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The rise of CONCACAF: Organization the key to the federation’s World Cup success

Jun 27, 2014, 5:33 PM EDT

CostaRicafan AP

Costa Rica’s incredible domination of arguably the true “Group of Death” is just the tip of the iceberg in a larger revolution brought to Brazil from their northern neighbors.

With three CONCACAF teams in the knockout stage of the 2014 World Cup – the most ever – Costa Rica, Mexico, and the United States are proving the key to winning games on the biggest stage isn’t always having the best players.

It’s having the best team.

Starting at the top, the trio of CONCACAF sides has proven the better team against sides such as Italy, Uruguay, England, Ghana, Portugal, and Croatia, and hung with title contenders Brazil and Germany.

The key to their success lies largely in the team cohesion, and that translates directly into not just tactical domination, but formational organization.

It showed in the United States 1-0 loss to Germany, one that many say felt like a win. With one of the world’s best attacks poking and prodding, the US remained composed at the back.  They were unable to conjure up much possession going forward, but under assault from Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Philipp Lahm, they conceded just a single goal and looked strong in repelling build-up play.

Mexico’s impressive 0-0 draw against Brazil was also a classic display in organization, both at the front and the back.  While goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa stole the show, Mexico’s trio of central defenders were a brick wall against the hosts.  Fred was useless in the attack, Oscar was stuck in the middle third, and their hack-a-Neymar strategy kept him down for the most part.

And throughout Costa Rica’s ownership of Group D, they played brilliantly as a team to both pin down the opposition and make their attacks count.  They held down Italy’s Andrea Pirlo, disconnected Uruguay’s midfield from their front line, and stuffed England’s wingers into the middle and kept the touchlines clear.

If these teams continue to play solid, technical soccer and stay together in shape and form, there could be more top-level teams that fall into the CONCACAF trap, this time in the knockout round.

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  1. jdfsquared - Jun 27, 2014 at 6:18 PM

    I gotta say, the Germany game itself felt like a loss. We hunkered down, only lost by 1 and had a coupla chances, but they were the better side and they beat us on the day. But since we all knew that would happen, and we got thru on the other result and our cumulative effort so far, it definitely felt like a win not to get beat badly and to advance.

    But the game itself? We lost.

  2. drewvt6 - Jun 27, 2014 at 6:50 PM

    We certainly started that Germany game scared. I haven’t seen the US play that way since the 2009 Confed Cup against Italy.

  3. rmccleary97 - Jun 27, 2014 at 7:36 PM

    As great as CONCACAF has been in this year’s tournament, if confederation coefficients were calculated as has been previously (off results in games vs. other confederations in the past 3 World Cups) CONCACAF’s coefficient for FIFA rankings would … drop from 0.88 to 0.85. In fact, UEFA would drop from 1.00 to 0.98 because of the strong performance of CONMEBOL in inter-federation games in the last 2 Cups.

    3 to the round of 16 is a great showing – but it could easily be all UEFA/CONMEBOL come the quarterfinals. Someone (and preferably more than one someone) has to step up and move into the quarters if CONCACAF is truly going to draw respect from Europe and South America.

  4. misterdreamer119 - Jun 27, 2014 at 7:47 PM

    The USMN is weakening. 1 win, 1 draw, 1 loss. Costa Rica can beat Greece. Mexico probly falls to Netherlands.

    • skipvanmeter - Jun 27, 2014 at 9:12 PM

      US 2014, much like US 2002: both times 1 win 1 draw 1 loss Followed by a win and a Torsten Frings handball on the line away from penalty kicks and a semifinal berth.

      So I guess you’re a glass half empty kind a guy.

    • elgallo2001 - Jun 27, 2014 at 10:45 PM

      I would have to say that when we saw this draw (pro analysts & fans like me) thought the perfect solution to get out of the group was to:

      1. Beat Ghana
      2. Tie Portugal
      3. Hope that 4 points was enough going against a stronger German side

      So I’d say our team performed exactly as planed. Now, anything else we can do is gravy. The pressure is all on Belgium. The boys should just go out and play hard, have fun and heck, maybe we make some more waves!

      I should have taken Tuesday off.

  5. godsholytrousers - Jun 27, 2014 at 8:11 PM

    Knockout Stage games are different than Group Play, the CONCACAF teams will represent the region well, but remember this is a FIFA tournament. Nobody ever accused FIFA of being too fair and above board. We may well be up against it with the big boys when the games get tight and the officials prove themseIves worthy of their FIFA overlords.

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