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SportsMonday: Americas' Cup

When the World Cup has been held in the Americas, teams from South America have won it, and when it has been hosted by Europe, European teams have pulled it out.

The continental divide has proven nearly impossible to overcome.

When the United States hosted in 1994, Brazil emerged victorious. France hosted and won in 1998. History was put on hold in 2002, when Korea and Japan hosted the world's biggest sporting event. There was no track record for World Cups held in Asia but not surprisingly, Brazil won again. Then it was back to normal in 2006 when Germany was the home team and Italy emerged triumphant.

This time around, the key appears to be home hemisphere advantage. The teams that have impressed in both of their first two games with the second round of preliminary pool play nearly complete have been teams that share the Southern Hemisphere with their South African hosts. In particular, Argentina, Brazil and to a lesser extent Paraguay have stormed to impressive victories. And if the level of the competition hasn't been terribly impressive, well, consider some of the lesser lights who have given other prominent teams fits.

On the other hand, traditional European powers have struggled mightily. Italy's tie against tiny New Zealand was the latest disappointment, following on the heels of England's scoreless draw with Algeria and France's dreary 2-0 loss to Mexico (Viva El Tri!). Germany seemed its usual efficient self (the Germans have won three World Cups, tied with Italy for second overall - Brazil has won five). And then there is Spain, which has played amazing soccer during the past several years but just can't seem to do ever do the job at the World Cup (zero wins). Sure enough in its tournament opener the heavily favored Spaniards fell to tiny Switzerland 1-0.

And it appears none of the African teams will take advantage of their home continent advantage. The Cameroons, Ivory Coasts and South Africas of the world (along with Nigeria and Algeria and am I forgetting anyone?) had combined for one win through the first 10 days of the competition.

The focus early this coming week will be whether the U.S. can finally start a match with some urgency and pull out a victory over a stubborn and determined Algeria squad to ensure it advances to the round of 16. If they can, given Mexico's strong run so far, this World Cup final could very well end up being all about both Americas.

Sox Streak
The White Sox have pulled it off. When a baseball team struggles for a couple months, there is only one way to right the ship - a big winning streak. And the South Siders have done it, winning their last six and eight of nine on the road to pull back to .500 (34-34) for the first time since early April.

It is safe to say that when a baseball team scores three runs in 20 innings and yet wins two straight, as the Sox did on Friday and Saturday against great Nationals pitching, it is firmly ensconced in one of the wonderful streaks that the Kevin Costner character rhapsodized about in Bull Durham.

And, of course, it is all about pitching. Gavin Floyd righted the ship with six-plus innings of no-hit pitching at Wrigley a week ago Sunday, then out-dueled ultra-phenom Stephen Strasburg on Friday in Washington. Then Jake Peavy followed with a complete game shutout masterpiece. When Freddy Garcia gave up three runs in seven innings Sunday he was the 11th Sox pitcher in the last 12 games to turn in a quality start.

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The White Sox Report: At Home In The NL's Basement

The Cub Factor: Lou's To-Do List

Agony & Ivy: It's A Way Of Life.

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Jim Coffman rounds up the sports weekend every Monday in this space. He welcomes your comments.


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