With just today left in the group stage, we’re hours away from knowing the full bracket for the Round of 16 which starts tomorrow, allowing us to know the path each country must take if they are to lift the ultimate title in the sport of football. And with no CONCACAF teams in either of today’s groups, that means all four have finished their group stage matches, and let me tell you, the results aren’t appealing in any way. So, here’s a quick recap of each of the CONCACAF teams’ performances:
The only reason I don’t grade them lower is for a couple reasons: 1) We expected this outcome from the beginning; 2) They won a match and were one goal away from making the knockout phase. Despite that, it was a horrific World Cup by El Tri, considering the display of talent they’ve shown in previous World Cups. An ugly, uncreative bunch is what we witnessed for the first two matches, until Martino finally set them loose for the Saudi Arabia match. Poland proved to not be as tough as we expected, but Mexico’s lack of talent on every line made it impossible to top them, as we knew they Argentina wouldn’t be topped.
That being said, the last match against Saudi Arabia was a delight. Filled with shot attempts and exciting play creation, Mexico showed they are capable of producing offense, but were just too afraid to try in the cup’s first 180 minutes for some reason. In the end, a disappointing World Cup conclusion, just as we expected.
The only CONCACAF team to make it through the group stage, the US by no means had a good first round in this World Cup. Not only were they placed in a group with two subpar teams, but they held the lead for most of those matches. After a dominant first half against Wales, they yielded possession and initiative to them entirely and dared them to attack, until a silly Zimmerman foul gifted Gareth Bale a PK to tie things up. Similar story with Iran (third match), after creating countless opportunities in the first half, only to again allow Iran to take control in the second, holding a slim 1-goal lead, and it nearly cost them their knockout phase ticket with close approaches and near PK calls. An Iran goal would’ve eliminated the US.
However, their solid display against England showed a different side of this NT. If they could prove capable of nullifying this potent English squad, they can compete with nearly anyone. Their issues putting the ball in the net, however, will more than likely signify their demise in this cup. Had they dealt with Wales and Iran accordingly, they’d have a much higher grade.
Not only the biggest World Cup disappointment in CONCACAF, but one of the biggest in the entire thing. An opening 1-0 loss to Belgium left much hope in the hearts of many, as Canada dominated most of the match and made an experienced, high quality team like Belgium look silly at times. They maintained a high consistency level against one of the top teams in the world. After that, they were expected to do important things in the folllowing two matches.
After taking a 1-0 lead on Croatia, their world quickly crumbled, allowing four goals in the remainder of the match to lose by a screeching 4-1 final. Unthinkable after what you saw in that first match. Finally, their 2-1 loss to Morocco yesterday with keeper Borjan giving away the first goal like he did in just the 4th minute of action, coupled with Canada’s ineffectiveness going forward, just confirm an inexperienced and unready team. That is not the team we saw in the qualifiers. Dead last in their group with not a single point. Yep, F.
For starters, they had the toughest group out of the four CONCACAF teams; Germany, Spain, and Japan. They were well on their way to an F grade after their historic 7-0 loss to Spain, but quickly bounced back to defeat Japan, who were just coming off a historic victory themselves by surprisingly defeating the Germans. Finally, after trailing 1-0 after the 10th minute yesterday in their Germany match, Costa Rica came from behind to take a 2-1 lead that had them momentarily in the Round of 16, believe it or not. Normality quickly kicked in however, and Germany scored three times to seal the 4-2 win, eliminating both Germany and Costa Rica.
The Ticos aren’t the NT they used to be. They’ve clearly retrogressed in recent years, especially since their QF appearance in the 2014 WC in Brazil. That being said, the fact they recovered like they did after that demoralizing 7-0 loss, with the world-class teams in their group, and being 20 minutes away from making it to the knockout phase has to count for something. They overperformed considering the circumstances, but still, a disappointing result in the end.