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.
Jul 28, 2014, 6:48 PM EDT
Brazilian’s injury testing United’s depth on the right side.
Jul 28, 2014, 5:54 PM EDT
U.S. international’s knee surgery will sideline him for “several weeks.”
Jul 28, 2014, 4:57 PM EDT
Two Saints look to follow their former manager to North London.
Jul 28, 2014, 4:03 PM EDT
Timber’s game-winning goal in Montréal separated him from a tight field.
Jul 28, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT
After two on-pitch selfie occur with players over the weekend, security needs to be stepped up.
Jul 28, 2014, 2:50 PM EDT
Could Neymar represent Brazil at the 2016 Olympics in Rio?
Jul 28, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT
Besic, 21, has signed a five-year deal with the Toffees.
Jul 28, 2014, 1:43 PM EDT
Bale smashes in an absolute beauty from distance. Check it out, here.
Jul 28, 2014, 12:58 PM EDT
After selling over $170 million of talent so far this summer, what are Saints playing at?
Jul 28, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT
Boyd out after injury in Queens Park Rangers friendly.
Jul 28, 2014, 11:25 AM EDT
He may be one of the best soccer players the planet has ever seen, but Messi is not above the law.
Jul 28, 2014, 10:51 AM EDT
Arsenal splash the cash to sign 19-year-old Southampton academy graduate.
Jul 28, 2014, 10:25 AM EDT
Did Remy fail a medical at Liverpool? ‘Arry isn’t buying it.
Jul 28, 2014, 9:20 AM EDT
Clegg, Downing Street, discuss Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup.
Jul 28, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT
If you use the hashtag #AskJesus, expect to get results like this.
Jul 28, 2014, 8:04 AM EDT
Atletico add Griezmann to partner Mandzukic in new-look attack.
Jul 28, 2014, 7:38 AM EDT
Arsenal may be taking a “gamble” but it certainly paid off the last two times they bought teenagers from Southampton.
Jul 27, 2014, 11:08 PM EDT
Liverpool looks focused on improving its shape heading into the upcoming Premier League season.
Jul 27, 2014, 10:17 PM EDT
Raul Fernandez held Vancouver to a draw while Portland won a 3-2 barnburner with Montreal.
Jul 27, 2014, 8:08 PM EDT
This may not be as toast as it first appeared.
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