Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Times like these

When qualifying is over in Europe, be it for a World Cup or a European Championship, I'm always left with a bit of dismay.

I wonder if USMNT fans realize how lucky they are that their team is in CONCACAF.

England, with all the talent and resources imaginable available, cannot qualify for a major tournament. But the US is virtually guaranteed of qualifying for each and every World Cup. With the gap between the US, Mexico and the rest of CONCACAF, to me it is unimaginable that the US would ever miss out on qualifying for a World Cup.

England enjoys no such luxury. Like all other European nations, England must contend with a very strong field just to get to a major tournament. In Europe, it happens all the time. England did not qualify for Euro 2008. Ukraine, quarterfinalists in the 2006 World Cup, are out. Ireland, Denmark, Norway, each of whom has had success in recent World Cups and have plenty of talented players, can't get a sniff of this tournament either.

I've touched on this topic before but with the field for Euro 2008 finalized today, I feel for those fans from countries who do not qualify consistently for important tournaments. I guess they're geographically challenged. The US is not in the same position as Norway or Denmark or Ireland or any of those fringe European nations because of where the States lie on the globe.

Now, US coaches and players always talk about how difficult qualifying is and how each and every game is important. Well, the only nation who should even come close to beating the US on American soil is Mexico, and look at how good its gone for El Tri this decade. Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Jamaica, Trinidad, none of those teams should ever pose a challenge to the US. Costa Rica has the talent to play better but they can't ever score against the US here for some reason. Let's see, off the top of my head there was the 3-0 game in Utah in 05, the 1-0 game in KC in 01 and the 1-0 game in Portland in 97. So a 5-0 record in the hexagonal gives the US 15 points. One road win and one road draw mixed in should be sufficient to see the US through. That's not exactly a Herculean task.

Anyway, this isn't meant as a bash of the US. It's to their credit that they've achieved such lofty status in a short amount of time. Just think, in 1986 Canada qualified for the World Cup while the United States did not. When will that ever happen again? As far as I see it, the US and Mexico are shoo-ins for each and every World Cup, unless CONCACAF gets stripped of all but one spot.

So while the seemingly impossible task of winning a World Cup is still out there in all USMNT fans, at least one thing is certain: their team will have a shot of that goal, however realistic or unrealistic it may be, every four years. You can take that at least that part to the bank.


Alex said...

I agree that we are gifted the World Cup spot every year. However, the competition that comes from Europe makes those teams better. If we were competing with the likes of England, Croatia and Russia (not to mention Portugal, Spain, and the other soccer powers of the world) the US team might make it out of the group stages in the world cup.

The US has been trying to remedy that as of late, with Copa America, friendlies abroad and harder competition.

A blessing and a curse.

Jaime Cárdenas said...

I have a dream...that one day CONMEBOL and CONCACAF will play alongside each other. The color of their money won't matter.

I have a dream...that CONMEBOL and CONCACAF will one day get together and play a Euro-style group-stage qualifying tournament (for both the World Cup and Copa America).

I doubt it will ever happen, though.

Dominghosa said...

Jaime, If that ever happens, say good bye to the U.S. making it the the World Cup every four years.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. When put into perspective, it really does justify all the spots that Europe receives in World Cup qualifying.

Kevin said...

Under Jaime's scenario, the US would still get in easily as the combined continents would minimally get 7 or 8 spots and the lower South American countries (Bolivia, Venezuela, and Peru) are not of our quality.

glen said...

Dominghosa said...

"Jaime, If that ever happens, say good bye to the U.S. making it the the World Cup every four years."

no, we would have to become a better team by playing better teams than Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala etc. Also, Mexico and Canada would have to improve a great deal as well to qualify...

Joel Aceves said...

I doubt COMEBOLAS is dumb enough to want third world Caribbean countries, that do not even have a professional soccer league, to have equal vote as Brazil.

Anyways, playing in a weak confederation has been counterproductive for Mexico. The time that el Tri qualified to Arg (78) by hosting WCQ's they lost every single WC game.

No need to mention El Salvador's stint in Spain (82) !!! It was a brutal prison ass rape that not even el Magico Gonzalez has recovered from.

Anonymous said...

"Under Jaime's scenario, the US would still get in easily as the combined continents would minimally get 7 or 8 spots and the lower South American countries (Bolivia, Venezuela, and Peru) are not of our quality."

I find it funny that people still think Venezuela is this South American minnow that never wins games. They haven't been horrible since the 1998 qualifiers and are improving by leaps and bounds every year. In my opinion they've improved at a faster rate than the US has given they're in a tougher region like COMNEBOL and has predominantly been a baseball country. They might not be at our level, but they're pretty close.

Bolivia and Peru might now be the weakest teams in South America and I still think the US wouldn't be guaranteed a win playing away to these two.

Matt said...

Well let's see, we conquered a huge land area and removed all other people groups. No one was able to do that in Europe. Yet another advantage of Manifest Destiny!!

JT (Chicago) said...

At this point, I think it would be a great benefit for the US & Mexico to compete in Jaime's dream scenario - even if it meant sitting out a WC or America's Cup Championship once in awhile.

The successes will build confidence and the defeats will force the teams to re-evaluate their direction more often.