremy Menez has done a fantastic job as AC Milan’s primary attacker, and he’s primarily aiming for the French national team call-up.
Dec 21, 2014, 6:20 PM EST
Ally McCoist has left Scottish Championship team Rangers, as the club has recognized the former star striker is now on “gardening leave.”
Dec 21, 2014, 5:30 PM EST
Catch up on Premier League Round 17 action from this Sunday.
Dec 21, 2014, 4:55 PM EST
According to Brendan Rogers, Liverpool’s prime attacker, Daniel Sturridge, will make his return from a multi-month injury in early January.
Dec 21, 2014, 4:05 PM EST
Sunderland winger Adam Johnson on game-winner and Tyne-Wear derby triumphs: “Three years in a row, they must hate me here!”
Dec 21, 2014, 3:39 PM EST
Brendan Rodgers gives his thoughts after a 2-2 draw despite what he called “dominance” on the ball.
Dec 21, 2014, 3:12 PM EST
With polarizing halves separating the teams, Arsene Wenger said a draw was the correct result based on performance.
Dec 21, 2014, 2:29 PM EST
Cristiano Ronaldo appeared to bring a grudge with him to Morocco.
Dec 21, 2014, 1:44 PM EST
With Newcastle yielding late, Alan Pardew thinks he may have left his team a little too exposed as the clock ticked towards the final minute.
Dec 21, 2014, 1:08 PM EST
Martin Skrtel returned from a nasty injury and took full advantage of the resulting stopptage time.
Dec 21, 2014, 11:58 AM EST
A day to forget for the American central defender in Germany’s top flight.
Dec 21, 2014, 10:26 AM EST
The boyhood Newcastle fan scored at St. James Park for the third year in a row as Sunderland stole the Tyne-Wear derby late.
Dec 21, 2014, 10:16 AM EST
Raheem Sterling looks to be the lone attacking option for Liverpool as Brendan Rodgers has left both his available strikers on the bench.
Dec 21, 2014, 8:52 AM EST
A magnetizing first touch leads to a meaningless but nonetheless beautiful goal by the man who gives us magic weekly.
Dec 21, 2014, 7:53 AM EST
The heated Tyne-Wear derby has brought us goals and fireworks of many kinds, and will be no different today as Sunderland looks to win four in a row over Newcastle for the first time ever.
Dec 20, 2014, 10:54 PM EST
Howard doesn’t think Lampard will start the MLS season with NYCFC, although he says he should.
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