With three of its four teams making a splash in World Cup first round, Mexico coach Miguel Herrera said on Monday that CONCACAF is growing into a force with which to be reckoned.
"[Our win] clearly shows that in our region we are getting strong solid, we deserve same treatment given to South American Confederation and to Europe," Herrera said following Mexico's 3-1 win over Croatia. "CONCACAF is working well. We know there are a lot of islands and teams that don't grow much but our area, our region is doing much to grow.
"Four of us came to this tournament and three of us are moving on to the next round, moving on solidly, and they all see us with more respect. Costa Rica has done a great job, U.S. is also a very solid team. It was unfortunately somehow more difficult for Honduras, but our region should be seen with good eyes."
Costa Rica and Mexico have both made it through to the second round. The United States is on the verge, needing a point to secure their berth in the round of 16 or a win over Germany to finish on top of Group G.
"The thing is, lots of people think that CONCACAF is easy," said Manchester United and El Tri striker Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez. "And you see first of the group to Costa Rica, United States almost get through. Honduras worked hard but not getting through, so it is not an easy part of the world. We are growing up. There are a lot of CONCACAF players in Europe, and that helps a lot."
Herrera clarified that while he doesn't think that CONCACAF is yet on the level of the South American Confederation (CONMEBOL) or Europe, he encouraged football fans to keep a watchful eye.
"CONCACAF is growing. We are raising our hand to compete on equal footing," he said.
Costa Rica beat Uruguay 3-1 and Italy 1-0 for a surprising upset in Group D, which featured three teams that have previously won World Cups. Mexico went through in Group A on Monday after securing a draw earlier against Brazil, and the United States can make it through on Thursday against Germany.
As for Mexico's victory over Croatia, Herrera said he would let his players enjoy the moment before getting back down to the business of facing the Netherlands. Rafa Marquez, Andres Guardado and Hernandez scored in a 10-minute span in the second half, dooming a talented Croatia side to elimination from the group stage.
"Well, we had a very good match the first half, with a little bit of lack of daring plays. We were pressured. We came into the field pressured and thinking that the result of the draw would qualify us for the next round," Herrera said. "But we discussed this at halftime that it was important to bring Rafa Marquez to the front of the field without changing the men, and the fans were happy when they saw the first goal. Today we feel as if we were playing at home not just because of our fans but because of the Brazilians, who have treated us brilliantly.
"We overcame the first hurdle. We are going to have dinner with families in Recife," said Herrera, who tweeted several inspirational messages to fans post-match, including this one, which said: "We have already taken the first step toward our goal. Now we have our minds set on a win vs. Netherlands."
Ya dimos el primer paso de nuestro objetivo. Ahora nuestra mente puesta en el triunfo vs Holanda. #LosChavosHablaronEnLaCancha- Miguel Herrera (@MiguelHerreraDT) June 23, 2014