Underdogs of the World

August 4, 2023

By: Carlos Alvarez

Good Morning,

It’s a Friday of underdogs! Another World Cup Cinderella story takes us into the Knockout Stage, and we’re closing the week with an underdog feature at the bottom of today’s edition. Football is back. Ohtani hit No. 40. And one WNBA legend just made history. What else could keep sports fans breathing through the dog days of summer? Underdogs, baby.

Letter Rip!


Underdogs of the World Cup

Photo: Alex Grimm – FIFA / Getty Images

World Cup Long-Shot Morocco In, Germany Out as Underdog-Filled Knockout Stage is Set

The World Cup underdogs strike again! In Thursday’s final group of the Women\’s World Cup (Group H), the 72nd-ranked country in the world did the unimaginable. Morocco, clinging to a glimmer of hope, threw a one-goal punch at Colombia for three points in a much-needed group finale. Meanwhile, Germany — the 2nd-ranked team in FIFA, holding the advantage in group play — suffered a stunning draw against South Korea. Germany entered the tournament as the No. 3 favorite to win it all (+650). The Moroccans (+75000) were 29th out of 32 teams. Morocco didn\’t know they moved on until watching the final minutes of the Germany-South Korea match standing on the pitch, and the reaction was priceless. Colombia won Group H outright, but Morocco joins South Africa, Jamaica and Nigeria as the four incredible World Cup underdogs to reach the Round of 16.

Group H Highlights

Morocco def. Colombia (1-0)

Germany draw South Korea (1-1)

*Colombia (1st) & Morocco (2nd) Advance

Underdogs Advancing (World Ranking)

Nigeria: 40th

Jamaica: 43rd

South Africa: 54th

Morocco: 72nd

*FIFA Pre-Tournament World Rankings

Knockout Bracket Revealed

The 16 teams who advanced out of the Round of 32 (Group Stage) are pegged in a knockout bracket (single elimination) the rest of the way with group winners facing the second-place finishers of the group stage. The U.S. Women’s National Team will get Sweden on Sunday morning (5:00 am ET). And after three matches of group play, the oddsmakers have reshuffled the favorites.

Reset Odds to Win 2023 Women’s World Cup

England (+300), Spain (+400), USA (+450), France (+650), Japan (+750), Netherlands (+1000), Australia (+1200), Sweden (+1800), Colombia (+3500), Norway (+5000), Nigeria (+8000), Denmark (+8000), Switzerland (+10000), Jamaica (+20000), Morocco (+25000), South Africa (+25000)

Knockout Stage Breakdown by Continent

Europe: 8 Teams

Africa: 3 Teams

North America: 2 Teams

South America: 1 Team

Asia: 1 Team

Australia: 1 Team

Knockout Schedule (Round of 16)

 Switzerland vs.  Spain (Sat. 1:00 am)

 Japan vs.  Norway (Sat. 4:00 am)

 Netherlands vs.  South Africa (Sat. 10:00 pm)

 Sweden vs.  USA (Sun. 5:00 am)

 England vs.  Nigeria (Mon. 3:30 am)

 Australia vs.  Denmark (Mon. 6:30 am)

 Colombia vs.  Jamaica (Tues. 4:00 am)

 France vs.  Morocco (Tues. 7:00 am)

*All Times ET

Quarterfinals: Thursday-Saturday (Aug. 10-12)

Semifinals: Tuesday-Wednesday (Aug. 15-16)

Runner-Up: Saturday (Aug. 19)

Finals: Sunday (Aug. 20)

Golden Boot Race 

H. Miyazawa (Japan): 4 Goals

L. James (England): 3 Goals

K. Diani (France): 3 Goals

S. Roman Haug (Norway): 3 Goals

A. Ilestedt (Sweden): 3 Goals

J. Roord (Netherlands): 3 Goals

Kicking continues!

