The Costa Rican National Team was the last CONCACAF team to be eliminated from the 2014 World Cup after losing to Netherlands in a penalty shootout. CONCACAF is given three spots , with a forth team able to qualify through an intercontinental playoff , which is a lot less than other regions because there are less countries in the region.
Honduras were the only team to bow out early in the group stage, which was more or less expected. It was also expected for Costa Rica to be eliminated in the group stage because they were in Group D’s “group of death” with Uruguay, Italy and England. The USMNT was another team that many expected to be eliminated in their own group of death with Ghana, Germany and Portugal.
Both Costa Rica and the USMNT were able to rise above and beyond expectations, which is great for CONCACAF now and in its future.
This was definitely not a one-time thing. When all three teams were eliminated, their opponents struggled to get the win. None were cast into easy groups, which made the advancements ever more encouraging. Other teams cannot see CONCACAF teams as easy wins anymore, because the talent is getting better and the players are always looking to win.
There is one team that has now become a CONCACAF rival after taking out two teams in this tournament: the Netherlands. the Dutch play smart and are almost mechanical in their tactics, which make them a hard team to take down.
Losing to the Netherlands is not something to be ashamed of, which is why Mexico and Costa Rica have continued to receive support after their respective eliminations.
The players who stood out the most in the three teams to advance were the goalkeepers. Guillermo Ochoa, Tim Howard and Keylor Navas have all been making headlines with their incredible performances for their respective teams. Howard broke the all-time record for most saves in a World Cup match against Belgium, and Ochoa and Navas were also seen as two of the best goalkeepers in the world.
At the beginning of the tournament, no one expected much from the CONCACAF teams, but they stepped up and proved everyone wrong. There have been many surprises in this tournament, and a lot of these came from this region. I expect them to go ever further in Russia in 2018.
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