Jun 20, 2014, 9:37 PM EDT
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.
Aug 28, 2015, 5:57 PM EDT
Catch up on all the latest gossip from around the Premier League, right here.
Aug 28, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
The deal is expected to be official within the next 24 hours as Manchester City’s offer was too good to refuse.
Aug 28, 2015, 4:05 PM EDT
With the close of the transfer window quickly approaching, could Louis van Gaal be on the verge of the summer’s biggest signing?
Aug 28, 2015, 3:05 PM EDT
Chelsea clinched the title last season with a win against Crystal Palace, and the Blues will be looking for a similar result on Saturday at Stamford Bridge.
Aug 28, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
PST’s Editor and Lead Writer predicts the scores for every PL game this weekend.
Aug 28, 2015, 1:20 PM EDT
Where and how to watch every single PL game this weekend.
Aug 28, 2015, 12:40 PM EDT
Can the Gunners kick-start their season at St James? Watch live, NBCSN, Saturday 7:45 a.m. ET.
Aug 28, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Rivalry Week is upon us once again, and if it lives up to the last edition, we’re going to be in for a mighty good time.
Aug 28, 2015, 11:12 AM EDT
Liverpool and England legend seems to be enjoying life in LA. Check out his video of Swifty.
Aug 28, 2015, 10:42 AM EDT
Premier League teams will rack up plenty of air miles this season in Europa League action.
Aug 28, 2015, 9:45 AM EDT
Wolfsburg admit to talks over KDB, as City’s offer of wages blow Bundesliga side out of the water.
Aug 28, 2015, 9:04 AM EDT
Segregation of U.S. and Mexico fans key for CONCACAF for huge showdown in Pasadena.
Aug 28, 2015, 8:20 AM EDT
South Korean international becomes Spurs’ third most-expensive signing in club history.
Aug 27, 2015, 10:01 PM EDT
Why yes, Mr. Wenger, one would have to agree with that assessment. In particular, it’s the finishing that’s killing them, he says.
Aug 27, 2015, 9:13 PM EDT
Next summers tournament will go on, but CONCACAF might not participate, which means the Copa needs a new host nation.
Aug 27, 2015, 7:37 PM EDT
Rog talks with Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho about his coaching philosophy, post-match press conferences and football in America.
Aug 27, 2015, 7:09 PM EDT
With the transfer deadline now just four days away, some of these deals are (finally) getting done.
Aug 27, 2015, 5:41 PM EDT
Southampton can now fully focus on the Premier League, because they’re officially out of Europe.
Aug 27, 2015, 4:38 PM EDT
The transfer deadline looms large as the Premier Leagues 20 teams head into Week 4. Who will be the panic buyers of 2015?
Aug 27, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
Yeah, you know Stanford’s Jordan Morris, but Washington’s Mason Robertson and Oregon State’s Timmy Mueller outscored him last year and will look to do the same this season.
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