THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
FIFA WORLD CUP: U.S. vs. BELGIUM
Details/TV: At Salvador, Brazil, 1 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN:
Soccer’s version of the Sweet 16 looks like a real knock-down, drag-out, knockout round as long as Team America stays visible — something for which the American sports TV networks are most thankful, even if it’s a midday start on an otherwise dormant day of the week. Assume this is probably the last week we’ll all have together, though. According to Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com — which we assumed was the name of some kind of trend-setting player alignment on the pitch — the U.S. has about a 42 percent chance of beating Belgium based on a match-prediction algorithm he devised called the Soccer Power Index rating. Consider, too, that since ties are no good anymore in this round, if the U.S.-Belgium game went beyond regulation, the Americans’ chances would sneak up to 46 percent if there was some overtime, sudden death or penalty kicks involved. And how does the return of striker Jozy Altidore factor into this? The hamstring injury he suffered in the Americans’ opening-game match seems to be healing and coach Jurgen Klinsmann says he is optimistic about Altidore being available. Should the U.S. get past the Belgians, it would face the winner of Tuesday’s 9 a.m. Argentina-Switzerland game, a quarterfinal match set for Saturday at 9 a.m. While Silver gives the U.S. just a 20 percent chance of beating Argentina, it would be even money against the Swiss. But then again, since the U.S. advanced all the way to the semifinals in the first FIFA World Cup in 1930, it has only been to the quarterfinals once (in 2002). So if you go by this Silver lining playbook, bet wisely.
Other events this week: The men’s and women’s finals at Wimbledon, the start of the 101st Tour de France, and the Fourth of July Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. Find them at this link.