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.
Sep 23, 2014, 5:49 PM EDT
Anfield played host to a match that saw two extra-time goals and a penalty shootout that went 15 rounds before the Reds could claim their place in the fourth round.
Sep 23, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
The Serbian club’s supporters were seen waving a banner displaying an anti-Semitic phrase during their Europa League match against Tottenham.
Sep 23, 2014, 4:08 PM EDT
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Sep 23, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
UEFA has already ruled — based on previous offenses — that CSKA’s match against Bayern Munich next week will be played in an empty stadium.
Sep 23, 2014, 2:22 PM EDT
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Sep 23, 2014, 1:33 PM EDT
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Sep 23, 2014, 12:42 PM EDT
The possibilities for juicy upsets aren’t dancing through the slate of third round matches, but there’s plenty to look forward to…
Sep 23, 2014, 11:43 AM EDT
Ghana national teamer and Al Ain striker Asamoah Gyan has called a press conference to refute non-sensical claims that he killed his friend to gain magical powers.
Sep 23, 2014, 10:53 AM EDT
Anfield has been Liverpool’s home since 1892, and the new construction is slated to finish in time for the start of the 2016/17 season.
Sep 23, 2014, 10:08 AM EDT
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Sep 23, 2014, 9:06 AM EDT
Hope Solo advocates have been angered by some columns claiming she shouldn’t be playing, while a national pundit gives his take on the story
Sep 23, 2014, 8:09 AM EDT
Bradley Wright-Phillips, you may now step forward to collect your prize of Internet-based high-fives.
Sep 23, 2014, 7:40 AM EDT
It’s hard to imagine the new head safety measures won’t pass quickly, and reports say they could be in effect by October.
Sep 23, 2014, 12:14 AM EDT
Newly-promoted Paderborn is shocking the Bundesliga and providing quite the show in the process.
Sep 22, 2014, 11:28 PM EDT
It was a rough weekend for Americans in England, but outside the country things a little more enjoyable.
Sep 22, 2014, 10:51 PM EDT
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Sep 22, 2014, 10:04 PM EDT
Despite making just sixteen league appearances the last three years, the Gunners manager says Diaby should be commended for his perseverance.
Sep 22, 2014, 8:41 PM EDT
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Sep 22, 2014, 7:59 PM EDT
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Sep 22, 2014, 7:07 PM EDT
A dive to end all dives gave the German third division some notoriety.
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