Americas showcasing skills on world's stage

Mexico and Costa Rica have played like possessed teams in the Group Stage of the World Cup....

Mexico and Costa Rica have played like possessed teams in the Group Stage of the World Cup. (REUTERS)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:14 PM ET

MANAUS, Brazil -- The only thing more surprising than Costa Rica topping Group D were the viewers Tuesday night who thought Georgios Samaras intentionally tried to tear his own Achilles.

Ivory Coast forward Giovanni Sio caught just enough of the Greek striker's shooting leg to trip him up inside the penalty area -- a clear, but difficult decision for a referee to make in stoppage-time when you consider Samaras' PK-winner put Greece through to the next round.

With Costa Rica having already punched its ticket, the Mexicans are also having a fiesta after easily disposing of Croatia to some people's surprise.

That's three teams that many suggested wouldn't still be alive.

Iran has an opportunity to progress tomorrow.

The United States and Algeria a few days after that -- all teams most people completely wrote off before the tournament even began.

Additionally, should Honduras pull off some kind of upset for the ages Wednesday here in Manaus, this area of the globe might just explode.

As many as nine teams from North, Central and South America look poised to move into the second round.

Because of the climate, home support and something else.

"The players from these countries are all looking for a way out," Raul, a Honduras fan, responded when asked about this World Cup of upsets.

"They are good players in South America and (CONCACAF) and they are playing to go to the big leagues."

Now, maybe more than ever, players in the Americas see the World Cup as an opportunity to be seen.

Even American-based players will almost certainly see their transfer values rise if they continue to perform in front of world wide eyes.

It's why a tiny nation like Costa Rica, which finished group play by drawing England on Tuesday, can have so much success.

The Ticos, in their own hot, humid environment, are playing for a way out of Costa Rica, a chance to show they belong.

For many of the aforementioned surprise countries, there's incentive beyond just putting on your country's shirt.

"We are a good team, too," Raul the Honduran -- who now lives in Venezuela -- told me near my Amazonian hotel.

He reminded me what Honduras, compared to other confederations, went through just to get to this point in the process.

Canada's 8-1 qualifying loss to his home country in San Pedro Sula rang a bell.

"I was calling my family in Honduras (during that game)," said Raul, who was clad-in-blue with his wife a day before a match against the Swiss.

Had Honduras lost or drawn that game against Canada, it would have been eliminated.

The middle-aged Central American then took me on a walk down memory lane to explain why CONCACAF and South American sides are succeeding in Brazil.

"In 1985, Canada put a match against us in St. John's (Newefoundland)," he said. "It was so cold. We lost 2-1."

So, naturally, he said Honduras will only play qualifiers against Canada and the U.S. in San Pedro Sula, where it's "hot, hot, hot."

For Raul, and many pundits around the world, the environment here in Brazil has been a massive reason as to why teams from the Americas are having so much success. Combine that with a quickly-expanding player pool that's eager to earn respect and it's no wonder these sides are progressing at other's expense.

Our inferiority complex in Canada and the U.S. even has many excited to see CONCACAF's progress.

But for Raul, this tournament isn't about upsets, or sides that share a confederation seeing unparalleled success.

"I hate seeing Mexico progress," Raul said. "They say Hondurans play soccer with stones, like the Flintstones.

"Mexico had to go through the back door just to get here."

Fair enough, but along with the Greeks, Ticos and maybe the Yanks, they're moving on.

"We need to beat Switzerland by four goals," Raul said a day ahead of Honduras' final Group E match here at Arena Amazonia.

It would be a result akin to the one that kept his boys alive against Canada 18 months back.

"Why not? Honduras is good," Raul replied.

Based on qualifying, and CONCACAF's recent results, you can't argue with that.

 

 

CONFEDERATION RECORDS THROUGH TUESDAY

How each area of the globe has fared through the first two weeks of the 2014 World Cup

CONMEBOL (13-3-1)

-Continued dominance, proving it's the strongest, and deepest confederation in the world. Almost a guarantee South America will have a representative in the final next month in Rio.

UEFA (13-14-5)

-More teams from South America will be in the Round of 16 than UEFA, which had more than twice the number of qualifiers. Can European teams compete in difficult environments? Keep in mind the average record has to do with European teams playing each other.

CONCACAF (5-2-3)

-Poised to have three teams in the Round of 16, a massive accomplishment. It also shows you how difficult it will be for Canada to ever make this tournament again. Fantastic display from the U.S., Costa Rica and Mexico early on.

AFC (0-7-3)

-Embarrassing showing from the Asian confederation, which should likely see it's places at the next World Cup drop from 4.5 to 3. We're a long way from South Korea's deep run in 2002.

CAF (3-7-2)

-Certainly not as poor as the AFC, but anyone expecting an African team to finally make a deep run might need to wait until 2022 or later. Never mind the corruption claims. This confederation -- Ivory Coast for example -- simply lacks discipline.


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