The United States and, to a lesser extent, Honduras are playing for more than just their own World Cup lives in the final round of group matches, they could also help Concacaf make history.
Concacaf, which incorporates teams from North and central America, as well as three South American minnows, has never before had three teams make it out of the World Cup group stages and into the knock-out rounds.
Mexico’s 3-1 win over Croatia on Monday night ensured that for the fourth time Concacaf had qualified two teams for the last 16, with Costa Rica having already secured their place by beating Italy 1-0 last Friday.
“Concacaf is lifting its hand up in solidarity, we came with four and two of us are already in the next round, going well. We’ve already earnt more respect from everyone,” said Mexico coach Miguel Herrera.
“Costa Rica have had a great tournament, The United States are a solid team and Mexico have shown that.
“Unforuntately for Honduras they need a lot of work but they’re also trying.”
The US are the best placed to help their region make history as they need only a point in their final Group E clash with Germany in Recife on Thursday to qualify for the knock-outs.
Even a defeat might prove enough depending on what happens in the other group match between Portugal and Ghana in Brasilia.
Both sides trail the USA and Germany by three points meaning a draw in their game would see them both knocked out.
If either side win and there is a victory in the top of the table clash, then goal difference would come into deciding who finishes second.
For Honduras the task is a little tougher but not impossible.
If they can beat Switzerland in Manaus on Wednesday they would still need Ecuador to lose to France.
What’s more, they must beat the Swiss by at least two goals to move above Switzerland in the Group E table — a one goal victory would leave them trailing the Europeans on goals scored. That would still leave them with a goal difference of minus two, meaning they would also need Ecuador to lose by at least two goals.
Even then, they would run the risk of missing out to Ecuador on goals scored or head-to-head record, having lost to Ecuador 2-1 in Curitiba last Friday.
Realistically they would probably need to beat the Swiss by two goals and see Ecuador lose by three.
Whatever happens, Herrera believes the region as a whole is making great strides.
“I want to be clear that our footballing area is also showing solidity and strength, and for this reason we deserve to be treated the same way as Conmebol (South America) and Europe,” added Herrera.
“As a confederation, Concacaf is improving and we’re showing that we’re ready to compete on a level playing field with the powerful confederations, which everyone knows are Europe and South America.”
In all three previous occasions that two Concacaf qualifiers made it into the second round, they were Mexico and the US in 1994, 2002 and 2010.
Costa Rica have only once before reached the knock-out stages, in 1990, but the US were knocked out in the group that year and Mexico had not even qualified, due to a suspension over the use of over-aged players in a youth tournament.
Honduras have never made the knock-out rounds and in fact have yet to win a World Cup match in eight attempts over three tournaments.