World Cup: Biggest surprise not Spain, Italy, or England

We are now through the group stages of the 2014 World Cup. These first 72 games have no doubt been some of the most exciting in World Cup history. Goals have come in bunches. There have been more than 130 goals scored thus far. More importantly there has been no shortage of surprises. Surprises include the countries who have won the past two World Cups heading home early and a former champion going winless in their three games.

Of course these three countries mentioned above are Spain, Italy, and England. However, the biggest surprise thus far in the tournament is the success of the CONCACAF teams. Only four teams from the region make it into the World Cup Finals. The three teams with the most points in qualifying stamped their tickets to Brazil, while the fourth team had to play a playoff game against New Zealand.concacaf

The three CONCACAF teams that automatically qualified were the United States, Costa Rica, and Honduras. This meant that Mexico was forced to enter the home-and-home series with New Zealand. Once Mexico cruised through this playoff series, the table was set for four CONCACAF teams to play in the 2014 World Cup.

When the groups were drawn, officials from all four CONCACAF teams must have cringed. Each team from the region was drawn into a difficult group. Here are how the group selections played out for the CONCACAF teams:

-Mexico drew the group with the Brazilian hosts, Croatia, and Cameroon.

-Costa Rica was placed in a group with three previous World Cup winners in Italy, England, and Uruguay. (This was the first time that three previous winners of a World Cup were in the same group.)

-The United States got drawn into the so-called ‘Group of Death’ which consisted of Portugal, Germany, and Ghana.

-Honduras drew what was seen as the easiest group for the CONCACAF teams. Their group consisted of France, Switzerland, and Ecuador.

After the groups were drawn, expectations were that the best-case scenario only 1 CONCACAF team would make it out of their group. Boy, were we all wrong!

Three CONCACAF teams made it out of their group. Mexico finished with 7 points, narrowly missing out on taking the top spot in the group from Brazil. Costa Rica shocked the world and beat both Uruguay and Italy to clinch advancing to the Round of 16 before playing a depleted England squad to a 0-0 tie. The United States finished with 4 points, finishing second in the ‘Group of Death’ to Germany.

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Each team that has advanced will play a European team in the Round of 16.

-Mexico will face off against the Netherlands on Sunday, June 29th at 12 pm

-Costa Rica will play Greece on Sunday, June 29th at 4 pm

-the USA plays Belgium on Tuesday, July 1st at 4 pm

The European region of UEFA is known to be the stronger region, so it will be a challenge for all three CONCACAF teams. However, with how the group stages went for the CONCACAF teams, it would seem that they are all up to the task