A Few Thoughts on World Cup 2014

So last year I wrote a thought piece on the current Confederations and their qualification systems for the World Cup.  About a month removed from this year’s World Cup in Brazil I am emerging from acute soccer withdrawal and wanted to note some thoughts about Brazil.

First off, this was an exciting edition of the World Cup.  Great games, lots of goals and drama galore.  The German shellacking of Brasil will go down in history as one of the greatest shock defeats in the history of the game.  The advance of Costa Rica deep into the tournament was as great a Cinderella story as soccer could have.  The overall performance of CONCACAF was wonderful despite Honduras’ poor form.  Africa and Asia did not perform up to expectations. Germany’s victory is the first time a European nation won the cup on South American soil.  German-Americans on the U.S. team played really really well and made everyone feel genuinely American all the more so.  Really, is there a more genuine expression of shock, joy and wonder than John Brooks emotions after scoring the winning goal against Ghana?

Let’s look at the performance of the various Confederations this year:

Oceania Football ConfederationNo team from OFC qualified for this year’s tournament. New Zealand qualified in 2010 but with Australia having moved to the Asia Confederation no other current OFC team has ever qualified for the Cup.

Asian Football ConfederationNone of the four AFC teams got out of their group and to add insult to injury they also all finished last in their groups.  Sometimes things don’t break your way — you need a bit of luck to succeed in soccer — but this is a pretty poor performance.

Confédération Africaine de FootballAfrica managed to move two of its five teams on to the round of 16.  Not objectively bad but given the perennial expectations for African teams to do better, a bit disappointing.  Algeria and Nigeria played fairly well.  There were, unfortunately not surprising, problems with payments and other support for these national teams.  The U.S. finally beat Ghana after two important defeats to that nation.

Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association FootballCONCACAF did really well.  We got three teams to the round of 16 and Costa Rica got to the round of 8.  There’s a question of how much more depth there is in CONCACAF beyond the U.S., Mexico and Costa Rica but I do think countries like Panama, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago (and even Canada if they could get their national program in shape) and other central american countries could make an impact in future cups.

Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol: South America, despite not winning the final, did really well.  Only one of its six teams did not advance out of its group and two of its teams made it to the semi-finals with Argentina losing the final on a well-struck German goal in overtime.

Union des Associations Européennes de Football: Despite Germany becoming the first European country to win the Cup on South American soil, as a whole, seven of the thirteen European nations did not advance out of their groups.  European countries all played well on average despite a disappointing performance from Spain.  But it should raise questions over the 13 automatic spots for Europe and whether that should change before the next Cup.

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