Read More

FTW: Morocco’s Reaction Video to World Cup Win Will Have You In Tears

ESPN: Mentality or Tactics: What Can Save USWNT’s World Cup Quest?



Taurasi\’s 10-K Moment

Photo: Chris Coduto / Getty Images

Mercury Legend Diana Taurasi (42 Points) Becomes 1st WNBA Player to 10,000 Points

Save a page in the history books for Diana Taurasi! The Phoenix Mercury star needed 18 on Thursday night to become the first player in WNBA history with 10,000 career points. She went out and got a 40-piece. Taurasi’s milestone moment came on a catch-and-shoot 3 in the third quarter as the Mercury stomped the Dream (91-71). DT shot 12-for-21 in the game and buried six 3s en route to a season-high 42 points. She had 19 in that historic third quarter alone. It’s been a rough season for Phoenix (7-19) in Taurasi’s 19th year, and it\’s potentially her last. Congrats, DT! She’s one of one.

Watch: Diana Taurasi Becomes 1st in WNBA History With 10,000+ Points 

WNBA’s All-Time Leading Scorers

1. Diana Taurasi: 10,024 points

2. Tina Thompson: 7,488 points

3. Tamika Catchings: 7,380 points

4. Tina Charles: 7,115 points

5. Candice Dupree: 6,895 points

Fun Fact: Only two players in NBA & WNBA history have scored 40-plus at age 40 or older — Diana Taurasi and Michael Jordan.

Read More

ESPN: Breaking Down Diana Taurasi’s 10,000-Point Shot

Yahoo! Sports: Mercury Guard Diana Taurasi Crosses Historic 10,000 Career Points



Welcome Back, Football!

Photo: Nick Cammett / Getty Images

Browns Beat Jets (21-16) in NFL Hall of Fame Game

Thursday marked the first signal flare that the NFL is almost here. Two AFC teams full of backups lined up for the first NFL preseason game. The Browns and Jets met in Canton, Ohio for the NFL’s annual Hall of Fame Game to precede this weekend\’s Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony. The game itself was simply a taste of live-action tackle football. Few starts, if any, appeared on the field. Aaron Rodgers signed plenty of autographs, though. The star of the game was Browns’ third-string QB and fifth-round pick, Dorian Thompson-Robinson (8/11, 118 total yards, 1 TD). DTR came on in the second half with Cleveland trailing 16-7 and led the Browns to two scoring drives. It’s not much, but hey, it’s football.

Watch: Browns Rally to Beat Jets in Hall of Fame Game (21-16)

2023 Hall of Fame Inductees

Ronde Barber

Darrelle Revis

Joe Thomas

Zach Thomas

DeMarcus Ware

Ken Riley

Don Coryell

Chuck Howley

Joe Klecko

Enshrinement Ceremony: Saturday (Noon ET, NBC)

Read More

NFL: What We Learned From Browns-Jets Hall of Fame Game

Sporting News: Hall of Fame Game Delayed Temporarily With Power Outage

Yahoo! Sports: DeMarcus Ware Sings National Anthem in Hall of Fame Game




Shohei Ohtani Hits 40th HR, Pitches 4 Innings in Angels\’ Loss

Cubs Win 3rd Straight Against Reds Despite De La Cruz\’s HR (5-3)

Max Scherzer Shakes Off Rusty Start to Get 1st Win for Rangers (5-3)

Yankees Top Astros on Anthony Volpe’s Game-Winning RBI (4-3)

Jack Flaherty Wins Orioles Debut Against Blue Jays (6-1)

Michael Lorenzen Earns Phillies’ Win in 8-Inning Debut (4-2)

 PGA Tour

Russell Henley (-8) Leads Round 1 at Wyndham Championship



 College Realignment Tracker

The Pac-12 dismantling continues. Are Oregon and Washington joining the Big Ten? Arizona and Utah appear to be joining Colorado in the Big 12. And where does the ACC go from here? Stay up-to-date on the latest rumors and conference changes. (The Athletic)

