And Then There Were Four

The Play by Play

And Then There Were Four

The FIFA field, starting with 32, has narrowed to the final four teams: France, Belgium, England and Croatia. On Saturday, the French defeated Uruguay, who played without Cavani, one of its star forwards. While Hugo Lloris, France’s goalie, demonstrated excellence, particularly with one massive save late in the first half, Uruguay’s keeper Musleras let in a less-than-stellar shot, which led to his team’s eventual loss. That afternoon, Belgium sent Brazil and Neymar (who spent a tournament total of 14 minutes theatrically falling to the ground)  packing. Despite only taking 8 shots, compared to Brazil’s 26, the Belgians walked away with a 2-1 victory, due, in large part to both Fernandinho’s own goal early in the game and an epic save by Belgium’s keeper deep into extra time.

In the other bracket, England, after finally overcoming its penalties curse (previously eliminated from six major tournaments after penalties in the last 22 years), faced Sweden. David Beckham and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, former members of the English and Swedish national teams respectively, tweeted a friendly wager on the game. And with England coming out on top, it looks like Beckham won’t be going to IKEA but we’ll soon see Ibrahimovic sporting an English jersey at Wembley. Russia and Croatia battled it out in the last quarterfinal game. With a score of 1-1 after 90 minutes, they headed into overtime, during which both teams managed to score a goal. And so, once again, these two needed penalty kicks to decide who moved on. The host country’s fairy tale tournament came to an end as Croatia managed to come out on top, becoming only the second team in FIFA history to win back to back games in penalties.

Trapped

Sixteen days ago, twelve young boys and their soccer coach found themselves trapped inside Tham Luang Nang Non Cave in Northern Thailand. Following a game on June 23rd, the local team went exploring when monsoon flooding suddenly blocked their exit. It took ten days for workers to locate the team’s whereabouts and authorities initially thought they had an extended period of time to rescue them. However, as the rainy season kicks into gear and oxygen slowly dissipates from the small chamber in which the team huddles, rescue operators recognized that they could no longer wait. They are pumping water out around the clock and expert divers work to navigate underwater channels to reach the group inside the cave. On Friday, the operation lost its first rescuer, when a former Thai Navy SEAL passed out underwater and could not be revived. And just today, the operation saw its first success, when four members of the team were rescued from the cave. The community continues to hope for the best,  but the endeavor proves exceptionally challenging.

Featured Free Agents

The NBA is in the throws of free-agency and some big names have been moving around. LeBron James said farewell to Cleveland and hello to the Los Angeles Lakers. Demarcus Cousins, known for his outbursts on the court and in the locker room, joined the Golden State Warriors. Dwight Howard, defensive player of the year for three consecutive seasons and star of the 2008 slam dunk competition, moved to the Washington Wizards. Oklahoma can’t seem to afford Carmelo Anthony, aka “Hoodie Melo” but it is unclear where he’ll go. And then there’s Kawhi Leonard. With LBJ now in LA, he’s less than thrilled about joining the Lakers but, just as was the case throughout the season, his final decision remains shrouded in mystery.

The Faces and Facts

Featured Female- Sonja Henie (Figure Skating): Widely considered the best female figure skater of all time. Born in Norway, Henie won three Olympic gold medals (1928, 1932, 1936), 10 straight world championships (1927-1936) and six European Championships (1931-1936). She died from Leukemia at the age of 57 while traveling from Paris to Oslo for treatment.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson (Golf): Two of this generation’s best known golfers are set to face off in a one-on-one, winner-takes all round of golf. Phil first floated the idea a while back during an interview and, while some thought it was set to take place on July 3rd in Vegas, the official date is unknown. What does the victor get? A whopping $10 million dollars. Considering the winner of the Masters earns just under two million, this sum is outrageously large!

Jalen Watts-Jackson (Football): Earned legendary status back in 2015 after returning a mishandled punt for a touchdown, giving Michigan State a win over its rival Michigan, and keeping the team’s playoff hopes alive. Now, with his football career never quite recovering from a broken hip suffered during his celebration of said touchdown, Watts-Jackson is saying farewell to Michigan State and hello to the Air Force. He’s going not for the sport but to serve his country.  

Jose Altuve (Baseball): The 5’ 6” Houston Astro who is on track to reach 200 hits for the fifth season in a row. Only a handful of other players have accomplished a similar streak, with Ichiro Suzuki holding the record at straight 10 seasons.

The Rundown

As we approach the halfway point of the baseball season, it’s important to ensure we know the basics. So this week’s Rundown will cover a few of the ways a player can get out when his or her team is batting:

  • Striking Out: As Take Me Out to the Ball Game has taught us all, when you’re up to bat, after three strikes, you’re out.
  • Flying Out: If you hit the ball into the air and a member of the fielding team catches it before it hits the ground, you are out.
  • Forced Out: If you are a runner on base, sometimes you are forced to run to the next base because a teammate is headed toward the base you currently occupy. If the fielding team gets the ball to the base you’re forced to run toward before you touch it, you’re out. This also holds true after you’ve hit the ball and are running to first base.
  • Tagged Out: When a member of the fielding team has the ball and tags you with it as you run from one base to another.
  • Interference: When a base runner interferes with a defensive play, like running in the way of a throw or bumping a player, that runner is out.

After three outs, that half of the inning is over. The team at bat now heads into the field and vice versa.

The UpComing

Wimbledon (Tennis): Tomorrow is known as “Manic Monday,” a day when viewers have the opportunity to watch all the Round of 16 matches. With names like Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Williams all set to play on the same day, it is no wonder some consider the middle Monday of this tournament the best day in tennis. Granted, the coverage starts early (the first women’s matches are scheduled for 6:45 am est), but there’s lots of tennis to be had. One worth watching might be Serena Williams, the 23-time grand slam champion, and Evgeniya Rodina, playing her first ever match on Wimbledon’s Centre Court. Having also returned to the sport after giving birth, Rodina certainly understands where her opponent is coming from!

France v. Belgium (Soccer): France and Belgium face off in the tournament’s first semi-final match on Tuesday at 2pm est. The Belgians have been in this position only one time previously and that was back in 1986. They ended up losing to Argentina and then faced, you guessed it, France, in the third place match. France came out on top, defeating them 4-2.  Belgium certainly hopes to walk away victorious, to send France back to that consolation match, and move onto its first ever FIFA Finals. France, for its part, won the tournament in 1998 and are favored to win it all again this year.

England v. Croatia (Soccer): The second semi-final game pits England against Croatia, two teams who haven’t made it this far in decades. England’s last appearance was 28 years ago when they faced, and lost, to West Germany in, wouldn’t you know it, penalties. For Croatia it’s been 20 years since their last semi-final, where they faced and lost to France. I’m sure they’d love a shot at redemption, but this year in the finals. Needless to say, it’s been a long time coming and will be a new experience for every member of both teams (a majority of whom might not have even been alive the last time their team made it this far).

FIFA Finals and Third Place Game (Soccer): While we don’t yet know who’s to play in either, the third-place game is set for Saturday, July 14th at 10am, with the championship game on Sunday, July 15th at 11am EST.

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