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Weekend Sports Preview


The World Cup of Soccer and Wimbledon both come to a close overseas this weekend, while the first half of both the baseball and WNBA schedules similarly come to an end. Also taking place over the next few days are three CFL contests and a Nextel Cup race.

It's Italy versus France on Sunday in the championship match of the 2006 World Cup. The Italians advanced to the title game by bouncing Germany 2-0 in their semi-final matchup, while the French picked up a 1-0 semi-final win over Portugal. Oddsmakers opened Italy as +175 favorites in this game, a line which has dropped as low as +145 at some books. France, who started as +185 underdogs, are now up to as much as +240.

Saturday's 3rd Place Game at the World Cup sees Germany battling Portugal, with the Germans sitting as big favorites (as much as -135). The Portuguese will be taking on both Germany and the crowd noise in this game, and were opened as +290 underdogs.

Across the English Channel the grass courts of Wimbledon will be busy this weekend as the tournament champions are crowned (weather permitting). Friday features the men's semi-final matches, with top-seeded Roger Federer taking on Jonas Bjorkman, and second-seeded Rafael Nadal playing Marcos Baghdatis. On Saturday it's the women's final, with No. 3 Justine Henin-Hardenne matched up against No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo, while the men's final is slated for Sunday.

On the diamond, the first half of the baseball season concludes this weekend, with the All-Star Game on tap for Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. The best matchup slated for the next few days takes place in Chicago, where the White Sox will be playing host to the Boston Red Sox. The ChiSox are still trailing the Detroit Tigers in the competitive AL Central division, while the BoSox are holding onto their lead atop the AL East division.

Other series around the American League this weekend include Baltimore at Cleveland, the New York Yankees at Tampa Bay, Minnesota at Texas, Toronto at Kansas City, Detroit at Seattle, and the Los Angeles Angels at Oakland in a battle of Western teams.

Over in the senior circuit the NL West division continues to be tightly bunched at the top, but with Arizona at Colorado and San Francisco at the Los Angeles Dodgers over the next few days we could see a bit of separation take place. The other NL West club, the San Diego Padres, will go to the nation's capital to take on Washington this weekend.

Elsewhere in the National League it's Pittsburgh at Philadelphia in an all-Pennsylvania matchup, along with Florida at the New York Mets, Cincinnati at Atlanta, the Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee, and the struggling St. Louis Cardinals doing battle out in Houston.

The first half of the WNBA season also winds down this weekend, with the league's Western All-Stars set to take on the Eastern All-Stars at 7:00pm ET on Wednesday night. The league-leading Los Angeles Sparks play host to the Indiana Fever on Friday in the day's marquee contest, while Sacramento visits Washington, Houston travels out to San Antonio, Minnesota hosts Detroit, and New York goes west to take on Chicago.

On Saturday it's Phoenix at Connecticut and Charlotte at Los Angeles, while Sunday sees the weekend wrap up with Phoenix at New York, Chicago at Washington, Detroit at Houston, San Antonio at Minnesota, Charlotte at Sacramento, and Indiana at Seattle.

Around the Canadian Football League, the British Columbia Lions will take on Western foe Edmonton late on Friday night. The Lions opened as 1-point road favorites versus the Eskimos, but that line has since dropped to Edmonton -1 at home. On Saturday it'll be Winnipeg at Toronto (-1.5) and Calgary at Saskatchewan (-2.5) to wrap up the week.

And finally, the Nextel Cup Series continues its schedule on Sunday afternoon with the USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Dale Earnhardt Jr., third in the current standings, won this event last season, while Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, and Kevin Harvick have also managed to pick up victories at the Joliet track in their racing careers.

Jimmie Johnson continues to lead the Nextel Cup driver standings after 17 events, but his advantage has shrunk to only eight points on second-place Matt Kenseth. Kasey Kahne, Stewart, Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Kyle Busch, Harvick, and Denny Hamlin are the other drivers currently above the cutoff line for the 2006 Chase for the Nextel Cup.



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