President Webb’s take on CONCACAF’s World Cup run.
With the completion of group stage play at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and three of CONCACAF’s four representatives sealing berths in the round of 16, President Jeffrey Webb sat down with CONCACAF.com to get his views on the action in Brazil.
Q: Great results thus far for CONCACAF at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Are you surprised by what the Confederation’s representatives were able to achieve?
PRESIDENT WEBB: I’m not really surprised. We knew immediately after the draw that the groups were going to be tough, but I also predicted that we would have two teams advance to the knockout stages. Having three out of four actually progress is a very good indicator of the game’s level in parts of our region.
Q: To what do you attribute this overall success?
PRESIDENT WEBB: I believe it is a combination of different elements for each team. For one, the strong commitment from National Associations to player development is certainly showing with individual standouts on the field.
I also believe that the fact that CONCACAF’s Gold Cup is played every 2 years, instead of every 4 years has a positive impact on the level of competition. Teams have the opportunity to play highly competitive games more often allowing them to evaluate their player pool at that level.
We have also witnessed outstanding coaching in our teams. Managers have successfully adjusted their teams and formations during the course of games in order to get the result. We have also seen their ability to motivate and unite their respective squads. Taking pressure off the players is key and our managers have proven to be proficient in making sure that their players are in the right frame of mind to compete.
Q: Which aspect of the teams differ most from past tournaments…technical, tactical or mental?
PRESIDENT WEBB: To me, changes in mental approach differ most in the performances of our teams in this World Cup as compared to others. Each team has demonstrated a belief that it could win regardless of the opponent. It has become a CONCACAF trademark in this competition. Take Costa Rica as an example. The Ticos went undefeated and finished first in a group that contained Uruguay, Italy and England…three past champions. Mexico beat Cameroon and Croatia, while tying host Brazil. The United States topped Ghana after losing to it in each of the previous two World Cups.
Q: Can you give us your quick impressions on each CONCACAF team at the World Cup?
PRESIDENT WEBB: Miguel Herrera has instilled a real sense of camaraderie into the team. There seems to be no stars, no egos. The entire team pulls together as a single unit. Their resources are utilized beautifully in all areas of the field, attacking through the middle, the flanks, shooting from mid-range and taking players one-on one. A truly multifaceted squad anchored by Ochoa’s outstanding goalkeeping. Certainly a contender for the best goalkeeper performance in the tournament.
PRESIDENT WEBB: Its mental discipline on the field stands out from previous World Cups. Even when the odds may indicate otherwise, the team maintains its style and stays true to what Jurgen wants. Their possession game has been outstanding and their confidence runs high. These attributes were best demonstrated against Ghana and Portugal.
PRESIDENT WEBB: Simply flawless. Confidence is high, but so is technique and tactical awareness. Its possession game and off-the-ball movement have contributed to the creation of opportunities and a sturdy defense. I think that the job that Mr. Pinto has done with this team will have a long lasting legacy in Costa Rican soccer.
PRESIDENT WEBB: Honduras came into this tournament playing solid football. However, I don’t think it ever found a rhythm. (Head coach) Luis Fernando Suarez certainly gathered a solid team that played well during qualifiers and the 2013 Gold Cup, but it could not find its game in any of the three matches.
Q: What are your thoughts on the performances of CONCACAF referees during this World Cup?
PRESIDENT WEBB: The CONCACAF referees have done a terrific job thus far. Overall, their performances have been very solid. If I have to highlight one, it would be Mark Geiger’s first match. I thought he was simply outstanding.
Q: What does the success of CONCACAF teams mean in relation to the desire for the Confederation to secure a fourth direct berth to the FIFA World Cup?
PRESIDENT WEBB: The strong performance by our teams certainly justify the debate to push for a fourth full spot and we will do so accordingly. Only South America at 83% had a higher share of its teams advance to the knockout stage of this World Cup.
Q: Finally, from a fan support point of view, are you pleased with CONCACAF’s showing?
PRESIDENT WEBB: CONCACAF fans have shown without a doubt that this confederation loves our sport, not only on the ground at the stadiums in Brazil, but also across the social media spectrum. I applaud their efforts and thank them for being proud of belonging to our confederation. Hashtags such as #CONCACAF and #WeAreCONCACAF have trended before, during and after our matches.