 Camp Injury Panic Meter

Injuries are an unfortunate reality at just about every NFL training camp. Teams only recently began full-blown preparations for the upcoming campaign, but players around the league are already starting to get hurt in practice. Who should panic? (Bleacher Report)

 Paul-Diaz Pre-Fight Chaos

Things took a violent turn Thursday at the conclusion of the Nate Diaz vs. Jake Paul news conference after a heated staredown at The Factory, Deep Ellum in Dallas. Get your popcorn ready for Saturday. This one will be good. (Yahoo! Sports)





The Weekend Must-Watch List

FIFA Women’s World Cup

Switzerland vs. Spain (Sat. 1:00 am)

Japan vs. Norway (Sat. 4:00 am)

Netherlands vs. South Africa (Sat. 10:00 pm)

Sweden vs. USWNT (Sun. 5:00 am)


Braves-Cubs Series

Astros-Yankees Series

Blue Jays-Red Sox Series

Angels-Mariners Series

Dodgers-Padres Series

Full MLB Schedule


Aces at Liberty (Sun. 3:00 pm)


Jake Paul vs. Nate Diaz (Sat. 10:00 pm)

*All Times ET

Download The Sportsletter\’s Must-Watch Calendar



The Fearless Life

Photo: Kevin Sabitus / Getty Images

This Isn\’t a Return to Football for Damar Hamlin, It\’s a Return to Living

Don’t call it a comeback; he’s been here for years. Rather, let’s call it what it is: a heroic and fearless return to life, football, and freedom. In today’s society where seemingly everything is divisive and controversial, a rare feat happened in 2023 – everyone came together to support Damar Hamlin and wish for a speedy recovery. 

On Jan 2, the football world momentarily stopped spinning as everyone witnessed Hamlin’s alarming collapse on the field during the first quarter of the Bengals vs Bills Week 17 game. The game was postponed and later canceled altogether. The Bills later reported that Hamlin\’s heart stopped and he was given medical attention for nearly 30 minutes before being rushed to a hospital in critical condition. Fans and players alike were distraught. The guy was just 24 years old. How could this happen?

During Hamlin’s hospital stay, the world through social media sent their thoughts and prayers to him and his family. No one cared about football anymore. No one balked at its cancellation. The only thing on anyone’s mind was Hamlin’s recovery – America was behind him.

Everyone stood behind Hamlin for good reason: He was the epitome of a team player. He was a selfless player who would give anything for his team to win. If that wasn’t apparent enough in his play, it became crystal clear when he woke up at the hospital. The first words from his mouth were: “Did we win?” 

The doctor replied: \”Yes… you won. You’ve won the game of life.” 

Though he wasn’t tackling or intercepting passes, Hamlin was all over the NFL for the rest of the season. Physically? No. Figuratively? He was everywhere. Teammates flashed the number three every chance they could. NFL teams across the country sported practice shirts that read, “Love for Damar.” Fans took to social media to share their unwavering support for No. 3. During his recovery, he had the two most important things: love and support. Fans and teammates would respect whatever decision he made going forward regarding his continuation (or lack thereof) in the NFL. 

Of course, he decided to continue his NFL career. There was no surprise. This is Damar Hamlin\’s life. His new life. And Damar Hamlin plays ball. He probably would’ve put on his pads and helmet the second he woke up in the hospital if he was allowed. Fast forward seven months later, and Hamlin is a bonafide super-story in the sports world. He joined the Bills\’ OTAs in June, and he successfully completed his first full practice earlier this week. 

Now, we wait until he makes his return to the field for his first in-game action since January. He has already iterated that hesitation and fear have no place on the field, and he’s ready.

Ask yourself: If something almost killed you (correction: did kill you), would you do it again? And better yet, would you do it without fear? 

It doesn’t take a sports analyst to figure this out, but something tells me the ovation for his first game in Buffalo could tip the Richter scale. Welcome back, Damar!