When I was assigned North America (excluding USA) for the Fool's World Cup, I knew I was pretty much looking at a two-man team. Where else are you going to invest on this continent if not in the U.S., Mexico, or Canada?

And Canada -- what's so foreign about that? Sure, they talk funny up there, eh? And they may have more mining scams on their markets than we do (a dubious distinction), but in most respects, Canadian companies are a lot like ours. Boring! But as with most investments, boring is usually better. That's where Canada and Mexico have some opportunities in common these days.

Spicy enchilada
I don't know about you, but there are times I'd rather just fire up the drop top and head for Tijuana than pile on the goose down and have my pronunciation of "croissant" criticized by brittle French descendants. (Hint: if you don't feel emasculated while saying it, you're not doing it right.) Mexico has a reputation for being -- how you say? -- caliente.

Yes, that's the buzz on the street. And it's not unwarranted. There are funky accounting taxes and accounting differences to be considered, and the Mexican economy is more prone to craziness than those of its northern neighbors (though I'd argue that, right now, we gringos shouldn't be tossing stones). That means you need to be careful and do your homework, but Mexico is no banana republic, and unlike China and India, it's not on every shoeshine-boy's short list of places to make a mint. Which means we're more likely to get real opportunities there.

So let's take a look at some World Cup-quality firms to watch from across our borders, starting with our tuque-wearing, slow-talking, back-bacon eating, hockey-loving northern neighbors.

Great white north
There's nothing particularly Canadian about some of the more famous businesses from the land of the hosers. Techies like ATI Technologies (NASDAQ:ATYT), Research In Motion (NYSE:RIMM), and Nortel (NYSE:NT) are so ingrained in Wall Street lore that they hardly seem Canadian. (Unfortunately, some of them are better known for scandal than for profit.)

If we want something that plays to local strengths, I think we need to head out to the boonies and take a look at the boomtown rats in the oil sands biz. There's little doubt that companies like Suncor and Encana have been big winners for investors of late. The trouble is, though I think oil sands will continue to boom, I have a hard time seeing bargains among these producers. Nor do I think the common wisdom about "selling the shovels" and letting the miners beat each other with them offers a ton of opportunity, with outfits like Joy Global looking frothy as well.

For my part, one of the better ideas I've heard lately is a boring one -- taking a look at the companies that will be moving the go juice to us Canyonero-driving gas hogs in the USA. Pipeliner and power company Transcanada (NYSE:TRP) is working on a major project to deliver oil-sands products to the States. I'm no expert on pipelines, but my conservative, back-o-the-Froot-Loop-box valuation makes these shares look like they're selling for about 75 cents on the buck. Meanwhile, the company pays nearly a 4% dividend yield, and Transcanada has a solid record of raising those dividends.

And since Transcanada also has a pipeline project for Mexico, let's use that as a convenient segue and take the tube south.

Run for the border
With all the vitriol being tossed around by our headline-seeking politicians in the border and immigration debates, you could forgive the average American for thinking Mexico is a terrible, terrible place, something akin to Purgatory, or Detroit.

In fact, I think Mexico offers some of the best investment opportunities around these days, with a strengthening economy, an increasing pool of highly educated workers, and a relatively low profile among the investment pretenders out there. With armchair emerging-markets mavens looking only to places like China and India, savvy investors can get some chunks of Mexico on the cheap. That's even truer today than it was a month or two ago. Investors have fled just about everything in emerging markets, regardless of the underlying strength of the companies.

Let's start with Cemex (NYSE:CX). These days, you can get one of the world's biggest building-materials providers for a price that looks like 60 cents on the buck to me. This company has grown and acquired its way into the big leagues, while putting up returns on equity approaching 24% (last year) and returns on capital making a lumpy but consistent journey toward 10%. Worried about a worldwide economic slowdown and the impact on construction? Hack off another 20% for that risk. At an 80-cent buck, you're still looking at a bargain, in my book.

Think cement is too boring? How about chickens, eggs, and pork? (Woo-hoo!) IndustriasBachoco (NYSE:IBA) has actual cash earnings, still trades below book value, and serves a growing community that's more and more interested in value-added food products like preprocessed breaded cuts and fajitas.

How about a little something to wrap up those fajitas? Look no further than Gruma (NYSE:GMK), a boring but cheap-looking company that's the world leader in tortillas. This is one of those sleepers with growth low enough that few pay attention, until the obvious becomes, well, obvious. My colleague Bill Mann, who makes a lot of money "investing in mediocrity," recommended it in our recent international report, Around the World in 80 Minutes.

Foolish conclusion
Investing, like football (ahem, soccer) tournaments, is subject to buzz and jingoism. Over the long run, you're always better off investing where others aren't, and buying stocks (or countries) that don't top the darling list. If you want to add some quality names to your international squad, these boring stocks present great values on solid companies.

North America is facing India and Southeast Asia in this Investing World Cup match. Go back to the intro page to navigate your way to another part of this contest, and then vote for the region that you think should advance to the next round of the tournament.

If you'd like a longer look at more of the same, take a peek at our Motley Fool International Stock Report, where I give you the details on my absolute favorite prospect in Mexico: a toll bridge priced for disaster -- even though the worst is already over.

Seth Jayson would rather push his cash into overseas stocks than hide it in the group delusion of gold. At the time of publication, he had no positions in any company mentioned here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here.

This article represents the opinion of one Fool and should in no way be taken as the opinion of either The Motley Fool, Inc., or the company in question, or as representative of anyone or anything other than that specific Fool's thoughts. So before buying, do your homework and review The Motley Fool's superbly sportsmanlike disclosure policy.