We’re less than a week away from the 2018 World Cup and I figured it’s a good time to take a quick look at the CONCACAF teams involved.
Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama are the regions attendees this go round, down from the quartet of Mexico, Costa Rica, USA and Honduras in 2014. Three of those teams got to the Round of 16 with Costa Rica, surprisingly, making it to the quarterfinals. That’s highly unlikely this time around.
I really can’t say much about Panama. Its their first ever World Cup so all the best to them. Hopefully they do better than Honduras and come away with at least one point. In a group featuring England, Tunisia and Belgium its possible. With Roman Torres at the back they will definitely give a good defensive effort and maybe the wily oldies in attack, Luis Tejada and Blas Perez, can cause some discomfort.
Their reception will be much different from the one Costa Rica receives.
Los Ticos will be treated with respect by their group opponents, Serbia, Brazil and Switzerland. It’s really hard to tell if this team will make it to the Round of 16. A lot of the key players from four years ago return to the fold. The side will look to be as solid defensively as they were in 2014 with Keylor Navas marshaling his troops from between the posts. The trio of Bryan Ruiz, Marco Urena and Joel Campbell up top can cause some damage on the counter and will have to be as efficient as they were four years ago. Should they make it out of their group it will likely be in second place. That would be the end of their run as their opponents would be Germany, the likely Group F winner.
Mexico is the most talented of this trio and, as the ever-present CONCACAF representative, there will be some expectation again.
They should get out of their group behind Germany given their talent but it won’t be easy. Sweden will be tough to break down and South Korea has the attacking weapons to punish them if they aren’t careful defensively. If Juan Carlos Osorio’s rotates as he usually does that will affect his key players. That, along with the teams profligacy in front of goal, might undo them. The likes of Carlos Vela, Giovani dos Santos, Javier Hernandez, Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera have the experience and talent to make a difference when it matters. I still hope to see the Santos brothers play significant time together but that’s unlikely. Their trip, like Costa Rica’s, would end at the Round of 16 stage as they would face Brazil if they advance.
It wouldn’t surprise me if neither Costa Rica or Mexico made it out of the group stages nor would it surprise me if they both did. A bit of a cop-out there I guess. I expect that Mexico will make it and I give Switzerland the edge over Costa Rica. Hopefully Panama does well. It will be an interesting World Cup for CONCACAF teams but I don’t think it will be a particularly lengthy one.