1) It is TUESDAY, JULY 1. Happy new month, everybody! 2) No waffling: Beat Belgium! 3) No radio again today. My return to the Dan LeBatard Show is anrticipated on Tuesday July 15. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): LeBron wants max money, Heat return-of-Big 3 poll, state of U.S. soccer, Futblog! World Cup, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.
Heat free agency update: It began at 12:01 a.m. today. Expectations are that Pat Riley will re-sign the Big 3 and also get every other significant free agent worth having because everybody will agree to play here for free. Updates as warranted.
FUTBLOG! WORLD CUP: AMERICANS, ARGENTINES TOP LAST ROUND-OF-16 ACTION: FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup post of this blog, a continually updated daily dose of the month-long soccer spectacle in Brazil. See earlier posts for earlier results. Today ends the round of 16 and completes the quarterfinal matchups. Today's games:
BELGIUM def. UNITED STATES, 2-1 (OT): The U.S. aimed for its deepest World Cup run since 2002 but it was hard to arguethe denial of that was an unfair result. Belgium dominated on the attack here, forcing an absolutely heroic effort by U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard to even keep it close. America's defense was rendered shaky all day but Howard rose and rose and rose to the occasion. In the end, not enough, and so a prideful U.S. World Cup run ends. I made no pretense of impartiality. "U-S-A! U-S-A!" Or, yes: "Let's gooooo States!" My pick was: U.S., 2-1.
ARGENTINA def. SWITZERLAND, 1-0 (OT): Another big team struggles to win, but does. Without question Arentina and the sublime Lionel Messi were big favorites here and also my personal pick to win it all. Still don't think the Argentines have shown their best yet on the attack and didn't here. I underestimated Swiss, especially on defensive end. My pick was: Argentina, 4-1.
World Cup goal scoring through today's games: 56 matches, 154 goals, 2.75 per.
PREVIOUSLY ADVANCED TO ROUND OF EIGHT / QUARTERFINALS BRACKET: July 4--Brazil vs. Colombia, France vs. Germany; July 5--Costa Rica vs. Netherlands, Argentina vs. Belgium.
FRANCE (def. Nigeria, 2-0): The French have had a redeeming World Cup after a nightmare four years earlier but would have disappointed if they didn't advance here to the quarters. A goal in the 79th minute and another in extra time took care of that. Nigeria's offensive struggles continued after it managed only three goals in three group matches. My pick was: France, 2-1.
GERMANY (def. Algeria, 2-1 [OT]): The Germans carry Europe's banner in terms of being the best non-South American bet for the crown, but didn't always look it here. Algeria from my view looked to be in over its head here, especially on the defensive end, but I underestimated the underdogs. My pick was: Germany, 4-1.
NETHERLANDS (def. Mexico, 2-1): You could argue the country that old-timers still call Holland was the most impressive of any in group play, going 3-0 and leading all flags with 10 goals. But the favored Dutch barely escaped to survive here, equalizing late and then winning on a penalty kick in extra time. A heartbreak for Mexico's El Tri. My pick was: Netherlands, 2-1 (bull's-eye).
COSTA RICA (def. GREECE, 1-1 [5-3 PKs]): Can two Cinderellas attend one (foot)ball? Costa Rica is the darling of this Cup after winning a pedigreed group that contained three former champions. But lightly regarded Greece was only team to advance with a negative goal differential. Costa Rica remains the Cinderalla standing by prevailing despite playing a man down for a third of the match. My pick was: Costa Rica, 3-0.
BRAZIL (def. Chile, 1-1 [3-2 PKs]): A date with host and favorite Brazil was a most dubious bracket reward for Chile, but the underdogs played valiantly through overtime before falling in penalty kicks. Brazilian fans were not entirely thrilled with their guys' play in the qualifying stage and should not have been here, with relief the emotion more than elation. My pick was: Brazil, 3-1.
COLOMBIA (def. Uruguay, 2-0): Colombia looked very good in qualifying (3-0, with 9-2 goals differential) and continued its strong run. Uruguay was rocked by suspension of star Luis Suarez in the biting incident, effectively Mike Tyson-ing its chances. My pick was: Colombia, 2-0 (bull's-eye).
Poll result: Opt-outs have not increased faith in return of Heat's Big 3: We asked if the BIg 3 all would re-sign with Miami, and 69.8 percent said yes, including 72.9% in state of Florida. When we asked same question two weeks earlier, prior to opt-out decisions, the yes vote was 69.4% overall, 74.1% in Florida. Results are holding steady, not enjoying the opt-out bump one might have expected. More than one in four, almost one in three, continue to think Big 3 won't be back intact.
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