Brazil reminiscent of college basketball champs


LITTLE ROCK — In the World Cup, Brazil might just be Louisville of 2013 or UConn of 2011 or Duke of 2010 or all three rolled into one.

Almost every champion of a single-elimination tournament has one of those games where it wins despite being outplayed most of the contest and the underdog fails to convert at the end. The betting favorite to win the World Cup, Brazil dodged many a bullet against 30-1 shot Chile in the first game of the one-and-gone competition.

• 2013: Late to a 1-1 game, the announcers informed that Brazil had not played its best in the first 70-something minutes. No. 1 seed Louisville won its first four NCAA Tournament games by a total of 85 points, but was outplayed by Wichita State, a No. 9 seed. The Cardinals’ starters were 10-of-33 from the field, Louisville went 27 minutes between forcing turnovers and trailed by 12 in the second half. Louisville 72, Wichita State 68.

• 2011: Deep in Saturday’s 30-minute overtime, a shot by Chile’s Mauricio Pinilla smacked the crossbar. Inches lower and the host team is out. UConn beat Arizona 65-63 when the Wildcats missed two threes in the final seconds of the Regional final. In the tournament semifinals, Kentucky clanged two threes and a free throw in the final 2 minutes and Shabazz Napier made two free throws with 2 seconds left. UConn 56, Kentucky 55.

• 2010: In the five-shot penalty kick phase, Brazil led 3-2 when Gonzalo Jara’s last shot for Chile banged the right upright. Two inches to the left and it would have caromed into the net. No. 5 seed Butler trailed No. 1 seed Duke by one when Gordon Hayward missed from 15 feet. Duke’s Brian Zoubek made a free throw with 3.6 seconds to play for a two-point lead and missed the second intentionally. Hayward’s half-court heave hit the rim. Duke 61, Butler 59.

“We just came up a bounce short,” said Butler coach Brad Stevens.

So did Chile.

•••

The penalty kick portion of Brazil-Chile was fun to watch, but two scores in the first 120 minutes of action was less than riveting. The next day, Greece and Costa Rica duplicated the one score per 60 minutes.

The more I see, the more I am convinced the lack of scoring will prevent the most popular sport in the world from catching on big-time with spectators in the U.S. The exception is the swelling of national pride every four years.

Of the 96 scores in group play, 24 were zero. Only twice during the 48 games did a team score as many as five goals. There were 19 one-goal games, 11 of them 2-1, and nine ties, five of them scoreless.

•••

Back to basketball for a minute and a snapshot of what’s wrong with the college game.

Prior to the NBA draft, the over-under on the number of freshmen drafted in the first round was 8 1/2. The 18th pick was the ninth freshman. The over-under on seniors drafted in the first round was 2 1/2. The 24th pick was the third senior.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver favors moving the minimum draft age from 19 to 20. That would be OK, but so would absolution of the minimum age. Anything but one and done.

•••

Generally, oddsmakers have an excellent handle on sporting events, but I don’t understand how Tiger Woods can be co-favored with Rory McIlroy in the British Open that begins July 17. Since back surgery in late March, Woods’ only competitive golf was 8-over-par — four shots above the 36-hole cut — for two trips around Congressional Country Club. He missed 16 greens last week, only got up and down a total of three times, and blamed his poor chipping on practicing from Bermuda grass at his house instead of Rye grass.

Even though Woods said he needed to play tournament golf to be competitive, he apparently won’t play again until the British Open.

Harry King is a sports columnist. His email is HLeonK42@gmail.com.